Over the last 10 years, coworking has grown from a small movement into a global industry with an estimated 21,000 spaces worldwide. As the movement has evolved, so has the language we use to describe these shared workspaces.

“Shared workspace” or “shared office space” are the umbrella terms used to describe any type of shared work environment that may include offices, open coworking, meeting rooms, dedicated desk rental, on-demand office space, virtual offices, and more. But under that umbrella are a lot of other terms space operators use to describe their space.

Here’s an overview of shared workspaces and terms so you can decide which type of space is right for you. Pacific Workplaces offers many of these services and spaces, so once you know which shared workspace is right for you, check out a Pacific Workplace location near you.

Coworking Space
Coworking spaces offer open coworking, where members sit and work anyplace they’d like. They also generally offer dedicated desks, shared and private offices, meeting rooms, phone booths, and kitchens. Within coworking, there’s a variety of models, from small, neighborhood-focused spaces with a few dozen members to large, chain spaces that house hundreds of members. Some coworking spaces cater to a diverse group of professions while others cater to niche markets, such as digital creatives, social impact organizations, wellness professionals, and parents.

Private Office in a Shared Workspace
Private offices can be found in coworking spaces as well as stand-alone spaces that solely provide private offices. These offices offer an extra layer of privacy and space. Private offices work well for teams, consultants and service providers who meet clients in their workspace, people who make a lot of calls, and those who need a quiet, focused space to work. For professionals who need a private office space but want access to shared business amenities and an onsite professional network, private offices in a shared space is a great option.


Workplace-as-a-serviceTM refers to the business model that delivers flexible workplace solutions on a hosted basis, via a pay-per-use model or on a subscription-basis. Nowadays, everything is delivered “as-a-Service” but the term was coined by Pacific Workplaces in 2003 and we have stayed true to the approach of making an expensive office infrastructure available to end-users, on-demand and affordably.

A key component of “workplace” is workspace”, i.e. the brick & mortar, furniture, and design components of a Workplace-as-a-ServiceTM offering. Beyond this, people expect a workplace to also provide a technology environment that makes their work more productive, access to support services (copier, coffee, etc.),  and –quite importantly- a community that gives them a sense of belonging, with the strong business and emotional support one could expect from a well curated community. All of the individual elements of the workplace, including full time offices, coworking memberships, virtual offices, access to meeting rooms, digital mailboxes, phone answering, community events, and other support services are available on-demand, wrapped up in this “Workplace-as-a-Service” approach.

Professional reception area and meeting rooms equipped with enterprise-grade technology within a shared and hosted environment.

Business support services such as copiers/printers in lounges and cafe’ areas where community members can also congregate and connect with each other.

On-Demand Office Space
The concept of on-demand office space is integral to Workplace-as-a-ServiceTM. It speaks to the delivery of office solutions on a pay-per-use basis or under a subscription model.

In a pay-per-use model, a user will pay for the service consumed at the time of use (or close). For example someone may book 2 hours of conference room and pay for the transaction with their credit card online.

With a subscription plan, members may pay for a certain bundle of services available to them each month. For example, a full time office, virtual office, coworking membership, or a bundle of up to 20 meeting room hours, can all be purchased on a subscription basis: whether the service is fully consumed or not, the end-users will pay the agreed upon monthly price.

Subscription plans can be priced very attractively. For example, Pacific Workplaces offers a bundle of 20 hours of access to meeting rooms at a savings equivalent to 4 or 5 times the retail hourly rate.  The price is set low based on an expectation that most users will not always consume all of the hours they are entitled to, and also to encourage repeat business and loyalty.  (Note: Pacific Workplaces actually uses a credit system where 1 credit = 1 hour of day office, and larger meeting rooms can be booked for more credits).

Members can purchase bundles of included meeting room credits on a monthly subscription basis at a much lower cost.

Serviced Office
A serviced office, as defined by Wikipedia, is “an office or office building that is fully equipped and managed by a facility management company, which then rents individual offices or floors to other companies.” This is a terminology commonly used in the U.K and continental Europe that is equivalent to the “office business centers” terminology used in the U.S. These offices may also include services such as telephone answering and reception. This takes facilities and other management responsibilities off the shoulders of business owners.

Business Center
Business centers offer office rental, meeting rooms and basic business amenities. They may also offer services such as document preparation, mailing and shipping, design and distribution services and notaries. They are the US equivalent of “Serviced Offices” in the UK.

Makerspaces are shared workspaces designed for makers and creators. Some of the tools you may find in a makerspace are: 3D printers, laser cutters, CAD (computer-aided design) tools, sewing machines, screen printing tools, woodworking tools, circuit boards and soldering irons, robotics tools and more. Makerspaces generally offer monthly or annual members, as well as drop-in rates.

Pop-up Coworking
Pop-up coworking that utilizes existing spaces is becoming a popular ways to build professional communities and activate spaces, such as libraries, churches restaurants and even homes. These are generally informal gatherings of professionals seeking wifi, a desk and a community.

Executive Suites
Executive suites, which offer private offices to business executives, have been around for several decades.  The main value proposition of executive suites was to provide a prestigious business address, with access to private offices, limited services, and minimum attention to community curation. The design of executive suites, with long hallways, closed offices, and a lack of community space was not well-suited to building lively business communities, so important today in the other forms of shared workspaces.

Many spaces that initially branded themselves as executive suites have rebranded as business centers or serviced offices, in part to avoid being associated with a concept that flourished last century but is no longer in great favor.

Virtual Office
A virtual office provides business owners with the ability to establish a business identity and to access all support services available at the shared workspace location, including access to part-time offices and meeting rooms, at a fraction of a price of a full-time office.

Virtual Office solutions include the use of the location business address on the subscriber website and collateral, digital mailboxes and other mail services, telephone answering, virtual receptionist, concierge services, and access to part-time private offices and meeting rooms.

Virtual office plans are extremely inexpensive solutions to establish a remote branch office, or for someone working primarily from home that may need to receive mail or meet business partners in a professional venue.

Basic mail plans can range between $50 and $99 per month, depending on locations. A bundle of services that include business address, mail services, digital mailboxes, local or toll-free phone number, live phone answering, and 20 hours of access to day offices can be purchased at $195 to $275 per month in most Pacific Workplaces locations.

Meet with clients in a professional day office or meeting room at a fraction of the cost of traditional office space.  

What have we missed? How do you describe your shared workspace?

Office Space Virtual Offices Coworking Meeting Rooms