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Serviced offices vs. co-working: Decoding the key similarities and differences

Kane Willmott CEO of iQ offices

The concept of shared workspaces has taken off in recent years, in large part due to the supercharged rise in remote and hybrid work that’s happened since 2020.

But in the long, storied history of offices, shared workspaces are, in mainstream work culture, just a small chapter—one that’s currently still being written.

So, it’s no surprise that the concept still causes some confusion in the minds of many team leads and business owners—especially considering the range of shared workspace options available.

On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got coworking—the type of shared office that often consists of open-plan spaces filled with foosball tables, beer taps, and hot desks occupied by solo professionals.

But on the other end of the shared workspace spectrum, you’ll find serviced offices—professional suites that offer the benefits of shared amenities while still providing the aspects of a traditional office that many organizations desire.

Both have their benefits, but each serve different users. And in this article, we’ll decode the difference.

Serviced offices vs. co-working

At a very high level, serviced offices and coworking both lean into the same philosophy: taking a large office space and filling it with multiple tenants rather than a single one.

In doing so, they offer the efficiencies, flexibility, economies of scale, and community that often lack in a traditional office lease situation.

But when you zoom in, the differences between serviced offices and co-working spaces are vast.

The co-working model

Co-working spaces are shared workspaces that are typically used by independent professionals, freelancers, and remote workers.

These spaces are designed to foster collaboration, networking, and community-building. They also provide their members with cost-efficient access to professional workspace, tools, and hardware that they may struggle to access on their own.

Coworking spaces usually offer a range of amenities, such as:

  • High-speed internet
  • Free coffee and refreshments
  • Printing and scanning facilities
  • On-demand meeting rooms
  • Communal areas

They’re leased on a flexible basis—sometimes even month-to-month.

And while they generally offer some private offices and suites, co-working spaces generally skew more toward hot-desking and dedicated desks.

The serviced office model

On the other hand, serviced offices are turnkey office suites managed by a flexible office space operator.

Like coworking spaces, serviced office providers take a large footprint of office space and then parcel it out into smaller individual units while offering shared amenities.

But despite their shared nature, serviced offices are built for larger teams and established organizations that want privacy and domain over their own dedicated spaces.

While this might sound similar to a traditional office lease, there are some important distinctions between the two, including:

  • Full service: As the name suggests, serviced offices offer a level of service that traditional office leases don’t. Serviced office spaces have dedicated on-site staff that act as an extended member of your team, from reception services to mail and package management as well as support with IT and troubleshooting and more.
  • Flexibility: Unlike traditional office leases that require long-term commitments, serviced offices offer flexible terms that align with the natural cycles of your business. You can scale up your space needs if your team grows, scale down if your team contracts, and get out of your agreement with less hassle. Ultimately, with serviced offices, it costs less to change your mind.
  • Cost-efficiency: Serviced office spaces come in a variety of sizes, allowing you to take on—and pay for—the exact amount of space you need for your team—no more and no less. This includes on-demand access to meeting rooms and conference spaces so that you’re not paying for these amenities when you’re not using them. Serviced office spaces also cut back on the overhead costs of running an office, from maintenance to electrical bills, furnishing, services, and more.
  • Community: When your team works in a serviced office space, they get a private, dedicated workspace when they need it while still also gaining access to a bustling professional community, including events, networking opportunities, and social gatherings.

While this concept might sound similar to traditional office leases, they’re far from the same thing.

These spaces usually come with amenities such as internet, phone systems, and administrative support, and are leased on a flexible basis, typically on a short-term agreement. The provider takes care of the maintenance and upkeep of the space, allowing tenants to focus on their business operations.

As organizations move increasingly toward remote work and reevaluate their office space needs, shared workspaces provide them with an innovative solution that offers everything they
need without paying for things they don’t.

And in a post-pandemic professional landscape where uncertainty seems to be the only thing we can be certain of, the value of the flexibility these solutions offer can’t be overstated.

Co-working and serviced offices are vastly different variations of the same general concept. It’s important to know the difference between the two options so that you can make informed decisions about what’s best for your business—rather than missing an opportunity for your organization.

If you’re in search of a serviced office for your team or organization, book a tour of your local iQ Offices location today.

Kane Willmott is the co-founder and CEO of iQ Offices, the largest independent Canadian- owned co-working operator with offices in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. iQ Offices provides beautiful office spaces with safety, service, privacy and design at the forefront.