Many people – even those of us in the commercial real estate business – sometimes scratch our heads when trying to explain what virtual offices are.
Are they an actual place, strictly a service, coworking office space, or something in between? The best answer is a partial ‘Yes’ to all four questions. In fact, a virtual office can serve many different purposes depending on the business that you’re in.
With that in mind, here are seven things to know about virtual offices.
#1 What Are Virtual Offices?
Virtual offices are location-based organizations that give businesses and their employees access to a wide range of services via the internet without having to be in that location.
One of the best things about using a virtual office is that a business can have a presence in an extremely desirable area – say Midtown Manhattan, for example – and actually be physically located in another city, state, country, or even a home office.
Presence is the key word here, because a virtual office space in Midtown is a fraction of the cost of leasing traditional office space in one of the most expensive office markets in the entire world.
#2 How Do Virtual Offices Work?
In the same way that the internet has allowed companies like Airbnb, Amazon, and Uber to grow and prosper, the world wide web is also largely responsible for helping virtual offices to exist.
There are three key factors that allow virtual offices to work:
- Cloud Solutions – Virtual desktops and servers combined with an internet connection let organizations and their employees work from anywhere in the world.
- Connected Collaboration – Software and services such as Skype, Dropbox, Slack, and Trello make it amazingly easy for employees to connect with each other and with clients without having to physically be in the same room – or even in the same country.
- High Speed Internet – Once upon a time there was something called ‘dial up internet’. It was painfully slow, unreliable, and made virtual offices virtually impossible. Today high speed, high bandwidth internet service can be found almost anywhere.
#3 What Do Virtual Offices Provide?
While services can vary from one company to the next, some of the things that nearly all virtual office providers offer include:
- A real business address – this is much more professional than using a home address or a P.O. Box,
- Receptionist, answering service, voicemail – clients and employees appreciate being able to speak with a real live person to verify that a package was received or to reserve a time to use a conference room,
- Meeting & conference rooms – most virtual office providers offer fully equipped, state-of-the-art meeting and conference rooms for getting together face-to-face,
- Mail receiving and scanning – although snail mail is something that most of us try to avoid, it seems that we still need real, physical mail at times. Virtual offices will open mail, scan it, and upload it or email it to you for your reading convenience.
#4 Who Uses Virtual Offices?
Entrepreneurs, solo freelance workers, and business startups find virtual offices especially attractive.
Using virtual office space is also great for people who travel a lot. That’s because many virtual office companies are located in most major cities around the country and even the world. They allow business people to have a home base while traveling – even if it’s just for a few hours, a day, or a week.
Renting a virtual office is also easy on the budget, allows businesses to try out a location before they commit to leasing real office space, and makes it easy to hire virtual assistants and remotely employ top talent from anywhere in the world.
#5 Do Virtual Offices Make Good Business Sense?
Whether or not using a virtual office space makes sense depends 100% on the type of business you’re in, your clients, and your staff.
Renting a virtual office isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Some businesses use virtual office space and coworking office spaces when they need additional temporary space, or to provide staff in a new startup division with a place to think outside of the box.
#6 What Are the Good Things About A Virtual Office?
Some of the common advantages to using a virtual office include:
- Saving money on overhead, office design and décor, furniture and fixtures
- Boosting productivity by minimizing interruptions from the coworker next door
- Eliminating commute times and transportation costs going to and from an office building
- Getting rid of office headaches such as cleaning the employee break room or managing employee socializing
- Access talent and support from around the world, oftentimes for much less than you’d pay somebody locally
#7 What Are the Cons to Renting A Virtual Office?
Virtual office space can offer a business flexibility, convenience, and a prestigious image at a very affordable price. But renting virtual office space isn’t the best choice for every business.
Some potential drawbacks to renting a virtual office include:
- Managing a remote staff can be difficult – ensuring projects will be met on time, working with different time zones around the world, and collaborating meaningfully can be a challenge
- Maintaining a company culture can also be troublesome – even if your staff can be productive working virtually, it’s difficult for people to feel like they’re really part of the team if they can’t meet face-to-face every now and then
- Pre-planning is needed to use real space in a virtual office – booking time to use a conference room or day-use office space means planning in advance to avoid other tenants booking the same space that you need
- Virtual office spaces aren’t always accessible 24/7 – some virtual office companies limit access to their physical space on nights or on weekends, limiting your business flexibility and causing inconvenience
- Working from home can be distracting – many business owners quickly discover that not all of their staff can handle the distractions of working virtually from a home office – many employees are at their most productive best when they’re in a traditional office space or coworking location