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Flexible office sector terminology

The flexible workspace sector has experienced significant growth in recent years, fuelled by changing work patterns and a growing demand for more agile and adaptable workspaces. With that growth has come a lot of new terminology to understand.

What’s the difference between a managed office and a serviced office?
How does a hot desking differ from a dedicated desk?
What does a virtual office actually mean, anyway?

We’re here to provide simple definitions for all of the biggest sector terms, so you know exactly what you’re talking about when you’re talking about flexible workspaces.

The A to Z of the Flex Sector Terms

Definitions of the most commonly used terms in the flexible office and coworking industry.

1  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A city planning concept where all basic needs, such as housing, workspaces, retail, and public transportation, are located within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from a person’s home. The idea behind the 15-minute city is to create more liveable and sustainable cities with shorter commutes and better access to amenities.

It’s relevant to the flexible workspace sector because office space can be considered a basic amenity. As the principles behind 15-minute city planning advance, operators are increasingly incentivised to create new workspace in less urban environments, capturing the demand from people who want to work ‘close-to-home’.

An accelerator is a program or initiative designed to help startups and entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses. Accelerators typically provide a range of resources and support services, including mentorship, funding, office space, and networking opportunities.

In the context of the flexible workspace sector, accelerators often partner with workspace providers to offer their programs to startups and entrepreneurs in a coworking or managed office environment. By providing access to the resources and support services needed to succeed, accelerators help businesses grow more quickly and effectively than they would on their own.

Activity-based working is a workplace strategy that emphasizes flexibility and collaboration by providing employees with a range of different work environments to choose from based on the type of task they are working on. ABW spaces may include traditional desk seating, standing desks, open-plan collaborative areas, quiet zones, and meeting rooms.

The goal of ABW is to provide employees with more autonomy and control over their work environment, allowing them to choose the setting that best supports their needs and preferences at any given time. ABW is often used in conjunction with flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and flexible schedules, to create a more adaptable and responsive workplace culture.

Additional services or features that are provided to members of a flexible workspace, such as high-speed internet, coffee and snacks, or fitness facilities. Amenities are often a key selling point for flexible workspaces and can help create a more productive and enjoyable work environment.

Also known as Benefit Corporations or B Corps, these are companies that meet certain social and environmental standards set by the non-profit B Lab. B Corporations are required to consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. In other words, they’re held to higher standards of accountability and transparency.

Bifurcation means: the state of being divided into two branches or parts. “Bifurcation” of the flex property market implies that the market is split in two branches – best and the rest – but the market has fragmented into many more than two branches. We are seeing splits between good quality vs bad quality, new vs secondhand, core vs outer, green vs brown, good floorplate vs bad floorplate, high floor-to-ceilings vs low floor-to-ceilings, amenity rich vs amenity poor, to name but a few, all of which have
led to the development of a large super-prime segment segment as occupiers demand the very best quality space. 

Brandlords are landlords-turned-brands. They are commercial property owners and investment groups that have decided to launch their own proprietary flexible workspace offering, rather than using a management agreement or investing their capital in existing ventures.

Despite the high investment required in terms of both capital and effort, this model is proving popular. Examples of coworking or flexspace brands set up by traditional commercial landlords include Shaftesbury’s Assemble, British Land’s Storey, and Landsec’s Myo.

A broker is an individual or company that acts as an intermediary between a workspace provider and a potential client, helping to facilitate the leasing or renting of a workspace by a new occupier. Brokers may work independently or as part of a brokerage firm, and are typically paid a commission based on the value of the lease or rental agreement they negotiate.

There are lots of prominent broker websites dedicated to showcasing flexible workspaces. They offer benefits to both people searching for an office, and operators trying to sell space. The former can browse lots of workspace options in one step, while the latter benefits from increased exposure to their target audience.

A business lounge is a type of flexible workspace that offers a comfortable and convenient space for business travellers, entrepreneurs, and remote workers to work, network, and relax while on the go. Business lounges may be located in airports, hotels, or other public spaces, and often include amenities such as free WiFi, printing and copying services, and refreshments. This term is also often used as a stand-in for ‘coworking space’ in a flexible office building.

Cat A and B are terms used for a classification of office fit out as a way of differentiating the elements included in the fit out.

Cat A fit out is a basic operational fit out that provides you with a finished, empty space that is ready for you to move into.

A Cat A fit out is the basic finishing of an interior space, this type of fit out includes the installation of a building’s mechanical and electrical services. A Cat A project will also include finished internal walls, reception areas and lift lobbies – but that’s it. With raised metal flooring, painted perimeter walls and a grid ceiling with fitted lights, Cat A spaces are often described as a ‘blank canvas’ as it is ready to be transformed into a Cat B space. Generally commissioned by landlords.

Cat B fit out is the process of bringing all the office design elements together to create a functional workplace complete with planting, flooring and furniture.


A Cat A+ fit out is typically conducted by landlords as a way of attracting tenants into their space rather than leaving the space as Cat A which would require the tenant to spend money on designing. It is called Cat A+ as it sits between Cat A fit outs and Cat B fit outs but it is also referred to as Plug and Play space. It has become a popular type of fit out with landlords who are offering flexible space under built to lease programmes.

Cat A+ is a way of creating a functional office that a tenant can move in and begin working immediately while only having to make minimal adjustments to the space. Elements such as branding are not usually included in a Cat A+ space as this is left for the tenant to add once they have moved in.

The person responsible for creating and maintaining a sense of community within a coworking space or other flexible workspace. Community managers often organize events, facilitate networking opportunities, and handle members’ issues. They also tend to be involved in the day-to-day operations, welcoming new members and ensuring everything is working smoothly.

A shared workspace where remote workers, freelancers, and small businesses work alongside each other in a communal environment. Coworking spaces generally offer hot desks, dedicated desks, and small private offices. They also tend to provide flexible terms and on-site amenities such as meeting rooms and coffee facilitie

A dedicated desk is a type of workspace in a shared office environment that is assigned to a single individual or team for their exclusive use. Unlike hot desking or desk sharing, where individuals may use any available desk on a first-come, first-served basis, dedicated desks are reserved for a specific individual or team and are not typically shared with other users.

Dedicated desks offer a level of consistency and security for users, who can leave their personal belongings and equipment at their desk between sessions. They are often used by individuals or small teams who require a regular workspace but do not need a private office or can’t commit to a long-term lease.

A flexible seating arrangement where multiple workers share a desk at different times throughout the day. Desk sharing is similar to hot desking but is often more structured, with set schedules for desk use.

Also known as flexible workspace (or flexspace), a flexible office is a private workspace that can be leased on flexible terms, meaning there’s no need for a long-term contractual obligation from the occupier.

Flexible offices also often allow businesses to scale their space up or down as needed. Flexible office buildings may include coworking spaces, managed offices, and other types of workspaces.

Businesses that have grown with Flex and only ever used flex offices as part of their office provision.

There are three categories that most offices fall into: Grade A, Grade B and Grade C office space.

Grade A offices are highly coveted and typically feature cutting-edge facilities in prime business hubs like London. These top-tier spaces boast state-of-the-art systems and exquisite furnishings, designed to meet the highest standards. With stylish and meticulously crafted interiors, Grade A offices command premium rental prices that align with their exceptional quality and prestigious locations.

Grade B spaces offer more affordable rental rates compared to Grade A, and the fixtures and fittings are of a lower standard. Nevertheless, many Grade B offices are still well-maintained, and their facilities can be excellent. While the construction and design may not meet the same high standards as Grade A, it is not uncommon for Grade B offices to be repurposed Grade A buildings that have surpassed their prime.

Grade C office space is typically situated in older buildings with less stringent maintenance standards. As expected, this type of space may not meet the same level of quality as higher grades. However, it can offer a cost-effective solution for companies that prioritize functionality over a prestigious office image. It’s worth noting that Grade C office spaces are often located outside of prime city areas.

A flexible working arrangement where employees don’t have a designated desk and instead use any available desk or workstation on a first-come, first-served basis. This allows for more efficient use of space and is often the default mode of working in coworking spaces.

A type of flexible workspace where a provider designs, furnishes, and manages a space for occupiers. Managed offices can be customised to specific needs and often include access to amenities such as meeting rooms, IT infrastructure, and administrative support.

They’re a lightweight way to get a workspace – typically ready for use and requiring the absolute minimum in terms of ongoing effort from the occupier. Managed office leases are also generally short-term and flexible, making them a great plug-and-play option.

A type of agreement between a commercial property landlord and a workspace provider, where the provider manages the space on behalf of the landlord. The provider is responsible for all day-to-day operations, including attracting occupiers and maintaining the space. The landlord retains ownership of the building, paid by the provider who uses it.

Dedicated spaces within a flexible workspace that are designed for meetings, presentations, or other group activities. Meeting rooms may be rented on an as-needed basis and may include amenities such as audio-visual equipment and catering.

These terms are used to distinguish between a company’s operating business (Opco) and its real estate assets (Propco). This structure is often used in the flexible office space sector, where the Opco manages the day-to-day operations of the office space while the Propco holds the ownership of the property. This structure allows for a more efficient management of the assets and operations.

An operator is a company or organization that manages and operates flexible workspaces, such as coworking spaces or managed offices. Operators may own the properties they manage, or they may lease space from landlords and sublet it to tenants.

Operators are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the workspace, including maintenance, security, and customer service. They may also provide additional services to tenants, such as administrative support, networking events, or access to funding.

Plug-and-play has a similar definition to turnkey solution in the context of the flexspace industry. It describes a fully furnished and equipped office space that is ready for immediate use. Plug-and-play offices can be leased on a short-term basis and are ideal for businesses that need to move quickly.

The ability of a business to adjust the size of its workspace as needed, either by adding or removing space. Flexible workspaces, such as coworking spaces or managed offices, allow businesses to scale up or down more easily than traditional leases.

A serviced office is a type of flexible workspace that’s fully equipped and managed by a workspace provider. Serviced offices typically offer short-term, unrestrictive leases, come fully-furnished, and include a range of services such as cleaning, high-speed internet access, document printing and copying, a manned reception, and administrative support.

Some serviced offices may also offer additional amenities such as meeting rooms, kitchen facilities, and on-site parking. Serviced offices are popular with businesses that want a private office space but don’t want to be responsible for managing it themselves. They’re also a popular option for businesses seeking a short-term lease option, as they offer a turnkey solution that can be quickly and easily set up and moved on from.

While part of the fit out spectrum, shell and core is technically the state of a building before any type of fit out occurs. The space won’t be usable at this stage and is the result of the initial construction of the building. Shell and core refers to the concrete and metal frame of a weather-proofed space. It may look complete from the outside, but inside the building’s services, like lighting and air conditioning, aren’t even installed.

A shell and core fit out includes:
• Lobbies
• Lift shafts
• Concrete and metal frame
• Structural elements

A third space is a term used to describe a space that is neither home nor work, but rather a place for socializing, networking, and relaxation. Third spaces can take many forms, including coffee shops, libraries, and parks, and are often characterised by their comfortable and inviting atmosphere.

In the context of the flexible workspace sector, third spaces may also include business lounges, coworking spaces, or other shared workspaces that offer a more informal and social environment than a traditional office. Third spaces are popular with remote workers, freelancers, and entrepreneurs who may not have a dedicated workspace or who prefer to work in a more relaxed and social environment.

In the context of the flexible workspace sector, turnkey solutions are often used to describe fully furnished and equipped office spaces that are ready for immediate occupancy. These spaces may include amenities such as furniture, IT infrastructure, and administrative support, allowing businesses to move in and start working right away.

Turnkey solutions are particularly popular with businesses that need to move quickly or do not want to invest time and resources into setting up an office space from scratch. They are also commonly used by workspace providers as a way to differentiate their offerings and provide additional value to occupiers

A suite of services that provide businesses with a professional business address and phone number. Virtual office services also often include call and mail handling. Their basic function is to allow businesses to have a physical presence without actually having to lease or own a physical space. Virtual office services are often offered by coworking spaces, serving both occupiers of the space who want additional features and external customers who just need a business address.

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