Journalist: Melanie Loos | Photographer: Andreas Zimmermann | Magazin: Work in progress – November 2020
Coworking makes flexible working possible, but childcare is usually designed for the classic 9-to-5 job. Sarah Steiner offers both. As co-founder of Tadah, her goal is to make workand family compatible.
You spent ten years working in corporate communications. So why did you decide to become self-employed?
I became pregnant in 2014, while I was working for FIFA. After my maternity leave, I wanted more flexibility. I met one of my co-founders during my pregnancy and in 2016 we founded Tadah, an online magazine focusing on juggling work and family. We did it all alongside our day jobs. After speaking to so many parents, we knew exactly what the problems were. So we thought, why don’t we just do something about it? The thinking behind it was to make flexible working possible for working parents.
Coworking is booming. How difficult is it to establish yourself alongside large companies like Regus or Wework?
For a coworking space to be successful, you need a specific target group and to build a community – ours is working parents. Coworking is a “low-margin” business. We offer more than other providers in the market: we bring the crèche and coworking space together in one place and offer lots of additional services, such as events, summer schools and advice. We provide a platform for work-life balance and offer flexible childcare. Our customers can also work part-time, drop off their kids and register up to 48 hours before.
You’re also getting more and more corporate customers. What does your service for companies look like?
Right now – in the midst of COVID-19 – we offer companies and their staff an innovative alternative to working from home. Companies can buy a specific number of coworking and childcare days, which are made available to their employees. Over the last few months, many companies have realised that it’s not easy for their em- ployees to juggle work and family. We offer support – and now not only with an innovative childcare model but also by providing companies with advice on the subject.
Originally from Zurich, Sarah Steiner (36) studied journalism and communication at the School of Applied Linguistics in Zurich. She started her career in 2005 as Marketing and Communications Assistant at FC Zurich, before going on to be a sports journalists at Tamedia and Project Manager for the advisory firm EUrelations. From 2013 to 2016, she was a writer for FIFA’s company magazine. In 2016, while working in communi cations at Pestalozzi, she founded the online magazine Tadah. She then took the decision to become self-employed. Together with her three co-founders, Sarah Steiner founded Tadah and in October 2019 they opened their coworking space with childcare in Zurich Albisrieden. Today, they have four employees. Sarah Steiner lives with her partner Christian and her daughter Malou (6) in Zurich Albisrieden. Malou goes to nursery and her grandmother looks after her three afternoons a week.
Tadah supports future-oriented working models: what do you think the world of work will look like in 20 years?
I hope that it is much more flexible: a world of work that caters for different lifestyles and working models, and where the quality of work is more important than the number of hours worked. For that, employers need to trust their employees. What bothers me about the discussion around work-life balance is that it is always about career and employees, while the focus should be on the individual. The objective should be to employ a person in a company in a way that works for both sides.
“We’re a platform for work-life balance.”
Do companies need to do more for their staff when it comes to juggling work and family?
They will definitely be expected to do more in the future. But I don't think companies will do a complete rethink of their own accord. They will be forced into it by the new labour market, given the skills shortage and the fight for the best talent. The younger generations are no longer prepared to work 100% of the time. They want to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
What role does diversity and inclusion play in the future world of work?
A big one, I hope. We need the right political and economic conditions in place for that. There needs to be equal pay for men and women. And we also need to take a look at the salaries in certain industries. The COVID-19 pandemic should have opened our eyes in this respect as well. There are too many “key workers” who are too badly paid. But for me, inclusion also means seeing the big picture, i.e. treating people as individuals, not just employees. And also recognising that diversity can actually create a better big picture. Parttime management roles are a good example here. Yes, it probably does take more time and effort to fill a position with two people. But you also gain an awful lot, namely two personalities, two sets of skills, two opinions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers in Switzerland to allow their staff to work from home and with more flexible hours. Could that lead to a lasting change?
There is no doubt about it. I’m convinced that every crisis also has its positives. And that we can and must make the most of them. After COVID-19, everyone knows that working from home is possible for a large number of industries. But everyone also knows that working from home when you have small children is very, very difficult. In general, hopefully everyone will have a new understanding of time, trust, social constructs and community – be that in your personal life or your professional life. And we will hopefully all be a little more humble.
How can companies contribute to a better work-life balance?
They need to create many more part-time roles – including in management. Companies need to recognise that allowing their employees to work part-time will benefit them. Men also have a responsibility to request part-time so they can spend more time with their children, while still being able to pursue their career. Active communication between both sides is important here, as are equal opportunities for men and women, including in terms of salary.
Tadah is Switzerland’s first large coworking space with integrated childcare. The unique thing about it is that you can not only flexibly book workspaces, but also childcare days. The children and coworking spaces
are in different rooms of the same building, so that children can play or babies be taken care of, while parents are able to work in peace. In 2016, CEO Sarah Steiner and her three co-founders Diana Wick, Klara Zürcher and Julia Cebreros started the online magazine with the same name – a platform for working mums and dads. In October 2019, they added the coworking space with childcare in Zurich.
Tadah is committed to the cause of work-life balance. Do traditional employer-employee relationships fail here?
Traditional roles still hold too much sway, and that isn’t going to change so long as the executive boards of the biggest Swiss firms remain predominantly male. Many don’t understand that women want both career and family. The most important thing is that everyone has the opportunity to have the life and work that makes him or her happy.
The result: there is a lack of women in business, especially in manage- ment positions. Is that entirely down to the environment in which companies operate?
Salary transparency would definitely be a step in the right direction. Equal pay for men and women means equal opportunity and also equal incentive. Certain political conditions need to be created, because otherwise it simply doesn’t happen. The same is true for female quotas. It’s clear that without statutory quotas, nothing changes. They also don’t need to be implemented always and forever.
“For me, inclusion also means seeing the big picture. That means treating people as individuals, not just employees.”
To what extent can Tadah contribute to a rethink?
We want to be the platform for work-life balance. We’d probably be overreaching somewhat though if we thought we could spark a rethink at every level. But our contribution can be that we set an example that shows it is possible to have children and take on responsibility at work. As founders, we can take a leading role there. We also want to speak to as many companies as possible, to challenge them, advise them and together forge a path towards a better work-life balance.
Sarah Steiner – In the spotlight
What were you doing 20 years ago?
When I was 16, I thought the world was my oyster. I always wanted to get my own way.
20 years ago, could you have imagined that you’d be a CEO today?
No. But I always knew that I wasn’t a person who could just do any old thing. I already knew back then that I would do something I found meaningful and that I was passionate about.
What advice do you give to young workers, working parents, employers?
It’s extremely important to listen to your heart and to try out all the things you want to do. I advise anyone who is thinking about starting a family to ask themselves the following questions: What do I really want? What is it that makes life worth living? There is no right time to start a family. I advise managers to trust their people.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Still at Tadah – knowing that, through our coworking space or spaces and our platform, we have achieved something great and made an important contribution to work-life balance. In ten years, when people in Switzerland hear the term work-life balance, they should automatically think of Tadah.
What book do you have on your bedside table?
None, unfortunately. The only thing I read regularly is “Reportagen”, which is Switzerland’s journalistic masterpiece in my opinion.
I recharge my batteries by …
… spending time with my horse. I bought her just before we founded Tadah. And it was the best decision. It clears my head and is a way for me to spend time with my daughter.