Business, entrepreneurs, and motivated workers are learning that the traditional office environment is becoming a thing of the past, being supplanted by a new type of commerce in “virtual offices.” Essentially, a virtual office is a full-fledged working environment based predominantly online. Virtual offices don’t exist in one physical location per se but have a broader reach and functionality, which brick-and-mortar offices of the 20th century lack. Nowadays, businesses are looking for ways to scale down costs and increase their efficiency to compete in a global market. Virtual offices are the answer.
Bear in mind that traditional offices may still be best for industries that appeal to markets that aren’t versed in using the internet. However, virtual offices are rapidly taking over as the #1 method used by startups and savvy businesses to reach customers, as well as provide their clients with a professional experience. First, let’s take a look at the advantages of a virtual office and the benefits of working online.
Pros of a Virtual Office and Working Online
Without the headaches of escalating rent while leasing commercial property, you are free to concentrate your cash-flow towards areas where your business needs them the most. Overheads, like labor and office supplies, can be a thing of the past. For those that are looking to eventually set up a traditional office in a physical location, a virtual office can be the first step to bootstrapping your business past cost-related barriers to entry.
Simply put, running your business is just more flexible when using a virtual office. If you have a real-life interruption, you can address it immediately without having to worry about stepping out of the office and needing someone in charge. Because most virtual office software can be run from your smartphone, you can handle grocery shopping or picking up the kids from school without neglecting your business. This helps improve the dreaded “work-life” balance, where you can seamlessly pause and resume your business when you decide. Commutes are a thing of the past, as “going to work” is as simple as picking up your phone or finding a comfy couch with your laptop.
Good for the environment
Because virtual offices don’t exist beyond the server room, you don’t have to negatively impact the environment with the egregious amounts of waste that traditional offices produce. No commute, the option of being paperless, and not requiring a host of resources all contribute to the lessening of the workplace carbon footprint.
Larger Pool of Employees
Now that your business is virtual, you can attract talent worldwide. In the past, traditional offices were at the mercy of where they were headquartered or had subsidiary locations. If you weren’t in a highly-populated area, you had to rely on local talent to achieve your needs. With virtual offices, you can recruit dedicated employees or subcontracted individuals in different states, provinces, and countries. Online job sites like Upwork and Fiverr offer affordable labor solutions that can be project-oriented or serve as a way to “try out” employees — very much in the same manner as temp agencies that work with the traditional office environment.
Methods of Implementing a Virtual Office Online
So, if you’re interested in creating your own virtual office, there are a number of tried-and-true methods to get your business into the 21st century.
Online Collaboration Tools
Unless you choose to work alone, you are going to need to communicate with employees and subcontractors to get your virtual office running. Luckily, there is an abundance of online tools to choose from that can give you the ability to manage projects, conduct research, and delegate tasks at the click of a button. Popular services like Slack, Trello, and Teamwork all feature similar methods to give tasks to workers. For example, Trello allows you to use their “card-based system,” where tasks are given out to workers and teams. These cards allow you to check the progress of projects, version-control developing projects, and segregate divisions of your business so they run smoother.
As for payment, services like PayPal and VenMo offer free or low-cost ways of paying employees or receiving invoices from subcontractors. This helps tremendously with organization for accounting, as you can find all of your costs and outstanding balances in one location — not hand-scribbled IOU’s, messy payroll sheets, or unaccountable cash-only exchanges. Additionally, payment disputes can be resolved much easier, without having to deal with irate employees when discourse arises.
Thanks to the proliferation of social media, marketing has never been easier for businesses that exist in the digital realm. Facebook and Instagram have effective ad campaigns that can augment your business’ efforts, while also reaching targeted demographics that make for a favorable ROI. Also, don’t forget that your company’s website is an excellent source of inbound marketing. Besides providing information about your company, creating content such as whitepapers and blogs can establish real trust from potential customers who view your business as a legitimate entity — even if you run it from a smartphone in your bedroom.
Virtual Phone Numbers
At some point, customers will eventually want to speak to a real person. While the traditional model required having a call center with a physical location in the country or area that you prefer, a virtual office can be setup simply by using a virtual phone number. Virtual phone numbers route phone calls to your phone or call center, no matter where your business is based. In fact, all you have to do is use a service provider, like Global Call Forwarding, that can give you country/ region-specific phone numbers and voila, you’ve established a presence there. This gives your clients the impression that your business has a physical office where they are calling from.
As you can see, virtual offices are extremely versatile for many reasons. If you’re looking to leverage new technology in your favor, you can do away with having a physical office and everything that environment entails. Virtual offices put you at the vanguard of business, whether you’re just entering the market as a startup or want to retrofit your business model to meet modern demands.
Author: Tom Senkus
Tom Senkus is a freelance writer and author of 9 books (available on Amazon). His work has included articles in the financial sector, as well as.other contributions to other industries. In his spare time, Tom enjoys playing music, staying up to date on the latest tech, and reading the great works of Russian literature.