Serviced offices, co-working spaces and incubators: what’s the difference?

A lot of the time, co-working spaces are mentioned in the same breath as hot-desking, serviced office, incubators and accelerators.

But what are the similarities and differences between those? And why are serviced offices so popular, especially among new start-ups, small businesses and rapidly growing brands?

Serviced offices and co-working spaces

Writing in the journal Urban Studies in summer 2021, a team from the London School of Economics and Political Science, University College London and DIW Berlin explained some of the common features of serviced offices.

They wrote: “Serviced offices are aimed at established businesses: fully fitted-out office buildings offering modular space where the emphasis is on input-sharing.

“Co-working spaces have similarities with incubators in terms of physical setup, input-sharing and business models aimed at early-stage firms.”

This is all true, although we would add that our serviced offices in London and Manchester have helped many businesses get off the ground, starting from a very early stage indeed.

Incubators and accelerators

Access to accelerators and incubators is much tighter than to general serviced offices and co-working spaces.

For example, to be allowed office space in an incubator, you may need to be engaged in a specific type of business activity, and may have to commit to certain tasks, such as meetings with business mentors.

The LSE team wrote: “Accelerators and incubators are distinct from other smaller, denser spaces in the extent to which participants are selected and their interactions are structured or curated by providers.”

For new entrepreneurs, this can be very helpful, by providing a guiding light to help you understand your chosen industry and how to run a business; however, the tighter rules and restrictions are not for everyone.

Which is better?

Overall, co-working space is a broad spectrum. At the thin end of that wedge, there’s business accelerators and incubators, places where access is extremely limited, while at the broad end there are much more open-access facilities like hot-desking and internet cafes.

Serviced offices provide a middle ground. You get your own private office space on flexible, affordable terms, suitable for SMEs looking to keep close control of your overheads.

Access is not limited to a specific sector or high-growth market, so you’re free to explore whatever business ideas you might have, without interference.

Co-working areas in serviced offices

Although our serviced offices in London and Manchester provide private offices, you also have access to communal areas where you can meet with other entrepreneurs based in the building.

These include the kitchen areas, chill out and breakout rooms, as well as the reception area at the main entrance to the building.

You also share access to meeting rooms on-site, and these can be booked in advance as and when you need them, so it’s always clear who should be using the room.

Altogether, this adds up to a highly flexible way to get professional, private office space in Manchester and London, to support your business whether it’s in its infancy, or you just prefer the flexible terms of serviced offices for mature businesses.

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