What are Central London Serviced Offices? A Question of Semantics

Serviced offices, Canary Wharf (i2 Office)

If there’s one thing every industry on the planet has in common, it’s a love of mind-boggling terminology. No trade is immune. That includes our very own sector and our Central London serviced offices.

The industry is better known in modern terms as the flexible office space industry. You might also know it as co-working, which you often find in business centres, alongside Central London serviced offices. Does that make it serviced co-working? Or flexible shared offices? Or just plain old flexible office space?

It’s all of the above, and more.

Why is it all so complex? Mainly it’s because traditional serviced offices have evolved so much since their general inception in the 1980s that they can no longer be classified as ‘serviced offices’. The definition is too narrow. Today, many traditional serviced office operators provide this plus co-working, managed offices, meeting rooms, business lounges… the list goes on.

Evolution and diversification is a sure sign of a strong market, so it’s good news for our industry. The downside is that business owners looking for Central London serviced offices must first wade through a terminology minefield.

The serviced offices market is a prime example. But before we delve into specifics, let’s take a quick look at the key terms and meanings behind today’s evolving work space movement:

Serviced offices

traditionally provide private, furnished office suites within a business centre. Central London serviced offices will generally supply desks and office furniture, use of kitchens and lounges, telecoms, and management services like receptionist and administrative support for an all-inclusive monthly fee.

Co-working spaces

usually provide shared offices in an open-plan format, where business owners and freelancers share the same office space, yet trade independently. There is usually a variety of desks and seating positions, often devoid of privately assigned desks. Most co-working spaces operate on a gym-style monthly membership with hourly or daily rental options for drop-in workers.

Central London serviced offices co-working space

Business centres

accommodate serviced offices, offering many different sized office suites. Most business centres in London are spread across a few floors of a building, while others take up an entire building – such as this new 7-floor luxury business centre near St Paul’s.

Flexible work space and flexible office space

have become umbrella terms for all of the above. Indeed, many business centres now offer both serviced offices AND co-working spaces, and some co-working spaces have also branched out by offering private Central London serviced offices alongside their more usual shared work spaces.

Central London serviced offices business centre

These are the main terms used within the industry, but of course it doesn’t stop there.

Shaun Paterson of Cushman & Wakefield penned this interesting article, in which he describes the modern day flexible work space in London as ‘Offices as a Service’ (OaaS):

The serviced office sector has changed. In fact, forget the term serviced offices – the sector has evolved into a wide and sophisticated range of flexible office solutions. The modern day descendants of the traditional serviced office centres continue to play a major role in the market, however right at the cutting edge there is something very special going on: the worlds of offices, interior design and hospitality are colliding with the sharing economy. The term that best defines this exciting sub-sector is ‘Offices as a Service(OaaS).

Paterson notes that the past 24 months have seen major transformation for the market of Central London serviced offices, citing co-working as one of the main disruptions. Cool tech-savvy co-working providers like WeWork are making their presence known, while The Office Group – once closely associated with Central London serviced offices – has spread its wings into a much wider variety of work space from private offices to contemporary lounges and cutting-edge co-working spaces.

This scale of up-take can no longer be ignored, says Paterson, which is leading to a much greater diversity of office space in London properties and, in turn, changing the very business model (and terminology) with which it is associated.

So if you thought the sheer range of work space choice in Central London was mind-boggling enough, just wait until you start wading through the terminology.

If you need help decoding the London office space market, we can help with that. Simply give our consultants a call on +44 (0) 203 826 8139 tell us what type of office space you need, and we’ll do the rest. We promise to speak in plain English too.