What is a Virtual Office?

19th December 2018

The virtual office is part of a growing suite of flexible workspaces. While you work remotely from any location, a city-centre premises can act as your virtual business address. You don’t have to be present there which allows you to operate from anywhere in the world while still keeping a stable address for your business. This virtual office address can be used on your marketing materials – such as your website – and, in some cases, as your HMRC-registered business address.

Graphic explaining what a virtual office is.

The modern workplace is constantly evolving, and more people are working from home than ever before. According to the TUC, the number of people working remotely has increased by 19 per cent over the last decade. And this number is only projected to grow. A report from the Office of National Statistics shows that one in seven people regularly work from home.

A virtual office allows business owners and their employers to interact and work together in the same way as in a physical office. Thanks to technology like laptops, improved internet access and speeds, and a diverse range of software tools — a business can still run ‘virtually’ but without the costs associated with owning or renting premises.

It’s not surprising that it’s growing in popularity. More businesses are exploring and shifting to the different working patterns. The virtual office provides them unique, cost-effective flexibility to help them achieve their business goals.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But, how does it work?

How does a Virtual Office operate?

So, how does a virtual office work? Just because you don’t own or rent office space, you still can benefit from many of the facilities you would expect to have in a traditional office environment.

Laptop on a white desk

These include the following:

Your own mailing address & business telephone

Regardless of location, every business needs an address. For various reasons, you might not want to use to your home address. Let’s say you live on a remote island in the Outer Hebrides, but your clients are prestigious business people. So, when you hand them your business card, an obscure address might not instil them with confidence. But, by using a virtual office with a recognisable address (that chimes with your corporate brand image) is far more likely to get their attention.

Pay-as-you-go facilities

There may be times, depending on the nature of your business, that you need a physical space. Maybe to meet clients, deliver presentations or workshops or get the remote team together for an annual meet-up. In such circumstances, your virtual office can provide you with access to conference rooms or private offices. You simply pay for what you use.  More than just space, you also benefit from all the usual office features—desk space, printing services, shredding, storage space and even multilingual receptionist services. Exactly like a real office, just without the eye-watering bill at the end of each month.

Tech support

But it’s not all about desk space; the virtual office is possible thanks to a range of digital services. From website domains, emails to cloud-based applications and virtual assistants—together these devices and software solutions are central in enabling any business to work virtually in an efficient and productive way.

Don’t worry about tidying up

Issues like maintenance, cleaning and other costs related to keeping a traditional office, disappear. This means you can focus all your energies on your business rather than mundane concerns like paying the electricity bill, which can easily become a distraction and a burden on your time. In a virtual office, things like this become someone else’s problem, not yours.

Why do people want to work from a virtual office?

There are many reasons to use a virtual office, but the two main appeals are flexibility and cost. You have access to office space and a range of tools at a fraction of the cost, and only when you need them.

Small White Meeting Room

Some of the main benefits of a virtual office include:

Cost

You get access all the facilities a physical workspace offers, but for much cheaper. For a start-up or a small business, keeping overhead costs low means you have more resources to invest in growth and development. Also, if you’re a one-man-band, you might not be able to afford to rent office space. But your business still needs a recognizable address and office support.

Then there are other savings such as transport costs, utilities, and office supplies. Read our FAQ to find out more about the costs associated with a virtual office.

Flexibility

What’s exciting about the virtual office is you’re free to work from wherever you want. So, you could work on a beach in Thailand or a converted shed at the back of your garden—it won’t affect your brand.

Business Opportunities

Using a virtual office allows you to expand your business and explore new opportunities without the same level of risk. For instance, you can expand into new markets to test the waters before you commit to investing large resources. Or, you can hire virtual staff on a pay-as-you-go basis. And if your circumstances change or things don’t go to plan you’ve minimised your risk of incurring losses.

Corporate Identify

Working from home is growing in popularity. But even though this is now an accepted way of running a business, it can still appear unprofessional to some people. So, your clients may require more assurance that you are a legitimate and professional outfit. And, if you can’t afford to rent an office in the centre of town, a virtual office allows you to present your clients with a well-known address or location making you more approachable.  And, a stronger brand will help you stand out more from your competitors, ultimately winning you more business.

Who works in a Virtual Office?

In short — anyone can use and benefit from a virtual office. There is no criteria. You can be a freelancer or a large business with lots of employees. Industries most associated with working from a virtual office include I.T based businesses, SaaS (software-as-a-service), start-ups, retail, and home businesses to name a few. But this list is only growing.

What does the future hold?

As remote working is on the rise, more people are discovering the benefits of working in a virtual office. The arrival of virtual reality and augmented reality software is only going to add another dimension to this. Technological advances will expand your capabilities and give your businesses even more freedom to work in new and exciting ways.

Woman using VR headset at desk

Do you have other unanswered questions surrounding virtual offices and business addresses? Visit our virtual office address FAQs page for clarity and access to our other guides.