Flexible workspaces have been a growing feature of the business landscape for many years – a trend that COVID-19 has certainly sped up. A YouGov survey has shown that the evolution in working practices enforced by the coronavirus pandemic has given even more of the British workforce a thirst for working more flexibly: 57% now want to work from home.
What can we learn form this? It all goes to show that the office of the future looks very different. Virtual offices are just one of a growing suite of flexible workspace solutions that are enabling businesses and entrepreneurs to adapt to our new working reality.
What actually is a virtual office?
A virtual office can seem like a strange concept to the uninitiated, but it’s really quite simple. When you hire a traditional office, you pay for a room or a floor in a building from which to conduct your business operations. You can use this physical address on all official company marketing and correspondence, as well as receive post and incoming calls to this location.
A virtual office gives you almost all the same services as a traditional workspace, minus the fact that you don’t actually make use of that physical office space. Obviously, the monthly cost reflects this, with virtual offices available to rent for as little as £30 per month.
But how does it work? You can run business remotely from any location in the world, while keeping a stable address and accessing crucial business services, such as telephone answering by a professional receptionist and mail forwarding to your chosen destination. You can even use the office as your registered address with HMRC.
So what are the benefits of a virtual office?
Virtual business addresses have grown in popularity, as small businesses and solopreneurs have begun exploring and shifting to different ways of working. The benefits of a virtual office are extensive and can be divided into three main areas: cost, business opportunities and credibility.
It can save you money
Whether you’re a small business, solopreneur or a larger corporation set on cutting costs, virtual offices have plenty of benefits. One of the main ones is that you and your team can work from home, the beach – literally wherever you please, without your customers being any the wiser.
Look at it this way: remote or virtual working has become a fundamental part of 21st century business. Being tied to an inflexible and expensive office lease agreement is no longer the right track for all companies.
If you’re 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.
A virtual office is a practical alternative. By making use of services offered at that location, such as call answering services through a dedicated telephone number, it becomes a unique and cost-effective way to experience many of the benefits of a traditional office but without the associated costs.
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.
It can give your business credibility and status
Say you’re a small business offering financial advice and you want to compete with the biggest names in the industry. Where better to base your business than EC3, home to some of London’s most renowned financial institutions? But, with prices starting from £52 per square foot, renting that dream office can prove extremely expensive.
Instead, you can get all the credibility of operating from this renowned location – and give your customers even more faith in your business – by choosing a virtual business address in London City.
Alternatively, you might be trying to enter the market as the go-to electrician for home owners in Edinburgh, but you live outside of the city. Want to prove you’re the local choice and instil confidence in your prospective clients? Hiring a virtual office address for a location in Edinburgh that you can use on your website, business cards and other marketing materials will do the job.
You’ll be able to pursue business opportunities with very little risk
Using a virtual office allows you to expand your business into new locations 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. It’s a winning and cost-effective strategy.
What’s included in a virtual office?
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.
Your own mailing address
Regardless of location, every business needs an address. For various reasons, you might not want to use your home address publicly. 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 confidence. Using a virtual office with a recognisable address (that chimes with your corporate brand image) is far more likely to get their attention.
Mail handling, collection, scanning and forwarding
As a virtual office is a real, physical address in an existing office, business centre or coworking space, there are on-site facilities that can be added to your package.
For example, you can eschew a P.O box and instead have your post delivered to your office for collection or even to be forwarded to wherever you are located. If you’re abroad, mail scanning is a handy alternative that’ll ensure you get your post without any delays – and maybe even faster than if you were in the country!
A professional receptionist
Every office has a receptionist and a virtual one is no different. Many offer telephone answering services, which is effectively your own bespoke receptionist who’ll handle any customer calls promptly, professionally and tailored exactly to your brand. The bonus is, you don’t have to incur the costs of hiring a full-time receptionist.
A local telephone number
A local address isn’t the only way to give your business legitimacy in a particular region or market. A telephone number with a local area code will also give credibility, which is why many virtual address providers offer this as an additional service.
Meeting rooms for hire
There may be times that you still need a physical space from which to run your business. Maybe you’ve got a client meeting, need to deliver a presentation or workshop or want to 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 – and you simply pay for the time you use.
A registered business address
Virtual offices are also a great way of protecting your home identity. Limited companies must give a registered address for all correspondence with HMRC and Companies House, which is then visible on public records. If you’re keen to avoid sharing your home address with the rest of the nation, opting to register your virtual as your official business address can avoid this.
So is a virtual office right for you?
Anyone can use and benefit from a virtual office. 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.
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, as technological advances will expand your capabilities and give your businesses even more freedom to work in new and exciting ways.
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.