An increasing number of businesses now operate almost entirely with a remote team — without the need for an actual office space or desks.
However, some of them may require a physical location for mailing services and conference rooms for client meetings. In such cases, most companies go for a virtual office.
A virtual office gives your business a physical address and other office-related perks without the cost of office rent and administrative staff.
However, if your entire team works remotely, trying to replicate a physical office in a virtual space might be just a waste of money.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what virtual offices are, how they work, and the services they provide. We’ll also discuss why a virtual business address may not work anymore and why an ideal remote work environment can be a better alternative.
This article covers:
(Click on a link below to jump to a specific section)
- What is a Virtual Office?
- What Services Does a Virtual Office Provide?
- 3 Major Benefits of a Virtual Office
- 3 Reasons Why a Virtual Office Doesn’t Make Sense Anymore
- How to Create an Ideal Remote Environment in 3 Easy Steps
Let’s get started.
What is a virtual office?
A virtual office offers you all the perks of a physical office without having to pay the full amount for an actual physical space or administrative staff. The development of web-based office productivity software has helped drive the growth of virtual offices in recent years.
The cost of operating a virtual office is much lower than physical office space or coworking space. As a result, it’s usually suitable for:
- Startup founders and small businesses who want to maintain a business presence in a prestigious location without having a traditional office space.
- Contractors and consultants who are looking to establish a local presence.
- Corporations looking to expand to new markets and increase their global network.
A virtual office service provider will also give you access to a virtual office address, receptionist service, and conference rooms. They support various video conferencing and messaging platforms that allow teams to collaborate even while working remotely.
Additionally, some virtual office services also provide a receptionist and phone service at additional costs.
Let’s take a closer look at these services.
What services does a virtual office provide?
A virtual office plan consists of many useful features like a virtual address, a virtual mailbox, mail handling services, and a unique business phone number.
We’ll explore some of these services in detail.
1. Virtual office address in prestigious locations
Many business owners and entrepreneurs work from home to reduce costs early on in a new business.
However, a prestigious address like New York or San Francisco can add credibility to your company name and attract the best clients.
Fortunately, with a virtual office location, you just need to select a central location in a prominent city that best suits your target market. And then, you can use it as a professional business address in your correspondence with clients or customers.
You can use the same virtual address on business cards, brochures, and your website.
2. Virtual mailing service and a trained receptionist
Many virtual office providers offer mail forwarding services as part of the virtual office solution. They pick up the post and forward it to your home address or scan the documents and email the scans to you.
Virtual office members can also opt for a fully-trained live receptionist as part of the virtual office package. The receptionist can handle business phone calls, voicemail, book a business meeting on your behalf, and provide a fully professional experience to your customers.
3. Meeting and conference rooms
Most virtual office providers offer a meeting room, conference room, or even a waiting room where you can conduct an in-person meeting.
You need to book the meeting room in advance. So, even when you’re not present at your virtual office address every day, you can accommodate clients and customers for business meetings.
You can also have access to support staff, fully equipped boardrooms, and training rooms.
But here’s the most important question: is a virtual office really beneficial for your business?
In the next section, we’ll check out some benefits of virtual office membership and explore whether it’s worth investing in.
3 major benefits of a virtual office
A virtual office package provides your company with benefits like:
1. Less overhead costs
When using traditional office space, you have to cover maintenance costs, cleaning services, and maybe even the cafeteria and other utilities.
However, in a virtual office plan, you don’t have to make payments for office lease or incur any utility costs.
Not only that, but you can also increase your savings by avoiding other expenditures like furniture, hardware, etc., that are usually associated with a brick and mortar setup.
2. Reduced commute time
Have you ever wondered how many office hours you have spent being stuck in traffic while commuting to your office?
In a virtual office setup, employees travel to work strictly for training purposes, meetings, or group brainstorming sessions. This eliminates the time spent getting ready for work and commuting on a daily basis.
Besides, you can also save money on fuel and vehicle repairs since you don’t need to travel to the office every day.
With all the additional time and money, your employees can now put the extra energy into work and be more productive.
3. Increased credibility
Lastly, a business address in a respected location helps to create a professional image for your business. This ensures your prospective clients that your company is trustworthy, credible, and legitimate.
Additionally, virtual offices can be shared by different businesses – like legal, finance, etc. Setting up an office in such centers can increase your networking opportunities.
But is a virtual office a suitable option for all businesses?
3 reasons why a virtual office doesn’t make sense anymore
Many businesses still vouch for a virtual office setting.
Sure, it might work for many organizations, but that might not be the case for others.
Here are three reasons why a virtual office doesn’t make sense anymore.
1. Obsolete for remote companies
Many major tech companies are going completely remote in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s the same with small businesses.
Companies like Doist, which specializes in productivity software, operate as remote-first businesses. Moreover, even tech colossals like Twitter, Shopify, and Slack have announced plans for fully remote or partial remote work in the future.
Since such businesses don’t have walk-in clients or customers, they don’t need a virtual office space or even a physical office space to conduct meetings or plan projects.
Think about it.
When everyone is working remotely, there’s no point replicating a physical office in a digital space.
2. Availability of advanced software
One of the most important purposes of a virtual office is to conduct project meetings for new (or existing) products and services.
So, if your team primarily consists of software developers, product managers, or even freelancers, the concept of virtual offices can be discarded easily.
But what if your business is completely client-facing and needs a business meeting space?
For such situations, you can use powerful video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Video conferencing has seen a 535% rise in daily traffic in 2020. The dramatic rise may continue even after the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the help of such software, you don’t need to have face-to-face meetings to get your points across. You can also take advantage of features like meeting recording, whiteboards, and presentation sharing to future-proof your workspace.
3. Excellent outsourcing services
Outsourcing helps in two ways. It helps your business reduce labor costs by freeing up existing resources, so you won’t have to hire many employees. You also have the added flexibility to stop the services if you don’t need them.
Certain operations like customer service and manufacturing can be outsourced to countries like India, the Philippines, and Mexico. These countries have the infrastructure and skilled workforce to take care of your business needs at a relatively lower cost.
If you want to know more about outsourcing services, you can refer to our complete guide to outsourcing.
You can use the saved money to improve your products and services, resulting in increased profits and improving your company’s bottom line.
Additionally, with the help of business networking platforms like LinkedIn and AngelList, businesses everywhere can manage hiring, sales, and client acquisitions remotely.
This way, you can completely avoid virtual offices and instead invest your time and money in creating an ideal remote work environment.
How to create an ideal remote environment in 3 easy steps
Thanks to modern technology, employees no longer need to tie themselves to a desk or a private office. In fact, many modern companies have no workspace at all and work in a completely remote environment.
However, some companies may have concerns about a remote-first approach.
For example, since your employees aren’t physically with you, it may become difficult to ensure they work effectively during office hours.
So, as a manager or founder, how do you ensure accountability among your remote team members?
Next, we’ll explore how to create an ideal remote work environment in detail:
1. Hire adaptive remote employees
Not every person is cut out for remote work.
So, before you begin hiring for a remote position, you’ll need to lay out the expectations required from a remote employee to be successful in a remote work environment.
To do this, you need to clearly define the requirements for the position while writing a remote job post. This may include having a stable internet connection, self-owned devices, and more importantly, the ability to communicate clearly over online channels.
It’ll help the potential candidate judge whether they can work productively and according to the company’s other requirements or not.
2. Create suitable workflows for your remote team
Since remote work requires a disciplined approach to work on assignments, you need to follow an assignment protocol to make sure nothing gets lost in the shuffle. For this, you can use a cloud-based project management tool for effective task management.
Additionally, you should use real-time collaboration tools like Slack to keep every team member in the loop. This ensures that valuable feedback doesn’t get lost in the never-ending email chains and also creates transparency among team members.
Want to know more about project management software to drive your business growth?
Explore What is project management?
3. Track team productivity
Lastly, you can take advantage of modern tech solutions like Time Doctor to ensure accountability within your team.
Time Doctor is a robust employee time tracking and performance management tool used by major companies, like Verizon and Ericsson, as well as small businesses, like Firehouse Subs, to boost employee productivity.
It has a simple user interface and workforce management features, suitable for remote teams.
Productivity software like Time Doctor can help your employees understand their work patterns and take the necessary steps to improve them.
Let’s take a look at some of Time Doctor’s key features:
- Time tracking: Track time spent on projects, tasks for your remote employees and outsourced teams.
- Idle time tracking: Idle time tracking helps see if your employees are idle or working on a task.
- Screenshots: Monitor what your employees are working on with the help of the screenshots feature.
- Extensive productivity reports: Access comprehensive real-time reports like – attendance reports, timeline reports, projects and tasks reports, and many more to understand employee performance.
- Robust Chrome extension: To integrate it with other productivity apps like Trello, Asana, and Evernote.
This way, Time Doctor software simplifies remote team management better than ever.
And if you’re a service provider, you can easily bill your clients using Time Doctor’s top-notch project management and payroll features.
Want to ace remote management?
Read about the 7 deadly sins of remote management (and what to do about it).
Virtual offices can be suitable for business owners or startup founders who want to maintain a physical presence near their clients.
However, an ideal remote work environment provides a business with almost all the benefits of a virtual office without the costs.
You can do this by hiring carefully, designing a workflow for your remote team, and deploying tech solutions like Time Doctor at scale.
To get started, why not sign up for Time Doctor and increase your team’s productivity today?
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.