Virtual office is workplace of the future

By Simon Hayes on April 7, 2009

Reducing overheads is often the best solution for businesses looking to survive tough economic conditions.
One way of doing so is to switch from occupying premises to running a business from a virtual office - an option an increasing number of British companies are taking.The concept, which offers full office support including reception, telephony and meeting facilities, originated in the UK over 10 years ago but has boomed in recent years with technological advances like the Blackberry.

Bill Grodnik is chief executive of Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, market leaders in virtual office services in the United States.
Launched in the UK last year they are about to open a location in the Canary Wharf area. He believes the service levels the playing field for small businesses.

He said: "It means the small business entrepreneur who wants to create a better image, and compete with the bigger boys, can have the trappings of a real office.
"Having your own receptionist can cost £3-4,000 a month, which is a lot of money, so what we offer is very appealing."But it's much more than just phone answering. We have a real high end reception service, keeping your diary, screening calls, doing outbound sales and customer service calls."It's just like having your own receptionist, but without the cost."He also wants to have a good address. He wants a Piccadilly or Canary Wharf address, so we offer him that ability without having to have the physical space."It's incredibly affordable to have a virtual office. You could have a £99 answering service and a £65 location - the whole package for around £150."There is still a need for meeting rooms and Davinci offers that in partnership with serviced office providers like Avanta.It takes the expense right down, according to Mr Grodnik, but the quality is still there.

He said: "In the UK we have 50 locations you can use for a meeting. You have your name on the lobby sign but don't have to physically rent space, just book rooms when you need them.
"A lot of people don't need their own bricks and mortar. Certain businesses do need physical space but not so many need it as they think they do."It means larger businesses looking to downsize are shifting to virtual officing."We've talked quite recently to a couple of companies listed on the London Stock Exchange looking for 100 virtual office locations," said Mr Grodnik. "It's a solution for companies needing to reduce overheads. People say they want to tear up their leases, they don't need the space any more, it's too expensive, so they go to a virtual office concept."We're getting people coming both ways right now."With the Davinci business model up and running Mr Grodnik envisions global expansion in the next couple of years as more people recognise the advantages.The attraction for an entrepreneur includes being able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, as Mr Grodnik does at home in Salt Lake City.A tempting alternative to an uncomfortable commute and stressful workplace.

He said: "I live in a ski resort, so I ski all winter long and in the summer I hike and do all the summer sports you do in a resort town.
"With a PC and a smart phone I'm pretty much set. Everything's there. It's amazing what we've transformed to in terms of how we office these days."But I still like to meet people and have a nice conference room because I'm a social creature."But the rest of the time I'm totally addicted to my Blackberry and it allows me to live the kind of lifestyle I like to enjoy. It works out great."