Apple Vs PC. Nike Vs Reebok. Holden Vs Ford. Vegemite Vs Marmite. Many of life’s great philosophical questions involve crucial, existential choices such as these. In most cases, all those untold hours spent debating at the pub or around the water cooler boil down to opposing subjective views that can never be reconciled.
The professional world is not immune to such conundrums. The modern workplace has evolved at breathtaking speed. Once upon a time, the definition of work was a fairly simple one. Today, terms such as serviced offices, virtual offices, freelancing, coworking, hot-desking, telecommuting, flex-working and others have become commonplace as society seeks to redefine how we undertake the daily grind to make it less, well, “grindy”. One of the most common debates that we encounter in our line of business is the Serviced Office Vs Coworking comparison. Both have grown exponentially in popularity in recent years. So, how do they differ, and how do you know which is right for you? Let’s take a look:
What is the difference between a serviced office and a coworking space?
A serviced office can be anything from a single cubicle or room through to a full complex. The difference is that all on-site administration, business support and maintenance functions are provided by the office operator. While some facilities, such as meeting rooms, kitchen, and office equipment may be shared, each occupant has their own dedicated, private space within a wider community of businesses that looks and feels essentially like any other office.
A Coworking space is a shared working space in which individuals or small teams work independently or collaboratively. Occupants typically use the area on a casual basis, and there are usually few if any dedicated locations for specific users, who are encouraged to interact with their fellow coworkers to create a sense of community and collaboration. It’s common for coworking spaces to have a more funky, laid-back feel, with many providing table-tennis, pool or foosball tables and other such gimmicks.
Now that we’ve defined the two, let’s see how they stack up against each other:
One of the primary purposes of a serviced office is to provide a professional working environment that has all the hallmarks of a regular office and creates a space that is conducive to efficient business operations. By contrast, coworking spaces are far more informal, usually bustling with conversation and mutual interaction.
A Place to meet
Most serviced offices are perfectly conducive to meeting with clients, potential partners or other collaborators. Where space is limited, or a more formal setting is required, it is usual for the facility to provide meeting rooms or boardrooms that are included in the monthly package or available for casual hire. Most coworking spaces have some meeting rooms available if required. However, the general environment is normally not one that occupants would want to present for an important business meeting.
One of the primary drawcards of coworking spaces is that the open, dynamic environment encourages the establishment of a strong sense of community, cross-pollination of ideas and active networking. Most coworking spaces employ a community manager to actively foster this culture, facilitate connections between users and create a sharing vibe. While this is a major point of difference, serviced offices by their nature have numerous organisations in close proximity, sharing some of the facilities. This means that it is incredibly common to find networking occurring in a more organic fashion. Many have formal or informal tenants groups that will engage in interactions ranging from casual Friday afternoon drinks through to organised networking events.
Privacy and security
As you can no doubt deduce, privacy is in short supply in a coworking space. While many provide more occlusive spots in which to work in a secluded environment, most users occupy a space in an open plan. The challenge of working on sensitive or confidential projects is one that many coworkers nominate as a downside to the concept. The same is true for security. Lockers are frequently provided, however, when leaving your desk for a short period, your data and equipment are exposed. Serviced offices offer the same level of privacy and security as a regular leased office.
Those who are easily distracted can find the vibrant hubbub that characterises coworking spaces a serious challenge. The cacophony of numerous conversations, phone calls, table tennis balls bouncing and victorious foosball goal scoring roars provides plenty of distractions that can lower productivity. Clearly, this is not a problem for a serviced office.
Costs for both options can vary depending on the location. In general, it is fair to say that coworking is a somewhat cheaper option; however, serviced offices are typically extraordinarily affordable and cost a fraction of a regular office lease. When auxiliary services such as receptionist, business centre, cleaning, utilities, kitchen and others are factored in, serviced offices provide exceptional value.
Is a serviced office or coworking space best for your business?
There’s no one answer to this question. Basically, it depends on who you are and what you need the space for. For freelancers, solo entrepreneurs and remote workers, coworking spaces may be a perfect solution. Conversely, if your venture comprises more than 2-3 people, if you need to meet with clients regularly, or need a quieter, more secure environment in which to focus on your business goals, it’s likely that a serviced office is the best solution for you.