Vir•tu•al of•fice is a noun. Google’s dictionary defines it as “the operational domain of any business or organization whose workforce includes a significant portion of workers using technology to perform their work at home.”

Well, that’s partly right. It seems after nearly 60 years of virtual office use, people can’t seem to altogether agree what a virtual office is. That’s right, virtual offices have been around for 1962, long before the technology boom we’re experiencing today. There’s even been debate about who started the first virtual office concept.

Dictionary.com defines “virtual office” as a business location that is simulated by telecommunications and computer links. Wikipedia says a virtual office “provides addresses (and sometimes communication) services for a fee, without providing dedicated office space. It differs from ‘office business centers’ or ‘executive suites,’ which do provide physical office space and/or meeting rooms.”

There is no lack of virtual office providers in the industry. If you type “virtual office” into Google you get over 5.65 million results in 1.01 seconds. While not every result has to do with virtual office space, the first many pages of results list virtual office space company after virtual office space company. 

Virtual office providers vary in their own definitions of what makes up a virtual office. Davinci Virtual, for example, includes a local business address, mail receipt and mail forwarding, a lobby directory listing in a physical office building, access to meeting and workspaces, and a lobby greeter in its standard virtual office practice.

Notice technology is not mentioned in this modern equation. Virtual office space gives the appearance of your company having a physical address—often times in a prestigious office building—without the high cost of actually leasing that space. At the same time, if you need to host a meeting with clients you can rent a meeting room within the building where your virtual office is listed. 

You can also break the monotony of working from the home office by leveraging a workspace from a virtual office provider. When you tap into a workspace, you get to use all of the technology in that business center, including laser printers and other equipment you may not have in your home office.

At the end of the day, there’s still much discussion about what a virtual office is. In the simplest terms, we should focus on the word virtual. The office from which you work could be in your home, on an airplane, or at Starbucks. But with a virtual office you have the freedom to work from virtually anywhere while presenting a professional business image.