More and more companies are taking their business out of the office. Thanks to mobile technology and wireless connectivity, many office-based workers can now work at home, on the train, in a coworking space, or from a variety of third place locations.
According to FlexJobs, the number of people working remotely has grown 115% since 2005, and the trend is growing. Last year, FlexJobs found that 3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9% of the total U.S. workforce, “worked from home at least half of the time.”
Flexible working offers multiple opportunities for businesses to reduce their overheads, enhance employee happiness, and increase productivity.
But it’s important to uphold a professional corporate presence and maintain easy access to office amenities such as meeting rooms and office space, which is where a virtual office comes in. Instead of leasing office space full-time, virtual offices provide the amenities and services found in an office but on a part-time or on-demand basis.
What is a Virtual Office?
A virtual office typically provides the services, resources, and tools you would find in a regular serviced office agreement… well, minus the actual office space.
Though virtual offices have “virtual” in their name, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist in the physical world. Quite the contrary, they are found in physical buildings that have offices, meeting rooms, shared areas, and reception areas with receptionists. These are buildings that businesses can list as their address to receive mail and hire mail handling and forwarding services.
Virtual office agreements are customizable and offer bundle options. Most allow clients to book, by the hour or day, meeting rooms and offices. Virtual offices can also choose to hire a local business phone number from VoIP providers and hire a live receptionist to handle calls.
Here are some of the typical services included:
- Business address for use on business cards, marketing material and on your website. It can also be used to set up your business operation (i.e. licenses, regulations, business credit, etc.)
- Mail receipt and sorting. Mail can also be stored on-site for collection, or forwarded to an alternative address. Some locations also offer a digital mail service, which provides a scanned photo of every item of mail and gives you the option to have it forwarded, or shredded and disposed.
- Live receptionist support for call answering, general customer service, lead capture, and appointment scheduling.
- On-site meeting rooms and day offices for on-demand access.
- A business number and VoIP phone system.
How a Virtual Office Accelerates Business Growth
Virtual offices can help support business growth in numerous ways. Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits:
Build a professional appearance.
When you run your business from the road, or from home, it might save you a ton of money compared to leasing an office — but it doesn’t always serve up the right first impression.
Clients often want to see a registered office to know that you’re a credible and trustworthy company. Good news is, some of the most basic (read: cheapest) virtual office plans provide a recognized business address, and most include some form of mail handling and forwarding too (note, you will usually pay an extra fee for mail forwarding and postage costs).
You can also add your address to your website, business cards and marketing material, which goes a long way towards building your reputation and growing your business.
Use your business address to apply for credit.
If you’re planning to apply for a business loan or credit in the near future, you’ll need to start laying the foundations now. There are numerous boxes you have to tick before a lender will consider your application, and some of them can be fulfilled by a virtual office.
To comply with the stated requirements, you’ll likely need to have a business address and number. Hiring a virtual office solution will provide you with both and they will also be useful should you be interested in incorporating your business. Incorporating a business offers various benefits, the main one being that it enables companies to get a credit history separate from their personal one. This can protect your personal assets and provide an added layer of protection from other challenges and legal proceedings.
Note, we would also advise using a registered agent that can accept important legal business documents and ‘service of process’ mail on your behalf.
Save time and streamline business operations.
Sometimes it’s easy to spend too much time working in your business rather than working on growing it. That’s when you need to call in outside help.
From bookkeeping and general admin to sales support and marketing, there are plenty of tasks that can be outsourced to skilled professionals. Another one is call answering. Yes, really! You can delegate your daily incoming calls to a remote receptionist, who will pick up calls in your company name and take messages or forward calls to voicemail. They can also carry out other tasks such as appointment scheduling and arranging call-backs.
Not only is this a great way to improve your customer service, it also saves you a huge amount of time by reducing distractions, cutting down the amount of time you spend dealing with inquiries, and minimizing time wasted on annoying robocalls.
Access to a professional workplace.
When you need to meet with investors or VIP clients, it rarely pays to do so in a noisy coffee shop environment. Most virtual office buildings have private on-site conference rooms and furnished office suites that can be reserved by the hour or by the day.
They also provide conferencing amenities, on-site support from receptionist staff, and additional services such as catering options. It all adds up to provide the very best first impressions for your business, which goes a long way towards helping you build positive relationships as part of your business growth plans.