After a year of working from home, many would agree that you can have too much of a good thing. Overcompensating can result in an extended working day and week. As the boundaries between our home and work life disappear, the future of work looks destined to be a hybrid model that enables us to enjoy the flexibility of working at home and the office.
Nobody has the desire to return to the costly and time-consuming commutes every day for the remainder of their career. But we do crave and understand the value of in-person face-to-face interaction. The building of relationships to foster a culture of collaboration and generate ideas that will solve business problems always work better when everyone is in the same room.
However, it can be difficult for businesses to commit to expensive long-term commercial leases for space they no longer need.
As we begin to explore and reimagine the workplace, virtual offices (VO) are beginning to enter the spotlight.
Start-ups are securing prime business locations to bring their Google Business page to life by securing physical office space on an 'as-needed' basis.
What is a virtual office?
Virtual offices have been around since the nineties. They typically provide companies with a desirable mailing address in an exclusive part of a city along with an in-house receptionist and impressive meeting room space. A virtual office enables businesses to enjoy the best of both worlds while removing expenses from long leases and administrative staff.
Business leaders are looking beyond working from home or in the office. They are collectively exploring how they can enable global teams to work from anywhere and everywhere. Flexibility and mobility have become a critical business enabler over the last twelve months.
This trend will retire the concept that a business can only exist in one specific location.
Traditionally, teams have been restricted to local talent pools when searching for new employees. Virtual offices make it easy to run an international business. Several global platforms promise to take the HR hassles and legal aspects of managing international distributed teams.
VoIP phones, unified messaging systems, and cloud computing have played a critical role in removing geographical constraints. With an unlimited global talent pool and locations at its fingertips, a small start-up could easily have a presence in prestigious cities such as London, Singapore, New York, and San Francisco.
The disadvantages of virtual offices
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs famously built Apple's first computers in a small garage. Jeff Bezos also founded Amazon from his garage. These stories prove that there is much more to building a successful empire than the perceived status that a desirable zip code offers. But there is no denying that a professional office and meeting space in a big city can reassure prospective clients that you run a professional operation.
Virtual offices provide greater flexibility and efficiency for businesses. But is your corporate culture equipped to manage such a significant change?
Technology is often blamed for over-communication. Prominent examples are the barrage of notification sounds from Slack, the dreaded CC emails that have absolutely nothing to do with you and Zoom fatigue.
It's also worth remembering that the telephone answering service provided as part of your virtual office package will be your customer's first experience with your business. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression, so make sure you do your research before signing up.
The future of work
The future of work is not what it used to be. For the hybrid workforce model to work, we also need to rethink our attitudes towards office space and geographical constraints. Most people will agree that it's still crucial for teams and customers to meet face-to-face. But there is a realization that we don't need to do it every day, in the same office.
Private meeting rooms will always play a critical role in instilling confidence in potential clients. Coffee shops, hotel lobbies, or your kitchen table will fail to put your customers at ease for obvious reasons. But long leases for office space you don't need and cannot afford are not the answer.
Virtual offices provide the freedom and flexibility to grow your business without the increasing costs of physical office space.
By thinking differently and leveraging technology, it has never been easier for a business of any size to establish a global presence without the expense that we have traditionally associated with bricks and mortar. The ability to remove maintenance fees, hardware, and other office equipment mean that costs can be kept to a minimum. But virtual offices are not just cost-cutting exercises. They should be seen as an easy way to establish bases in key cities around the world.
Many businesses will be looking at reducing overheads and exploring new markets to bounce back in a post-pandemic world. As globalization continues to gather pace, the agility to move with industry trends and build a presence without the need to pay expensive rent could transform the fortunes of any enterprise. The fact that virtual offices tick all of these boxes suggests that we can expect to see many more of them for the foreseeable future.