Virtual Vs. Physical Office: When & Why to Use Each
If our year of remote working has taught us anything, it's that it's possible to run a successful small business virtually. But as the business world returns to normal, whatever that means, some entrepreneurs are reviewing the benefits of a physical office vs virtual office and considering new ways to operate their business.
There are times when the reasons to use a virtual office vs physical office are obvious—it's designed to showcase a professional image without the expense of a physical location—but just as often the opposite is true.
When should you use a virtual office? Why use a physical office? And is there a way to use your virtual address as a physical office?
Factors for Determining a Virtual Office vs Physical Office
When considering whether to have a virtual or physical office, there are a range of factors to consider such as revenue, business size and whether or not tasks can be accomplished virtually.
Video conferencing, messaging services and live receptionist services make running a virtual office seamless, and operation costs are often lower for a virtual office vs physical office.
Running a virtual office expands your hiring and customer options, but if the nature of your business benefits more from having a physical location and local employees, then it may not be the best option for you.
Another factor to consider is staff morale and company culture. It's easier to foster relationships and connection when running an in-person business and if this is an important element in your company then it's worth considering.
Physical Office Space Amenities
The advantages of having a physical office space are widely known, if not taken for granted. Here are a few of the amenities you can benefit from when you run your business from a physical office space.
● In-person interaction between employees
● Dedicated work space
● Shared equipment
● Business address
● Dedicated phone line and Internet connection
● Professional space to meet with clients and customers
When thinking about a physical office vs virtual office space there are also intangible benefits, such as the ease of collaboration when your team is physically together. Innovation often sparks from spontaneous conversations or meetings and problem solving, which doesn't happen as organically when a team is virtual. There are also less headaches when a meeting has to be pushed or postponed.
Virtual Office Space Benefits
The main benefit of virtual office spaces is the ability to present a professional image without the expense of maintaining a physical space. However, there are also other advantages to consider:
● If you employ people in different time zones or cities, this allows your company to be available in multiple locations and for extended hours
● It's easier to achieve a better work-life balance and have a more flexible workday
● No commute. Not driving to and from the office each day can make a big difference to you and your team's mental health, stress levels, not to mention it reduces environmental impact and saves on conveyance costs
● Without the constraints of a physical office space, you aren't limited to how many people you can hire based on available desk space
● The convenience of setting up and taking down a virtual office can't be matched
Web-based software and services have increased the accessibility of running a small business or startup virtually. New businesses and companies that aren't tied to a specific location will benefit the most from maintaining a virtual office space.
How to Have the Best of Both Worlds
While a virtual office doesn't exist in one specific location, most still have a physical address or at least a mailing address. Business owners may wonder if they can use their virtual address as a physical address and in many cases, this is possible.
Signing up for a virtual office location allows you to access many of the amenities a physical office affords, such as a corporate address. You can use this address for your business, which lends you credibility (since it's not a PO Box) and protects your personal information (since it's not your home address).
Companies that offer virtual office locations allow you to use their physical location as your company's address and to receive mail there. Some will even include your business name in their directory.
Other services virtual businesses can access through virtual offices can include access to meeting spaces and catering, a local phone number, office equipment, receptionist services, support staff and other amenities.
For small businesses looking to save time and money and aren't limited by location, a virtual office makes the most sense. For businesses looking for ways to increase in-person collaboration and connection, a physical office space will be the right choice.