With nearly two-thirds of employees working remotely to some degree, it’s a great time to consider the pros and cons of setting up a virtual office.
Should you open an office or create a virtual workplace? Technology advances have made this an essential, timely question for the new entrepreneur. In fact, a recent survey found that 64% of the nation’s employees work remotely for at least part of their work hours.1
How does a virtual office work?
The first step in setting up a virtual office is renting a mailing address, typically in a desirable local business district. Companies like Regus, Davinci, and Servcorp offer virtual office packages that typically include added services, such as mail and package handling, a dedicated phone line, meeting-space rentals, and shared office services.2,3,4,5
Entrepreneurs working with employees and contractors remotely can use cloud-based software for work-sharing applications and to provide virtual face-to-face communications. Most any new business can benefit from something as simple and inexpensive as sharing applications and file storage with a monthly multi user Microsoft Office 365 subscription.6
Likewise, business-focused chat apps, such as Slack, provide open communication with coworkers on your desktop, while the Skype for Business, Zoom and Cisco Webex videoconferencing apps allow presentations or meetings with one or more associates.7,8
Key Considerations for Business Owners
Before deciding whether a virtual office is right for you, ask yourself these questions9:
- Who and where are your clients and prospects? Personal coaches, accountants, language instructors and website developers are just a few of the professionals who can now go remote and expand their clientele worldwide via tele- or videoconferencing. However, in some cases, meeting clients in person is essential: For a lawyer working with at-risk clients, or any professional that works with someone who may not be able to use virtual tools, a part- or full-time office presence offers a secure and private meeting space
- Can you afford space right now? If four walls and a door are not essential to your business, a virtual workplace can lower overhead as you build your business. You can always get an office later if you still want one
- Do you work with remote employees or contractors? If so, what will be the impact of working with people across town or across the country? If you plan on hiring less-experienced workers who’ll need extensive training and supervision, make sure it’s realistic to do it all online. But no matter what the skill level of your colleagues, be sure to focus on developing weekly staff video conferences and always-open chat streams to foster camaraderie and team building
- Can you benefit from a wider talent pool? When you go virtual, your hiring options suddenly increase across state or even international borders—and you can grow with less overhead. Particularly if you live and work in an area that may lack the needed talent, a virtual office helps in bridging that gap
- Are you willing to learn new tech tricks? Cloud software and other technology can save a small business time and money—provided you’re willing to be patient as you build out your remote-office infrastructure. The time you spend learning will come back to you in the form of new business opportunities, happier colleagues, and less-expensive business operations.
Contact your M&T Relationship Manager to discuss how you can obtain the resources to develop a more innovative workplace.
1Staples Workplace Survey Results 2019 https://marketingassets.staples.com/m/de4fd37e33184429/original/dg18918_bos-pr_brand_btw_workplace_survey_update.pdf
2Consumer Affairs Best Virtual Office Companies https://www.consumeraffairs.com/business/virtual-office/#
6Microsoft Office 365 Business https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/office-365-business/cfq7ttc0k62t?activetab=pivot%3aoverviewtab
7Comparitech The 6 cloud tools you need to run a virtual office of remote workers https://www.comparitech.com/blog/cloud-online-backup/6-cloud-tools-for-virtual-office-of-remote-workers/
8Sei Mani Microsoft Skype for Business vs Cisco Webex Meetings vs Zoom https://www.sei-mani.com/skype-for-business-vs-webex-vs-zoom/
9Forbes Does Your Startup Really Need A Physical Office? https://www.forbes.com/sites/under30network/2016/04/07/does-your-startup-really-need-a-physical-office/#288576ae4aba
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.