A virtual office is a business service that enables business owners to have a presence in a professional business premises without the need to pay rent for actual space in that building. Virtual offices permit business owners based at other locations (usually their home address) to have permitted use of their virtual property address on their business stationery, website, company vehicles and marketing material as if they are physically based at that location in return for a monthly or annual fee.
Virtual office fee’s are extremely low in comparison to renting physical space. It allows business owners to work remotely, usually from home or other satellite location that they may wish to keep confidential from their clients and associates but to maintain a professional image by publicising their business address as the virtual office address they subscribe to.
A virtual office enables businesses to have many of the benefits of a physical office but without any actual space or desks within the premises. Virtual offices provide the use of pay by the day, hot desks, meeting rooms on a per hour basis, mail forwarding services, virtual admin and reception services, call answering services and virtual phone numbers.
What are the benefits of a Virtual Office?
There are many benefits to having a virtual office. These benefits include:
- A business postal address – this gives businesses a more prestigious image than they might otherwise have if they used their real address which may be their home address, i.e. ‘Flat 3, Meadow Apartment Building, Lenten Close, Congleton, CW12 4AB’.
- A virtual receptionist – this helps if you are arranging meetings in and around your virtual office, because it makes that virtual office seem a little less virtual to your clients and associates.
- Mail collection and forwarding service – if you’re getting mail sent to an address that you are not based at, this is a great service where you can collect any post that has arrived or have it scanned and emailed over to you or posted out to your forwarding address.
- Meeting rooms – as you don’t have any physical space in the virtual office, you can arrange meetings using pay by the hour, half day or full day rates in an on-site meeting room.
- Virtual phone numbers – this is where you are provided with a landline number, local rate or freephone number that diverts to your mobile number or landline where you work from in return for a monthly fee. It means that you don’t have to offer out your personal mobile or home landline number to clients and associates and makes you look more professional.
These are the majority of the services offered by virtual office providers. The range of services may differ from different virtual office service providers.
Who came up with the virtual office space concept?
As stated above the idea came from the Executive Suite and has evolved because of the ability for businesses to function remotely using ever-advancing technology for communication. The joys of Skype, Google Hangouts and many other platforms has empowered business owners to reduce the costs of renting office space.
This flexibility has afforded young businesses the ability to build teams outside of higher profile locations, reduce costs and yet still look ‘prestigious’. For many businesses, a prestigious postal address is irrelevant, but for many it makes a real difference. If you are a high-end lawyer you will want to make sure that your postal address in Cheshire, UK, otherwise your clients might think your abilities are lacking as much as your actual business address. This is not great for business.
Can you source the best talent to work in your more remote office location?
Now let’s be clear: the use of a virtual office 100% depends on your business type and so you should be sure to evaluate the pros and cons specific to you and your needs as a business.
But one thing that I have been made acutely aware of is that the best talent in Cheshire, UK wants the best office space in Cheshire, UK , near to the action – and they are not willing to compromise on that one. The best developers, growth hackers and strategists want to be where they feel they can make the most money. This implies to me that a large proportion of the best talent out there wants to be in a more central Cheshire, UK location. Don’t get me wrong, there are many people that will work more remotely but half the fun of startups and young businesses is that daily hustle that takes place over meetings and meet-and-greet coffees.
So before you make the decision to take a virtual office and a more remote actual office location figure out what your hiring needs are, and ask around to get a feel for their reactions to working remotely. If you need knowledge workers I would suggest looking at a more central location for your actual office space. The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a position where you struggle to recruit the best talent.
How can I work in Cheshire, UK but keep my outgoings at a bare minimum?
Virtual Assistants are amazing. They are individuals around the world that choose to be Internet workers, helping businesses with administrative, design, and daily tasks remotely. I have been working with one such Virtual Assistant for about 4 years now. She has come with me through 3 businesses and I trust her implicitly. She lives an amazing life in the sun in Manilla in the Philippines (of which I am a little jealous!). What I love about working with Virtual Assistants is that you can pay them a lower wage than you might employ someone locally but pay them FAR more than they might earn in their city. It’s a win-win if I’ve ever seen one!
What are the benefits of Virtual Assistants in my business?
So if you have decided that you need to be in the hustle and bustle, near the action in the heart of Cheshire, UK (or any other city for that matter) then you can leverage a combination of in-situ team and virtual assistants working around the world.
And remember that you don’t need to be renting a private office anymore, or signing a long-term lease (even though those have their own benefit). Instead you can find some beautiful and truly inspiring shared or co-working office spaces these days.
So this would be my recommendation for those needing a more central location, but hindered by cashflow…
Rent the desk space that you need. Those essential team players that are performing more technical work, and require constant team and project collaboration should be in-house. This helps you build a culture and a team ethos that should make innovation and creativity flow more readily.
For those tasks that you can describe, and are less technical (perhaps a little more repetitive) recruit some amazing Virtual Assistants using a platform such as Upwork. Bring them into your business using all the awesome remote team collaboration platforms (Skype, Google Hangouts and Slack etc) to work with them. You still need to make them feel part of your gang, inspire and lead them. But I know that this can be done, as i have done it. Martin Shervington has written a great series around leveraging Google products to build your virtual team and culture that helps you get to grips with the nitty gritty of setting it all up.
Also leveraging all these amazing collaboration tools also enables your business to function remotely should it need to. Remote work for your in-situ team is important for keeping people happy in the workplace. So if and when they choose to work from the beach or home for a few days, there is no disruption to your business functioning at all.
There are so many combinations that might work for you, and each business is unique.
Here are your options in short:
Find a more remote office space and use this as your business address. This might work for companies that are logistically and operationally heavy and require warehousing and access to transport links.
Find a more remote office space and use a Virtual Office. This is likely to suit service professionals who want to live in the countryside or near the sea but can easily commute for relevant meetings.
Rent the desk space in Cheshire, UK that you need, and work with remote Virtual Assistants from around the world to bring your staffing costs down but still get your admin done. This is likely the solution for young businesses and startups.
Rent a private office, install a slide and a trampoline, employ a full in-house team and have full team collaboration. This is really only the option for successful startups and well established businesses with solid cashflow tor funding.