If you have been through the business registration process before, you have surely contemplated whether you want the actual physical space, or just the address and occasionally drop in. Virtual offices have become more relevant as people & businesses turn to digital & remote work places. And why wouldn’t they? Getting a virtual office will cost a fraction of what you would typically pay for physical office space.
Which leads us to the question:
What Is A Virtual Office Space?
Virtual offices are remote workspaces that give you the perks of a physical office (e.g technology, phone system, secretary, prestigious address,) at the fraction of a cost of leasing or owning a physical office.
The concept of a virtual office is actually quite old, starting back in the 1960’s but becoming more popular in use, with the integration of virtual business solutions (communication, digital storage etc.) Customers of a virtual office will typically select from a subscription plan. The most common professionals that opt in for a virtual office address range from solo entrepreneurs all the way up to larger corporations. The ability to work from anywhere is something that appeals to much of the workforce that conducts their work through a computer device. Typical amenities include: conference rooms, a phone line (with answering machine,) a virtual office assistant or receptionist, conference rooms, mailboxes, printing/fax, office supplies & a desk. From a software perspective, virtual offices will often come with cloud storage, web hosting & e-mail services. All office/conference rooms & business services are maintained & operated by the virtual office company.
History of Virtual Offices
The first ever office space was offered in 1962 by a company called OmniOffices Group. Ever since, throughout the remaining decades leading up to 2020, everyone from law offices, to University scientists, to conductors & entrepreneurs have used virtual offices or aspects of one in some way or form. Many, helped transform and improve the industry leading to a very improved & advanced concept that we can enjoy today.
Virtual Office Services
When thinking of a virtual office, it is best to distinguish between the physical & digital services that come with it. After all, knowing in advance the bells & whistles you want for your virtual office, will help you best pick a plan that suits your needs.
Physical Services include:
- A virtual address
- Conference rooms
- Mail services
- Notary services
- Desk & private office
- Printing, copying, binding, faxing, scanning, shredding etc
- Storage space
- Receptionist & answering machine
- Registered agent
- Phone number
- Virtual assistants
- Website domain & company e-mail
- Video conferencing
- Online cloud storage
- Cloud integrations (Google Docs, Office 365 etc)
How Virtual Offices Work
Once you sign up for a virtual office, one of the first things you will need to make sure you complete is your 1583 Form. This will allow the virtual office company (CMRA) to process your mail and register your name under their address. It is very likely that you will be asked to notarize the document, prior to sending it in. Next, you will want to call into the company you are working with, to figure out the conference room schedule, ensuring that you have setup proper call forwarding & making sure there are no other loose ends that need to be handled on your end.
From this point on, any call that you receive will automatically be forwarded to the number of your choice, or answered warmly by a receptionist on staff. All incoming mail will be scanned & uploaded into your virtual mailbox. If there is any package that needs to be shipped to your address, typically you can get up to 80% off shipping rates. If you bundle your items, most likely you’ll be able to save even more on shipping.
Why You Need A Virtual Office
There are some industries and professionals for whom a virtual office would make sense, and for others for which a virtual office would not add much value. It is safe to say, that anyone who desires to register a virtual business address and wants the ability to be able to book a conference room once in a while, would find great value in a virtual office. When you consider the list of services that come along with a virtual office subscription, you quickly realize that getting a virtual office could make sense just for a specific sub-service offered by that location.
For example, let’s say that you are not interested in booking the conference room and only want to leverage the mail & phone service; virtual offices would come very handy. Just pick a plan that excludes conference room bookings. If on the other hand you change your mind down the road, you are always eligible to take advantage of more premium features like physical office space. Another perk worth considering, is the ability to drop into any virtual office location worldwide, using your existing subscription plan, to use the conference room of that office. Let’s say that you are on a business trip in New York, and originally had a virtual office in Philadelphia; virtual office services will allow you to drop into a new city’s office & book the room for a few hours (or as long as you like) given that that address is on their network. So even if you are always on the road, you can rest assured there will always be a quiet office space where you can crawl into and get your work done.
The one word that would best describe virtual offices, is flexibility. You do not need to use all services that come with them; you can use all, some or non. In any event, having a business address registered, is a much better alternative to using your home address as we have discussed before. So many security reasons why you want to separate home from business. Even if you never use the phone line that comes with the address, or virtual mailbox system, having your business registered at a prestigious location can only work to your advantage. The best part is, a virtual office costs a fraction of what you would typically spend to lease office space.
Virtual Office VS Physical Office
As mentioned earlier, virtual office’s middle name is flexibility; you can sign up at any time and cancel at any time. There are no long term leases that you need to abide to, nor one specific location that you are allowed to drop into for your office meetings. With a virtual office, you can pick based on different pricing plans & monthly terms, depending on how long you’d like to use the office for. Different virtual office services will try and sell you all the bells & whistles that come with a virtual office (for an extra fee); you are not obligated to take on all the add on features that they offer you. Pick what is right for you. You can always downgrade or upgrade at any time into the future, based on what it is you are trying to achieve with that office location.
From a practical perspective, getting a virtual office means that you save a ton of time commuting back & forth, needing to comply to typical office hours and of course having to deal with neighbor offices that may be noisy or crowded. Another benefit of a virtual office, is that you can pick from a variety of offices you are looking to use. For example you may need a co-working space instead of an executive suite. Or you may just need to drop in once a week for board meetings (using the board room.) You are able to pick from a greater variety of office types, while being able to utilize its features remotely.
Another perk that you won’t find with a physical office space, is all the add on cloud technology that is offered to you with a virtual office. Think of your mail; when you get a virtual office, all your mail gets digitized and uploaded into your virtual mailbox. That means that you can, remotely, access all snail mail information. If you were physically located in that office, there would have been no reason to do that, resulting in piles of paper that you need to sort through. Also, when it comes to telecommunications, using a virtual office means you can have someone from the office building act as your remote secretary to answer your phone calls. That beats the cost of hiring a full time secretary, if you had a physical office.
Finally, the ability to move any place and at any time, is another feature of virtual offices that people consider. Depending on what virtual office you end up signing up with, you will probably be given the ability to drop into any office space from their network in the country and even abroad. That is, if you are based in a specific city but anticipate being elsewhere for a few days in another city, assuming your provider has office space in that other city, you are most likely eligible to use it. Just make sure to book the dates in advance and communicate with the office staff so they anticipate your arrival.
Virtual Office For Business Registration
When someone wants to register a new business, they will be required to display a permanent address that will be used for the business. Many people, especially the ones with home-based businesses, will just think of adding their home address. As discussed multiple times already, that is a terrible idea for so many security & privacy reasons.
Virtual offices can come in handy for business registrations, because you are not obligated to have a long term contract in place to use their address. Rather, you can just sign up for a single month to register the business. Of course, there are so many more perks to using a virtual office, than merely to register a business. But if that is your sole purpose of using a virtual office, it beats the alternative of getting into a physical office lease or using your home address.
How Much Do Virtual Offices Cost
When considering the cost of a virtual office, one must consider the different features that come with it, along with the fact that you do not need to sign up for all of them. In other words, you will be picking from a pricing plan that best fits your needs, therefore adjusting the expected cost of your virtual office. Another important thing to consider, is the city and specific address where your virtual office is located in. A more prestigious location, will come with more premium pricing.
Another thing to consider, is that there are several companies that offer a virtual office solution. So the price will vary depending on who you decide to work with. Doing proper due diligence during which you consider what comes with each plan and the associated cost, will help you navigate through this virtual office hunt of yours.
Typically, for a good virtual office service, you can expect to pay between $50 to $200 per month. This will include services such as a local phone number, a receptionist, physical office space (meeting rooms) and of course your very own virtual address.
Increasing Productivity With Virtual Offices
According to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, when employees at a travel website were given the option to work remotely from a virtual office setup, they were both more satisfied with their jobs and more productive. It sounds like the opposite would be true, but graduate students Nicholas Bloom & James Liang concluded that given certain caveats (and the fact that not all people will be more productive across the board,) allowing responsible employees to leverage virtual offices, will only help achieve corporate goals and company morale.
We have covered quite a vast range of topics surrounding virtual offices. Regardless of whether you are a fan of the concept or opposed to it, one thing is for sure; it has disrupted a blue chip real estate industry. Companies like We Work have given traditional real estate a digital spin to how we function as corporate entities and a corporate work force. Whether this is for better or worse, will be seen in the coming years. In the meantime though, happy virtual office scouting!