What is a serviced office?

The popularity of serviced offices is soaring across the UK. We explore their definition, what they can offer to small businesses, start-ups and sole traders, how much they cost, and more...

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Also known as managed offices or business centres, a serviced office is a workspace which – in contrast to traditional conventional office space – comes ready-furnished, with internet and phone lines pre-connected and devices such as printers already equipped.

When it comes to workspace for small businesses, the serviced office has become a popular choice.

According to a 2018 report from Savills, serviced office take up in the UK increased by 157% in 2017, with London seeing a 141% increase while demand in regional markets rose by a whopping 406%.

At the end of 2017, there was 2.9 million square feet of serviced office space in the UK.

But what are the typical features can you expect from a serviced office, and why should you choose one for your next workspace?

What is a serviced office?

Serviced offices tend to include in-house facilities and services including:

  • Meeting rooms
  • A reception team who’ll take calls and direct visiting clients on your business’ behalf
  • In-office maintenance staff such as cleaners

Besides this, a linchpin advantage of the serviced office is that they tend to offer more flexible lease arrangements than conventional offices.

While the latter might try to lock your business in for a year or more, most serviced offices can lend you space for as short a time as a month, a week or even just one day.

Major serviced office providers in the UK include:

The trade association that represents the serviced office sector, The Business Centre Association (BCA), is a helpful resource, providing a national listing of UK serviced offices.

Serviced offices for start-ups and small businesses: Why might you work in one?

Sole-traders, start-ups and small businesses are increasingly choosing serviced offices when moving to a new workspace – but what makes the serviced office a good fit for new and growing enterprises?

Serviced offices can accommodate growth

Most serviced office providers will happily facilitate the (sometimes haphazard) growth patterns of a start-up.

Should you take on a few hires and realise that you need more space to operate comfortably, serviced office providers aim to make it simple to upgrade your agreement and move to a bigger area within their building.

Similarly, if you need to cut back, many will allow you to downsize as necessary.

Serviced offices have no set up time

The fact that serviced offices come ready to go is a key selling point. With desks, tech and phone lines already set up, companies can get straight to business with minimal downtime on the day they move in.

Considering that most start-ups and small businesses can’t afford to miss a single phone call for fear of losing a potential client, this immediacy is certainly reassuring and minimises one of the biggest stresses of an office move.

Serviced offices come with useful services

The services provided in these spaces, from bookable meeting rooms to a manned reception desk, also make for an enticing offering.

After all, getting all the help you can when it comes to answering phones and speaking to clients isn’t to be sniffed at.

Serviced offices can offer flexible lease agreements

The unpredictability of running a new business or freelance operation means serviced offices’ flexible lease agreements are a welcome offering.

As a small business owner you simply can’t predict the future, so it’s unlikely you’ll want to be tied into a year-long agreement while you’re still working to establish the business.

For help with finding the right office space for you, try filling out our quick questionnaire to receive tailored quotes from the office space providers that best suit your business needs!

Serviced office perks

Alongside these valuable benefits, it’s worth noting that many serviced offices also house a range of other perks to promote its members’ wellbeing.

These can include:

  • Free tea and coffee-making facilities
  • Fully-stocked kitchens
  • Games such as pool tables, table football and table tennis
  • Breakout spaces where employees can gather in a more casual setting than a meeting or conference room

Many serviced offices also strive to provide stimulating office spaces with modern layouts, plush furniture and unique design features to negate the sense of monotony that can be intrinsic to the more traditionally bland office environment.

It has to be said, however, that working in a serviced office can be expensive when compared to other types of workspace (more on this below); but this is often because all of the above benefits are factored into the price.

It’s up to you to decide whether the services you’ll receive in exchange for your money will be worth the cost to your business.

Serviced office costs

A serviced office provider will typically charge a monthly fee per desk on a pay-as-you-go basis, and the amount will usually depend on:

  • The size and quality of the space
  • The services and facilities on offer to your business
  • The city or town in which the building is located
  • Whether or not the space is in a desirable part of town (for example near transport centres or cultural hubs)

According to multiple sources, Sheffield and Cardiff are home to the cheapest serviced offices in the UK, with an average monthly cost of £275. Bristol follows closely at £300.Meanwhile, London is unsurprisingly reported as the most expensive city for serviced offices, ranging from an average monthly fee of £600 to over £750 in Central London.

However, it’s worth noting that these figures can still vary. You might, for example, find a luxurious serviced office in Sheffield whose price goes above and beyond the city’s average. And you might just as easily find a more basic offering in London for a lot less than you’d expect.

Additional serviced office fees

When it comes to the cost of your serviced office, what’s key is understanding which services are included in the agreed monthly fee and which are not.

Typically, a serviced office provider will charge an additional monthly cost for internet access and telephone use, which may cost as much as £35 per desk. They may also charge extra for you to use meeting rooms and printers.

You might also encounter a couple of surprise fees for things you hadn’t really thought about – for example, your provider might charge you to have your business’ name listed at the building’s reception.

To avoid surprises, be sure to ask your provider for a thorough list of all the charges that’ll be coming your way – based on the services you’ll require – before signing an agreement.

Serviced offices vs coworking spaces

Of course, there are plenty of alternatives to the serviced office options available to start-ups, with coworking spaces being a popular choice.

In some cases a workspace can be both a serviced office and a coworking space, as both are known to provide flexible leasing and in-house facilities and services.

There are three key differences between serviced offices and coworking spaces:

  • Coworking encourages a sense of community. Most coworking spaces actively encourage collaboration between its members, and will put on networking events to facilitate this. This isn’t a typical focus in serviced offices – so if you think you’d benefit from working with other entrepreneurs and learning from their ventures, you’d perhaps be better off joining a coworking space.
  • Serviced offices provide equipment and devices for you. On the flip side, it’s more likely that renting a private office space in a coworking facility will require you to bring your own furniture and equipment.
  • Coworking spaces are, on average, slightly cheaper than serviced offices. However, it’s worth remembering that the price of leasing your office will vary depending on the quality of the space and what you require from it.

To learn more about coworking, visit our comprehensive guide on what is coworking.

The history of serviced offices

The first serviced office spaces reportedly appeared in the 1960s in the US, where legal attorneys would work together in a pre-furnished space to share secretarial services and the overheads involved. It’s said that such ventures paved the way for what we know as serviced offices today.

Paul Fegen’s Fegen Suites, which launched in 1966, was a notable example of a serviced office. Complete with furniture, telephones, conference rooms and a reception service, it’s considered a pioneer of the industry.

In the years since, serviced offices have become a mainstay of the workspace world, with entrepreneurs and businesses from all sectors realising their benefits. But it’s in recent years that their popularity has truly soared.

Limitations of a serviced office

Many businesses never move out of serviced offices as they find that, for them, the mix of services represent good value in the long term.

Others move on once they have stabilised in size – whether to achieve better value for money or a better image with their own office building. A larger business might want to provide its own perks – such as food and games – to employees, and display its own signage above the front door.

Finding a serviced office: What next?

Moving your business into a serviced office could be a cost-effective solution to your workspace needs – that avoids the trials and tribulations of traditional property letting.

In summary, a serviced office is an office space option that means you can just move in and get straight down to business while worrying about little else – and there’s plenty of flexibility to be enjoyed if you need to make changes to your lease, too. However, it has to be said that serviced offices can be expensive compared to other options.

Would you like some help in finding the perfect office space for your business? Fill in our short form to compare office providers in your area!

Julia Watts

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