Another Modern-Day Convenience: What is a Virtual Office?

28 min read
Updated: 09.08.2021

Amid the constraints of a worldwide pandemic, companies are reassessing their workplace practices, especially the physical workplace environment.

A Virtually Enriched OfficeCredit: Unsplash

More and more organizations are recognizing the practical nature of employees working remotely, and the stigmas and taboos assigned to the pre-pandemic workforce are easing or disappearing completely.

Along these same lines, companies themselves are considering going virtual. No longer handcuffed by the requirements of having a physical space to house their workers, organizations are finding themselves free to at least explore the concept of a virtual office.

  • But what is a Virtual Office?
  • How does it operate?
  • What are the advantages and drawbacks of having a Virtual Office Address?

There is a distinction to be made here, and it is the difference between having a virtual workforce and having a virtual office.

The former is what we described above, which is having personnel from your company working outside of the office.

And the latter describes the concept of having the entire business enterprise virtual, meaning there is no physical office space, at least not a permanent one.

In this piece, we’ll explore the virtual office concept and dive into the details of what it takes to get started, what you gain by establishing a virtual office, and what you should be aware of if you decide to proceed down this path.

History of Virtual Office: Transition from Physical Office to Virtual Office

The concept of a virtual office dates back as far as the 1960s. The first-know virtual office provider was a company called The OmniOffices group, which provided executive suites and business centers for rent, and the experimental practice proved to be successful.

A Traditional Office SpaceCredit: Unsplash

Later that decade, in 1966, Paul Fegen implemented a similar concept but tailored his spaces to a specific targeted audience: attorneys.

The Fegen Suites comprised leased office space complete with the amenities the law industry would require and expect: fully-furnished offices, reception services, telephones, conference rooms, and a law library.

The Fegen Suites were not the first entrant into the serviced office landscape. Many credit Fegen with laying the groundwork for the virtual office concepts that are available today.

Other early adopters and pioneers of the industry include:

Servcorp, founded in Sydney, Australia, and marketed as a “multi-tenanted office accommodation.” The original quarter-floor startup grew to 16 office spaces, all fully furnished, then exploded into a large national and eventually international giant.

Today, Servcorp provides virtual office services at over 160 locations worldwide.

Attorney Office Management, Inc. (“AOM”), which created a virtual office program designed for lawyers that were interested in “partial retirement.” Space allowed attorneys to work from home but maintain a professional presence when meeting clients or conducting other business.

AOM’s founder, Jack Niles, is credited with popularizing the terms “telecommuting” and “telework.”

OffCenters, in Minneapolis, MN, was launched in 1981 and was one of the first to connect the virtual office concept with computing. The company is still thriving today with 6 business hubs in the Twin Cities area.

Regus was founded in 1989 with the merging of Swedish company Reinhold and American company Crosslink and began providing virtual office services in the US.

Today Regus is the world’s largest provider of these services, operating over 3,000 locations across the globe.

Through its growth, Regus has acquired several other coworking companies, including the acquisition of HQ Global Workplaces in 2004, which had merged with the original virtual office provider OmniOffices.

The first official coworking space, the San Francisco Coworking Space at Spiral Muse, was launched by Brad Neuberg in 2005. Neuberg is credited with coining the term “coworking.” 

That same year, 2005, witnessed the launch of the first Impact Hub coworking space in London; today, over 100 locations offer virtual office services worldwide.

Since the early 2000s, and increasing seemingly exponentially since then, the virtual office or shared workspace market has become attractive to a varying number of individuals and organizations.

Below, we’ll outline the reasons for the boom, talk about what kind of services are typically offered, and get into fine detail about what you can expect to pay and receive for your investment.

What are the Features of a Virtual Office?

The needs you’ll have for virtual office space depending upon your company’s size and structure, the kind of work you do, the demographics and geographic layout of your workforce, and how often you require face-to-face interactions with your team or your clients.

Virtual MeetingCredit: Unsplash

Thankfully, several essential features are available pretty much across the board, as well as some fringe services available through some providers.

The main features that you can expect from a standard Virtual Office Service are Virtual Address, Virtual Mailbox, Desk Space, Meeting Room, and Virtual Assistant.

It’s important to note that, while the virtual office concept was originally designed and is most routinely used for occasional ad hoc visits to a physical office location, there are services available for those that don’t need physical space at all.

For example, a startup company where the employees all work from home but could use a physical mailing address to enhance their professional image or needs someone to answer and screen their phone calls could find those services readily available.

We’ll discuss those features in the sections below.

Let’s start with the typical features available. These refer to options that will appeal to the majority of organizations seeking virtual office services and therefore are widely available from most providers.

How can I Get a Virtual Address?

Have you ever found yourself researching a company, maybe as a prospective client or customer, and performed a Google Maps search on their street address? Not because of a genuine desire to visit their office, but just for the sake of curiosity.

If you conducted such a search on your business, would you be satisfied with the result?

Especially for companies that employ an utterly remote workforce, having a physical address can be highly beneficial.

There are two main benefits to having an address that isn’t someone’s home:

Credibility

In the Google Maps search above, what would you think if the company you were researching had an address that turned out to be a mediocre house with an overgrown front lawn? There’s something about an address in the heart of a bustling business center that enhances an organization’s professional image.

A post office box is a step up from a residential address, no doubt; however, establishing a non-residential presence is key to establishing yourself as the real deal.

Side Note:

If you think this doesn’t matter, consider the virtual office and virtual address scene in San Francisco.

While coworking space in most large cities will run you a few hundred bucks a month for a hot desk (more on that later), that same expense – sometimes even more – is the norm to get a premium street address in The City.

The luster of an address in the Financial District or SOMA is worth more than you’d think: one company that offers merely an address, a phone number, and mail-opening service in the Twitter building is raking in $900 a month for their service.

Safety

Not everyone is as concerned about this, but having your street address easily accessible can be dangerous.

Suppose you’re in an industry that deals directly with customers, or there’s a good possibility that you might encounter an irate client.

In that case, it’s especially beneficial to have an address based in a place where you’re unlikely to be when an angry consumer comes calling.

So, where can a virtual address be obtained, and what can you expect? Many companies offer an virtual address, but they tend to come in three varieties.

First, there is an option available of a 100 percent virtual mailbox. A completely virtual office is just that – an address for you to use but never actually visit.

One significant advantage of this setup is that you can set your address to be anywhere in the world, even if you don’t live or work near that city. You pay someone to not only provide you with a physical address but also to receive mail for you at that address and open and scan it for you as it arrives.

This is a wonderful option for anyone who deals in correspondence routinely but doesn’t necessarily receive many packages or physical goods.

A disadvantage is that you can’t come to pick up your mail, so if there’s anything that a scanned version of won’t suffice, you’ll be paying to have it shipped to your actual address.

Keep that in mind before you set up your virtual address in London or Paris.

The second option is a virtual address at a chain mail and packaging shop near your home or work, such as the UPS Store. This is generally the cheapest route of the three and offers a couple of distinct advantages:

There’s almost certainly one near where you are, so if you receive packages or other correspondence you’d like to pick up, it’s not a hassle to do so.

Virtual Office providers will cover any outgoing mail or packaging services you need in the same shop.

Many will offer a service that alerts you when new mail arrives, so you won’t have to be constantly checking an empty mailbox as you may with a PO Box or similar setup.

Lastly, you can obtain a virtual address with a vendor that also provides coworking or virtual office space. We’ll get more into detail on this setup a bit later.

How do Virtual Mailboxes Work?

Once you’ve decided to establish a virtual address, you may begin to wonder how the process works. While there are varying options available, the following factors will generally be in play.

Address Specifics

The vast majority of virtual addresses are going to be accompanied by a suite, unit, or box number.

Any large chain or company that sells virtual address services will have a large number of clients, and using a unique identifier for your address will ensure that they can get everything sorted appropriately.

For some folks, this is desired, as they feel adding a suite number accentuates the professionalism and credibility of the address.

Others feel the opposite.

Keep in mind, if you select an address that includes an identifier, you are free to phrase it any way you’d like when giving the address out to clients. Nothing is holding you back if you prefer the term space number or office number instead of a suite.

While researching this piece, we did find a few companies that offer virtual addresses without the unique suffix. These tend to be more boutique-style companies that are a bit higher priced.

Still, if the box number concept doesn’t sit right with you, the option for a truly unique street address is available.

Well, “truly unique” on the surface, anyway; these companies tend to receive mail for all of their clients at a single address and will manually sort the mail based upon the company or individual’s name).

Mail-Reading Service

Depending upon the company you select, the opening of received mail can be handled by your provider. There are lots of key decision points here, primary of which is the level of privacy or confidentiality that your work requires.

A law firm, for example, is a poor candidate for this type of service.

Most of the offerings in this class revolve around the company receiving your mail, opening the envelopes, and scanning and emailing you digital copies of the correspondence received. They will provide the option to have the company archive;

  • the physical copies and send them to you in bulk,
  • have them forwarded to you as soon as they’re scanned (the more expensive route),
  • or allow you to determine the disposition on a per-item basis (keep, forward, destroy).
  • Notifications

    Whether you pay for the mail-reading service listed above or opt for a simple physical mailbox at a chain store, you’re going to want to know when new mail arrives.

    Any provider worth exploring is going to offer this service; at a place like the UPS Store, it’s sometimes an extra charge but doesn’t incur a significant outlay.

Can I use my Virtual Office as a Meeting or Conference Room?

It’s time we talk about needs beyond an address for receiving mail. While a virtual address will fit the needs of some clients, many organizations and individuals require a bit more.

A Small Business MeetingCredit: Unsplash

Perhaps the most fundamental feature of a virtual office is the ability to meet with your team or your clients in a professional environment. There’s nothing worse than finally landing a meeting with a huge potential client, then “wowing” them in your garage or your mom’s living room.

Nothing says professionalism like a picture on the wall of eight-year-old you at Disneyland!

If you want to establish yourself as a true professional and achieve some credibility, invite your client to an office space furnished with amenities that fit your style and message.

Maybe you’re a tech company that covets an ultra-modern feel with ergonomic chairs, open spaces, and smartboards; perhaps you’re seeking a more classic feel with a library, leather chairs, and a huge wooden table.

In either case, you understand the need to further your message with a credible, reliable space, which is the cornerstone of the virtual office market.

Whatever your need, you’ll be able to find it.

You can find services that will lease out conference or meeting rooms in addition to your virtual address, and you can also find services that exclusively provide meeting space.

Most commonly, though, you’ll find it paired with other components of shared working space, often referred to as coworking environments.

How do Virtual Assistants Work?

We’ve talked about a virtual address and access to meeting spaces, but what if you require some help with your day-to-day tasks but aren’t ready to hire a full-time assistant?

A virtual assistant can bridge the gap.

The notion and execution of hiring a virtual assistant are both simple and complex.

The idea is easy: you contract work with someone to perform a few simple tasks for you, and they complete the work from a remote location. This can be something that you do periodically or on a scheduled basis.

The complexity lies in identifying the tasks you need to be performed. The most popular route for hiring a virtual assistant is using a website like Upwork or Fiverr, which live in the gig workspace.

This means that you hire a gig worker for a specific task or set of tasks, with a specific timeframe in mind, for a pre-arranged price.

You must be clear in your definitions of what needs to be done and how; not only are you often against the clock, but you also aren’t guaranteed to hire the same worker the next time you need that task completed.

While establishing good relationships is a key component to the success of gig workers, other circumstances may prevent you from having a dedicated, reliable assistant.

What Other Features can a Virtual Office Provide?

In addition to the services we’ve already discussed, your business may find itself in need of other amenities or essentials that can’t be handled using a virtual address.

Many virtual office setups – and many of these apply specifically to coworking spaces – can provide further services.

Desk Space

We’ve focused a lot of our attention thus far on the crowd that works from home and requires space to meet with customers or their teams periodically. These folks perform their primary functions from their home offices and head to the virtual office for specific events.

There’s another subset of the virtual workforce, though, that requires a bit more. Whether your home office doesn’t have all the amenities you need to complete your tasks,

Your work style becomes more effective when you can travel to a physical office and alleviate the distractions of working from your living room (where your TV and fridge are annoyingly accessible and alluring),

or Your team becomes more effective when they can collaborate routinely – rather than occasionally – the solution may be to lease out some desk space on a more regular basis.

An Individual Desk Space in an Virtual OfficeCredit: Unsplash

This is common and, in fact, the prevalent marking feature of coworking and virtual office providers in the US. Generally, as you research coworking spaces, you’ll see a couple of options:

Dedicated Office

A dedicated space for just you (or sometimes for a few members of your team) that often includes a locking door.

This is the most expensive feature and can run you several hundred dollars or more per month but provides you (typically) 24/7 access to a spot that’s guaranteed to be there when you need it.

Dedicated Desk

Like a dedicated office but without security and privacy.

You’ll have your own desk, sometimes with locking drawers or cabinets, but it will usually be in an ample, shared space. Most of the amenities listed below, like equipment and WiFi, are included in these options.

Great for someone that needs a space to get some work hammered out but maybe not ideal if you’re the type that’s on the phone all day.

Hot Desk

The most popular option and the one with the most variations.

The concept here is simple: you pay for some desk space but aren’t guaranteed any specific spot.

Each day you pay for – and you can select monthly options, daily options, or a hybrid, where you pay for a certain number of days per month – you arrive and sit down where space is available.

This is much cheaper than the dedicated office or desk concepts but eliminates consistency and opens you up to having to sit next to someone undesirable.

Access to Office Equipment

One of the most important but often overlooked benefits of obtaining virtual office space is the ability to access office equipment.

Do you need to periodically print but can’t justify purchasing an expensive printer at home?

Do you need to make copies of a presentation but don’t want to give FedEx Office half your paycheck?

Do you need to display that beautifully crafted PowerPoint presentation you created on something other than your 14-inch laptop?

Do you deal with clients that haven’t left the stone age and still request items to be faxed?

Virtual office providers will gladly assist you with these needs. Nearly all of the shared working spaces we researched offer, at minimum, free WiFi, access to printing, scanning, and copying services, and access to projectors, TV monitors, and/or smart boards.

Not everyone will be able to transport you back to the dark ages with fax machines, but the option is out there with select providers.

A note about printing services, though, there are many variations in offerings you should research before committing.

A large number of providers will provide free printing as an accompaniment to other services provided (usually a dedicated or hot desk package).

In contrast, others will include printing up to a certain number of pages. Still, others will not include it in their base package but rather charge you as you utilize the service.

If printing is essential to you, make sure to check out the offerings of your virtual office selection before signing on the dotted line.

Additional Amenities

Building upon these common amenities are perks that can put some coworking spaces over the top. While these are not offered at every site, they are worth considering when selecting a place to call your virtual home:

  • Private Phone Booths, which can be beneficial if you’re awaiting an important call with a client or need to deal with a confidential matter
  • Call Answering Services, which will answer calls on your business line and screen the calls or forward them to your cell phone as appropriate
  • Kitchens, coffee, tea, and snacks are often offered at coworking spaces, and many more have full coffee shops or cafes located in the same building
  • Recreation Space, game rooms, quiet areas; not always available in every space but a nice feature, especially if you plan on having team activities on site
  • Dog-Friendly Facilities
  • Child Care (this is rare but can be a game-changer)
  • 24/7 Access
  • Bicycle Storage
  • Nursing/New Mother Facilities
  • On-site Staff for Support

What are the Benefits of Using a Virtual Office?

We’ve discussed some of these already, but let’s talk about why a virtual office makes sense.

Credibility and Professionalism

You want people to know you’re legitimate, and an easy step towards establishing that legitimacy is getting out of your mom’s basement.

Well, at least on paper.

Even if your desk next to the washing machine is going to be your home base, acquiring an address and/or a facility with an established presence is a boon to showing that you mean business.

Moreover, something as simple as an address goes a long way towards establishing your brand identity. Businesses, especially small companies or individual entrepreneurs, sell their brand as much as they’re selling their product.

As Steve Forbes, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine notes,

“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.”

Even though a virtual address or other virtual services may be an added expense (more on costs a bit later), you can underestimate the power of establishing a credible brand image.

Reduced Overhead

If you’re currently paying for office space, this is especially important.

Even if you need to pay for a virtual address, mail-reading services, occasional coworking space, or conference room leasing, you’re going to save money over maintaining a permanent space.

A distinct advantage that virtual offices own is that they can often be obtained on an as-needed basis; the benefit of not having to pay for office space that isn’t being used is tremendous.

Increased Productivity and Morale

This one is geared specifically towards those considering a move from a physical office to a virtual one. What happens to typical employees when they are allowed to work from anywhere, rather than being forced to stay in a specific location?

They no longer need to commute to the office, which saves them time and money.

Save your employees time and money, and you’ve taken a huge first step towards having a happier workforce. Even someone with a modest commute now easily has an extra hour freed up in their day.

They tend to be more active and healthier than if they were tethered to a desk.

Anyone that works from home knows how easy it is to walk away from your desk for five minutes without judgment because, hey, no one is here to judge you.

Remote employees tend to get up and walk around more, take a lap around the room, hop on one foot to get the blood flowing, all of which makes for a healthier and more active body.

Plus, if you want to work out at lunchtime, there’s a shower right near your office.

They tend not to call in sick or take as many vacation days.

While we can easily debate the positives of taking fewer vacation days – you should take a vacation from time to time, even if you’re working from home. Studies have shown a steep decline in sick leave usage among employees that primarily work remotely.

This makes sense; many of us in a traditional workplace don’t feel up to getting ready and driving to the office when we’re a little under the weather, but if your commute is a 10-foot walk to the spare bedroom in your pajamas, the light headache is easier to get through.

They can more easily find a work-life balance than they could at the physical office.

They tend to be more productive. While opponents of remote working will note that a home is rife with distractions such as

  • Easy access to your TV,
  • Constant noise from your kids or
  • The siren call of your bed being just a few feet away when the afternoon tiredness sets in,

it’s equally important to recognize that workplaces are similarly distracting.

Idle conversations with coworkers, spending extra time in the breakroom, and taking two flights of stairs to your favorite workplace restroom are all time-sucks as well.

Plus, though it’s not something we endorse, workers tend to put in extra hours from the home office because it’s easy to log on and take care of a quick task whenever the need strikes.

Access to a Larger Candidate Pool

Finally, an oft-overlooked benefit of a virtual office – and specifically having a virtual workforce – is that your candidate pool for filling positions grows dramatically.

No longer are you restricted to searching for qualified candidates in your immediate geographic area.

What are the Disadvantages of a Virtual Office?

While virtual offices make sense for a lot of reasons, there are equal numbers of disadvantages.

Lack of Teamwork and Community

One of the many hard lessons we’ve learned during the worldwide pandemic is that many of us crave human interaction more than we realized.

Many of us found ourselves working from home for the first time, and while the value of working in our pajamas can’t be understated, we found ourselves feeling more disconnected than ever before.

For many organizations – especially small ones – that sense of community and camaraderie are essential not only for employee well-being but also for ensuring products and services are delivered consistently. 

Many companies have tried to embrace the virtual environment and do some creative team-building activities on Zoom and other platforms.

Still, you can’t entirely replace the impact of sitting around a table sipping coffee while collaborating on the work that needs to be done.

Scheduling Conflicts

As we’ve established, the virtual office concept allows for the leasing of office space as needed, and specifically for conference rooms, coworking spaces, and even event spaces for larger gatherings.

While you gain tremendous cost savings by only paying for these spaces as needed, you lose the exclusive access to meet as you please.

While 2:00 pm on Wednesday might be your preferred time to conduct your weekly sales team meeting, you’re left to hope that nobody else has reserved your preferred conference room that afternoon.

Further, the ability to hold an impromptu meeting when a new idea is sparked or when an unexpected deadline appears disappears completely.

In a traditional office environment, you could grab a room or at least huddle around someone’s desk; in a virtual environment, you’re forced to either meet at an office an hour from now or do the whole thing on Zoom.

Workspace Personality and Branding

The first advantage we listed above was that a virtual office could help establish credibility and how a virtual address is inherently more professional than a home address.

This is true; you gain a tremendous value in not only having a solid address established but also in hosting clients – or even your team – in a meeting space that is clean, modern, and well-located.

What you lose, however, is customization, and we’re explicitly talking about virtual offices versus traditional space.

A conventional office is yours, meaning you’re going to establish the mood, the vibe, the color scheme, the furniture, the layout. When someone enters that office, they’re going to be presented with the impression you want to give.

When you conduct your business in a virtual setting or coworking space, you’re left to display the image that the vendor presents, and generally, it’s going to be pretty bland.

Communication Issues

Not only are you going to lose some of the human interaction that accompanies working in a shared location, but you also will lose some effectiveness of communication.

It’s widely accepted now that teams can work together virtually using Zoom or Teams, but nothing can completely replace the effectiveness of face-to-face collaboration.

We’re emailing more and talking less. We’re using Skype or Slack or Telegram to convey something we’d typically walk into an office to say.

Rather than turning around and asking our colleague to help us with a short task, we’re having to explain it in a more detailed way.

While effective teams will find a way to communicate well and get the job done, ineffective teams will struggle even more than they did in person.

Decreased Productivity

You may be thinking, wait, didn’t you say productivity increases in a virtual environment? Yes, indeed we did, but this is a huge variable. The potential for increased productivity and morale is substantial, but so is the risk of decreased productivity.

It comes down to one major factor: discipline.

Give some people a chance to work remotely, and they’ll think, I don’t want to mess this up. They’ll work harder to prove that they can be trusted.

Others, though, will take advantage of the fact that nobody is watching them constantly, knowing full well that a quick nap will often go unnoticed.

Working to obtain the necessary level of commitment from your workforce, especially because supervision takes on a much different set of characteristics, can sometimes be difficult.

How Much Does a Virtual Office Cost?

Deciding if a virtual office concept is right for you is the first step; determining if you can afford it is an important second.

Costs, of course, are going to vary based upon your needs, your level of commitment, and most importantly, where this office is to be located.

Let’s focus on what you can expect to pay in a major US city, keeping in mind the price difference between New York City and Omaha are likely to be drastic.

Level 1: Cost-Effective Virtual Offices

If you’re just starting out or otherwise require few services, a virtual office can be very affordable.

A simple business address with no additional features runs as low as $10 per month with no further commitment.

Additional services like notifications and mail-reading/scanning services will run you a bit more, but you can get away with a full-service mailbox in the $30 per month range.

If you’re looking for coworking or physical office space, expect to pay about $200 per month for a cheap option, which usually includes only a hot desk option and a limited number of days per month.

Many sites offer day passes, though – if you just need to book a conference room or a desk for a few hours, as little as $20 can cover it.

Level 2: High Cost-to-Benefit Ratio Virtual Offices

You need more features than a simple mailbox or a one-day pass to a coworking space. We get it. You’re like most folks, looking for a good balance of available features that don’t break the bank.

Again, your geography is going to be the key factor here, but here are some example price ranges per month for a coworking space with a hot desk option, mail service, and conference room availability:

  • Chicago: $275
  • Houston: $299
  • Miami: $199
  • Nashville: $220
  • San Francisco: $400
  • Seattle: $375

Level 3: Luxury Virtual Offices

If your company is doing well, or if you’re in an industry that values image above anything else, there are high-end, luxury, “boutique-style” virtual office options available.

Some of the spaces we researched included custom ergonomic furniture, complimentary breakfast, and even extents with private bedrooms or napping areas.

Additionally, these are often located within beautiful, historic buildings and/or in the most desirable areas of the most desirable cities.

It isn’t easy to put a target price range here but expect to pay at least $1000 per month, with some spaces we found in New York and San Francisco moving into the several-thousand-per-month range.

Is a Virtual Office Worth It?

To modify a famous phrase, value is in the eye of the beholder. If your work environment, company characteristics, and workforce can support it, a virtual office environment can save you significant money over a traditional office space.

Keep in mind, though, the challenges of moving from a traditional to a virtual office concept.

On the flip side, moving from a home-based office to a virtual one – whether it involves just an address and mail service or contains some element of a coworking space – can provide tremendous value in terms of

  • credibility,
  • professionalism,
  • image, and
  • availability of resources.

However, these services come at a cost greater than working from your home base, and that’s something you have to balance against the benefits it may provide.

Who Uses Virtual Offices and Who Needs Them?

Take your time machine back two years and ask this question, and the answer likely focuses upon tech companies, startups, and consultants, or independent contractors.

Fast-forward to the pandemic climate, where organizations across all industries were forced to embrace a virtual workforce, and the answer is a little muddier.

The “who uses virtual offices” part of the question has grown tremendously; the easy answer there might be “anyone that can make it work.” Even government agencies are finding success moving their workforces virtual and reducing or even closing their physical spaces.

“Who needs them” is a bit more difficult to determine.

From all the elements and criteria we’ve discussed so far, it can be argued that small companies, independent contractors, and entrepreneur-type workers have the biggest need; a virtual office is most often a step up from a home office.

However, companies struggling financially in the current climate are just as solid of candidates because of the enormous cost-savings that can be associated with moving to a more virtual, agile environment.

Virtual Office and Physical Office Difference Table

Comparison: Virtual Office vs. Coworking Space

How does a virtual office compare with a coworking space? In this comparison, we define a virtual office as conducting most business virtually and using coworking or shared spaces, such as conference rooms, on an as-needed basis; coworking space refers to companies that use shared spaces more often, including leased desk space

Virtual Office and Co-working Space Differences Table

Are Virtual Offices Legal?

A virtual office concept may sound appealing for your business, but is it legal? Are there factors you should consider before ditching your office or home address?

Can I Use a Virtual Office for my Company Registration?

Check your specific state to ensure there are no different requirements, but generally, you may register a company, including a Limited Liability Company (LLC), using a virtual address.

This provides a distinct advantage over PO Boxes, which you cannot use to register businesses in many states.

Further, a PO Box is always in the same location, meaning if you move, your business location must change as well. In many of the virtual office and virtual address scenarios, you could leave the address intact even if moving to a different locale.

Finally, security was mentioned earlier as a concern with using a home address for your business. Registration of enterprises, especially LLCs, is almost always shared in the public record.

Using a virtual address to register your business greatly reduces your security risk if that’s something you’re concerned about.

Buying Guide: Are you Ready to Choose your Virtual Office?

Think you’re ready to take the next step towards acquiring a virtual office? Using the information we’ve laid out above, here are some steps that will help you get started:

Identify your Unique Needs

If you’re going to find a great fit, you need to know what you’re looking for. While we’ve touted the benefits of virtual offices throughout this piece, it’s not going to fit everyone’s needs. Consider what you need out of an address or office space before you begin.

What address is your company currently using, and does it fit your needs?

Would a virtual address enhance your company’s image?

Do you require a mailbox nearby, or can it be completely remote?

Do you plan to pick up your mail periodically, or does someone need to open it for you?

Do you have access to meeting space if needed?

Do you have access to necessary office equipment, such as printers and scanners?

Would your team benefit from meeting at a physical location on a routine basis?

In addition to these questions, ask yourself a serious question: do you have the organization and leadership in place to support a virtual environment?

Especially if you’re considering a move from a physical office to a virtual one, make sure you’re prepared to manage the human element of such a paradigm shift.

Know your Budget

Don’t look for virtual office options and then decide if you can afford it; that’s a recipe for disaster.

You’ll find a place you like that you can’t afford but manage to convince yourself to take the leap, or conversely, you’ll shortchange how much you can spend and end up settling for an inferior option.

Know what you can afford before conducting your research and set a maximum amount that you’re not willing to exceed. And have the discipline to stick to it, even when attractive options present themselves.

Define your Limitations

Know what won’t work for you, and make sure you understand that before you begin. Many characteristics fit here, but specifically, let’s focus on geography: if you plan to have your team meet regularly, you’ll obviously need to choose an option near your workforce.

If you don’t, the possibilities for location and price open up a bit.

Check your Area

Start with a simple Google search: “Virtual Office [your city].” Search for virtual offices, coworking spaces, shared worksites, and any other keywords you can think of.

Check the big coworking chains like Regus and WeWork, but also check around local spots that might not be as well known. Most of these will offer their prices right on the website without the need of requesting a quote.

Remember the budget you decided upon and stick to it.

Covid-19 and the Future of Virtual Office Services

We opened by mentioning how the global Covid-19 pandemic has altered the remote working landscape. It’s a safe assumption that the future of the landscape has changed as well.

As companies embrace the virtual environment more, the virtual office, especially the coworking space, has become both more and less popular. It’s an interesting circumstance, but consider this:

Companies that realize remote and virtual work can be effective are more inclined to dump their expensive lease and commit to a virtual environment. Coworking spaces for routine or periodic desk and meeting spaces become more attractive.

Meanwhile, individuals or small companies that routinely used coworking or virtual spaces before the pandemic realize that their staff might be able to remain effective at their home offices.

Plus, the tragic but common loss of revenue during the past year has forced them to cut costs in any way possible.

These divergent but related trends have changed the coworking and virtual office landscape in different ways.

Many coworking locations in San Francisco, for example, have been forced to close during the pandemic, partially because workers are shifting to home-based work but also because some companies are folding completely.

On the inverse, as the unemployment rate lowers and a sense of normalcy begins to present, new entrants into the coworking arena are popping up regularly.

That is to say, the trends indicate that the virtual office concept – which has survived several decades and its share of recessions and hard times – continues to be strong.

Be careful, though, when researching making your business virtual.

Make sure the company you plan to partner with is stable and conditioned for success.

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