The terms “virtual office” and “virtual business” are becoming increasingly prevalent in the entrepreneurial world. Virtual office refers to a company or organization that may not necessarily have a permanent location or “real” office infrastructure of a traditional company. These companies however still have the capability to fully function from a business standpoint – thanks to technology. These trending new entities provide goods and services, manage relevant audience communications and customer service, and employ entire workforces, all through the internet. From document exchange, video conferencing for meetings and smart phones with downloads like Slack, Dropbox, and Evernote to stay connected.
According to How Stuff Works, “technically, your office is wherever you are. With the technology currently available, you can conduct business from almost anywhere. Your office could be in your home, in your car, in the airport, on the beach, or even on a mountaintop.”
Since the launch of world’s first virtual office in 1983, the observed benefits (both internal and external to the organization) have turned into a lengthy list. For starters, office expenses are significantly lower than a traditional office—eliminating things like maintenance and cleaning services, employee travel stipends, not to mention borderline outrageous commercial office real estate costs. Virtual companies do not incur the costs of leasing or buying office space in a building.
Employees like receptionists can be replaced with remote receptionist services at a fraction of the standard $12-$15 hourly wage. When it comes to top talent, virtual offices offer the extremely appealing aspect of remote work. Today’s workforce, particularly millennials, are more attracted to positions with flexible schedule policies. Virtual employees have the option to work where they want and even travel while working, thanks to developments like coworking spaces. Regardless of location, remote workers stay on track and perform important tasks with the same computing power they would have in a traditional brick and mortar office. In fact, virtual teams become more productive by alleviating the dreaded hassle of a city commute, while having an easier time juggling work-life balance. To sum it up, “You save money. Productivity goes up. And it’s easier to recruit people,” says management consultant Jack Nilles, who actually coined the term “telecommuting,” the predecessor to “virtual office,” in 1974.
Virtual offices are particularly attractive to entrepreneurs and startups—as the setup eliminates the overhead of renting in a corporate office building with no long term commitments. It also allows for quick business growth. A virtual office can grow just as fast as your booming business; no strings attached.
One of the common drawbacks to starting a business with a virtual office is the absence of a physical business address. Regardless of what type of operation you’re running, you’re likely going to need a physical address to have mail delivered too. Luckily, you have a few options. You can rent a PO, box, use a CMRA (Commercial Mail Receiving Agency) mailbox service that provides a corporate address and a suite number. Both of these options have the drawback of requiring you to go somewhere that’s not actually your office, to pick up your mail. Post office boxes have the added disadvantage of not allowing you to receive packages because couriers won’t deliver to a P.O. box.
Depending on what type of business you’re running though, you may also need a real address with a real office to host pitches, presentations, and occasional face to face team meetings. If you’re running a startup from your bedroom, It’s also probably not the most professional to host client meetings in your living room. Your best bet is to lease an office in a coworking space for as little as $45/month as the infrastructure to your virtual office. Community office space not only provides a “real” address to give your growing business the credibility it needs to succeed (and receive mail), but it provides the real life support a virtual office can depend on; like conference rooms for rent, state of the art office equipment and technology, and even networking events and business workshops to boost your competitive edge.
If you’re considering virtual office life and want to learn more about if a coworking space is right for you and your business, click here.