Interested in virtual office setup?
A virtual office is a smart way for your start-up or SME (small to medium enterprises) to cut down on any overhead cost and increase profits while expanding its reach.
As a virtual office operates primarily online, you can manage operations from anywhere — whether it’s your home office or a coffee shop.
However, while a virtual office offers several benefits such as flexibility and scalability, setting up your virtual office company can be challenging.
In this article, we’ll cover a seven-step process for a successful virtual office setup. We’ll also highlight the necessary tools, resources, and processes to help you get started.
This article contains:
(Click on the links below to go to a specific section)
- What is a Virtual Office?
- 7 Steps to a Successful Virtual Office Setup
- What are The Advantages of a Virtual Office?
Let’s get started.
What is a virtual office?
A virtual office is a service that offers the same resources (workspace, tools, equipment) that a traditional office does — but via the internet.
Virtual office service companies offer systems necessary for your team to engage in remote work. They also provide services that can improve your remote company’s brand image so you can gain more potential clients.
Some common services these companies provide include:
- A virtual business address.
- Phone numbers.
- Meeting room services.
- Virtual receptionist services.
- Temporary private office.
7 steps to a successful virtual office setup
Here’s how you can set up your own virtual office solution:
Step 1: Map out your plan
While creating a plan, consider your business’ specific needs.
Some of the things you should include in your business plan are:
- Executive summary.
- Company description.
- Industry and competitor analysis.
- Breakdown of your organizational and management structure.
- Services/products you’ll offer.
- Marketing and sales strategy.
- Budgets and financial projections.
Once you’ve developed this plan upfront, you’ll be able to determine your staffing, resources, and other needs. These are all vital to ensuring the success of your virtual business.
Step 2: Recruit the right people
When you work from a virtual office, you have access to a broader pool of talent.
You can recruit the best people from anywhere in the world — so focus on recruiting the right people for your business.
Although most people are attracted to a virtual office’s flexibility, not everyone is suited to work in a virtual office environment.
Decide whether you’ll be hiring staff for HR, payroll, sales, marketing, etc. or whether you’ll outsource these tasks to a virtual assistant.
When hiring a virtual worker, there are specific characteristics you need to look for, including:
- The ability to prioritize and focus.
- High level of intrinsic motivation as virtual work involves minimal supervision or none at all.
- Excellent written communication skills as communication will occur primarily online.
Step 3: Set up a phone system and office address
There are several virtual office phone systems and companies that can provide you with a virtual business address and phone numbers.
Having a physical address and office landline serves more than just a practical purpose; it also conveys a professional image.
Let’s take a look at both of these services in detail:
A. Phone system
For example, RingCentral provides features such as caller ID, voicemail, music-on-hold, conference calling, call forwarding, unlimited extensions, three-way calls, etc.
The best part is that you don’t need to purchase hardware for these virtual office tools. They offer “Mobile Office” smartphone applications, available for Android and iPhone devices.
B. Business address
Even though you are operating a virtual company, you’ll need a business address to receive your mail.
Additionally, you may need a temporary conference room for client meetings.
They offer a virtual mailing address (also known as a virtual business address) — a permanent street address where your mail is delivered.
When your mail is received, it’s scanned, and an image of the envelope is uploaded to your digital mailbox. You can view and request to have selected letters opened, and the contents scanned.
Step 4: Acquire a domain name and email address
If you’re a small business owner, who’s currently using a Gmail account, you should consider changing your email extension to your company domain. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A domain name is the hostname used to identify your website on the internet.
You can get affordable internet domain registration with pricing as low as $0.99 from companies like GoDaddy.com.
Before you settle on an available domain name and pay to register it, you should learn more about domain extensions to use the right one for your business.
These are the three main extensions available:
- .com: The most popular and sought-after domain extension for domain
Names. A “.com” extension represents online commercial enterprises.
- .biz: Usually used for small business websites.
- .net: Another domain extension used by small businesses if the .com
extension is unavailable. “.net” is an abbreviation for the term “Network.”
Step 5: Adopt the right tools
You’ll need to ensure your team is equipped with functional laptops and an internet connection.
Depending on your business’s nature, you’ll have to decide on the right software solutions for your company.
A. Billing and invoicing solution
Decide on the system you’ll use to pay employees and freelancers, and send out invoices.
Many online invoicing solutions also let you accept credit card payments, set up recurring billing, send PDF format invoices, etc.
B. File sharing and document management system
Next, you’ll need a document management system that allows you to store, manage, and share documents online.
Cloud storage systems are handy when you need quick access to your documents.
You can access them from anywhere and on any mobile device, PC, etc. You can also easily share documents with your team members and collaborate in real-time.
C. Backup and recovery solution
You also need to have a backup system in place to protect your information.
The advantage of using online backup solutions versus traditional backup services is that you can access important documents and files anytime you need them — thanks to cloud storage.
D. Productivity management
If you hire a remote team for your virtual office, you’ll need a way to manage attendance remotely.
A productivity management system like Time Doctor will help you keep track of your team’s working hours and attendance records.
Here’s what else you can do with productivity software:
- Gauge employee productivity with reports.
- Track the project’s progress in real-time.
- Manage leaves and time-offs.
Step 6: Focus on communication and collaboration
Maintaining proper communication is even more critical in a virtual office than in a physical office space.
A lack of communication can become a significant concern for virtual companies, and employees can feel isolated and out of the loop as a result.
In a virtual office, managers and supervisors should communicate more often with employees to build a working relationship.
Your employees need to have access to the virtual communication and collaboration tools needed to work together as a team.
Here are a few ways teams can communicate in a virtual office:
- Instant messaging apps: For teams to stay in contact, apps like iMessage, Slack, etc., are useful. Many of these apps also allow for document sharing.
- Project management tools: For project management and task collaboration, you have tools like Asana, Trello , Basecamp, etc.
- Social media: To establish your social media presence and connect with your team, social media apps like Workplace from Meta and Linkedin are great options.
- Phone calls: VoIP apps like Skype and Slack let you make voice calls over the internet, so no dedicated receptionist or telephone line is needed.
- Video conferencing software: You can avoid the misinterpretation of emails by using instant video calling apps like Zoom and Google Meet.
Step 7: Establish the organizational culture
In a physical office, delegating responsibilities and sharing company rules, and having face-to-face meetings, is easier than in a virtual office setup.
You also need to establish an organizational culture for a virtual team.
Here are the areas you should pay particular attention to:
A. Set working hours
In a virtual company, employees need to be provided with a structure as you would do in a regular office.
That’s why it’s essential to implement virtual office hours.
This way, employees know when they are supposed to be working and won’t be tempted to work more or fewer hours than they should. Even if you have employees across time zones, set some standard hours when everyone should be available.
Time and productivity management tools like Time Doctor can help ensure that your team members are working a certain amount of hours each day so that they can enjoy an excellent work-life balance.
B. Ensure employees are clear about their duties
In an environment where each employee is responsible for themselves, it’s crucial to assign clear responsibilities.
When onboarding new team members, iron out all the details regarding the company policies, goals, and duties.
Managers should give each team member detailed instructions from the start, including how to use the software tools provided and how to communicate effectively. They also need a reliable system for distributing and evaluating work.
Encourage your employees to ask questions and adopt collaboration software such as Tandem.
C. Look for team building opportunities
Encouraging team bonding is usually more challenging in a virtual office.
It’s common for a remote employee to feel a lack of connection to their co-workers and the company they work for. This can impact their morale and productivity.
Building relationships in a virtual office isn’t impossible if you look for opportunities to connect with your team.
For example, virtual games can help create that camaraderie and support system that the remote worker often lacks.
Remote Office Trivia and Virtual Bingo are some games that can get your team engaging with each other without being in the same work space or room.
What are the advantages of a virtual office?
If you have a business idea that you’re eager to get off the ground, opting for a virtual office business will help you start up relatively quickly and easily.
Here are some of the advantages of choosing a virtual workspace:
1. Low start-up costs
A virtual office isn’t expensive to set up because:
- There are no rental deposits and long term leases to worry about.
- You can also avoid spending a fortune on office equipment and furnishings.
- You save money on the everyday consumables needed in a physical office space like stationery, cleaning supplies, utilities, etc.
2. Easy to set up
This means that you can start operating in practically no time, without the hassle of sourcing an adequately sized office.
It’s much more comfortable setting up these processes online than in the real world, and it usually just takes a few minutes to sign up for most software services.
3. Increased flexibility
You and your team will benefit from the flexibility associated with a virtual office space.
Not being stuck in an office has a positive impact on work-life balance.
More balanced individuals are happier and healthier – they take less time off and spend more time being productive.
Increased flexibility will also help your company attract top talent because it is a workplace characteristic that most employees value.
As a business owner, a virtual office arrangement affords you the privilege of scaling your business more quickly and easily.
By having virtual offices, you can scale up without having to:
- Look for larger premises.
- Buy more equipment.
- Furnish your new office etc.
Additionally, you can increase your team size and expand your company’s reach in new areas fairly quickly when you’re not geographically bound.
Opting for a virtual office rather than a physical one has its benefits.
However, you’ll need to be more careful with a virtual office setup.
While the setup does require some initial thought, you’ll be able to get a successful virtual office up and running quickly. All you need to do is have a clear plan, create the perfect remote team, and use the right tools for your virtual office.
Follow the steps we’ve laid out here, and you’ll be able to get started with your virtual business!
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.