How we work is changing. Not every company elects for a permanent office, and having a virtual office can be a great alternative when cost is an issue. Virtual offices allow your business to be permanently based at the location of your choice, even though you’re not. Although the virtual office address becomes your business address, you don’t actually have dedicated space in that building, even though your calls and mail are handled there. Space – for working and meeting – is available as and when you need it. Here are some of the benefits – and detriments – of that arrangement:
- You can use a virtual office as your registered office address. This has two main benefits: firstly, it keeps your home address private, and secondly, it allows you to select a prestigious location for your business without the usual associated cost.
- You can have all of your mail delivered to your virtual office. There’s usually two options: for the mail to be held at the office so you can pick it up when you’re ready, or for it to be forwarded on to you (the latter costs a little more).
- You can maintain a presence in a number of areas. This is possible because virtual offices are so inexpensive. This can be useful for local SEO, allowing your website to rank for top terms when a user in the locality of one of your virtual office addresses makes a search. Although some virtual offices ask you to use a mailbox, you can add the full office address to your website as well. For this reason, acquiring a virtual office can be a strategic move even for established businesses that already have offices elsewhere.
- You can allow all your staff to work from home. A virtual office also allows you to operate a business where all of your employees work from home, without the stress of the daily commute. You can stay in touch via services like Google Hangouts and Skype. Home workers are generally happier and more productive, and this model is of course much cheaper.
- You have office space to work when you need it. For when you need a space to work, most virtual office locations have lounges with restaurant/bar facilities and wireless. Tea and coffee is often free, and you can usually pick a table and chair or soft-seating, as you prefer, and there’s often shared desks available too.
- You have space to meet when you need it. When you need a meeting room, these are available for a small extra fee, and there is usually a good selection from small interview rooms through to large boardrooms. The benefit of working this way is that you don’t pay for meeting rooms all year round even when they’re not in use.
- There are excellent facilities available. Most virtual offices have modern facilities way beyond what a start-up business could afford, such as advanced telephony services, high-spec video conferencing facilities and much more. All of these are maintained and upgraded as part of the fee, so you save a huge amount of money vs. setting up your own office.
- You can have your calls forwarded or diverted. This is usually an optional extra of the virtual office, giving you the ability to provide a phone number that is either forwarded seamlessly to a number of your choice or diverted to a voicemail box for you to pick up at your convenience.
- You can have your calls answered. This option is for the centre to answer your calls professionally in your company name before they are put through to you. This enables even start ups and small businesses to give the appearance of having a manned reception.
- It’s easy to get more office space. As well as providing all the above benefits, virtual offices make moving and expanding really easy. After all, you’ve got nothing to move! There’s always as much space as you need, since you can hot desk for as long as you need to. When you’re ready to grow, you can upgrade to shared or serviced office space, very often in the same building.
- Virtual office space is brilliant for networking. You’ll find tonnes of like-minded people in a similar position to you working from the same space.
- Virtual offices are more environmentally friendly. There is less commuting to work and utilities are shared, meaning lower overall energy bills than a number of separate offices.
Cons of virtual office space
- Your employees are not close by. If your business is using the home working model, you’ll find it difficult to provide employees support if anything goes wrong – for example, if they need IT support.
- Certain tasks cannot be carried out in a virtual office. Examples are team projects and the signing off of documents by more than one person.
- Employees can feel very detached from the business and this can lead to demotivation. You can prevent this to some extent by staying in touch through regular conferencing and meetings, but as your business starts to grow, shared or serviced office space could be a much better option for you, and similarly cost effective.
- Most people using a virtual office will be working from home. There are plenty of cons to home working, such as distractions/the need for a huge amount of self discipline, noise, lack of interaction, lack of work/home divide, and the ease of working too much.
Virtual offices are perfect for start ups with one or two employees who, for example, tend to work from a home address. As your business grows however, other options may be more suitable for you.