IRVINE—Virtual offices, along with other on-demand workspace facilities, are the cool kids on the office space block. Small business owners are leveraging alternative workplace strategies to speed up growth plans.

"Increased market awareness and evolving business models are driving high demand for virtual office services," says Martin Senn, COO of Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, a global provider of virtual offices and meeting space. "New sign-ups grew more than 50 percent in 2011, and the first quarter of 2012 suggests comparable growth going forward."

Confidence in the economy may be slowly recovering, but it’s still at its near-historic lows, according to the Small-Business Optimism Index produced by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The good news: the report reveals that innovative entrepreneurs believe that now is a great time to expand and gain market share.

This mix of economic sentiments and the need for truly flexible work environments are fueling the growth in the alternative workspace or so-called workspace-as-a-service industry, which has seen occupancy levels improve, according to the Global Workspace Association (GWA). The GWA represents hundreds of business-center operators and alternative workspace providers globally.

"Technology advancements, the omnipresence of the online market place and mobility over the past decade have permanently altered the way small businesses operate," says John Jordan, president of the GWA. "Evolving workforce and meeting-place considerations driven by the need for agility and financial flexibility are steering more small-business owners away from long-term fixed costs for office space and operational infrastructure."

GWA members reported strong growth in virtual office services and meeting space reservations, which have particular appeal to mobile and cost-conscious small-business owners requiring physical business addresses, phone and mail services, and on-demand office and meeting-room space. Based on the GWA's most recent survey, year-over-year virtual-office revenue increased by 13.8 percent as a category. Meeting room and day room revenues nearly doubled in the same period.