What Is a Virtual Office? (With Elements and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 27, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As remote work becomes more common, many aspects of traditional business are changing. Virtual offices are one answer to this change in work culture and they provide a method for conducting business that blends personal interaction and convenience. If you're a business leader or thinking of working in a virtual office, learning more about what they are can help you decide if that's the right choice for you.

In this article, we answer "What is a virtual office?", describe those who may choose to use one, list the elements of a virtual office, explore what to consider before investing in one, review the benefits, and discover potential disadvantages.

What is a virtual office?

Learning the answer to "What is a virtual office?" can help you discover if you might benefit from using one. A virtual office is a non-traditional operational domain that allows team members to work from home while still engaging with others. Team members can use a virtual office to meet with other staff or to meet with clients or customers. Virtual offices allow the organization or individual to have a physical address while operating remotely. The virtual office can also offer services like printing, mailing, and meeting rooms.

Related: What Is Remote Work?

Who can use a virtual office?

When a company or organization doesn't want to pay to maintain a full physical office, it may choose to only pay the fee for a virtual office instead. These are some other types of people who may use virtual offices:

  • entrepreneurs

  • freelancers

  • digital nomads

  • those who have recently moved

  • temporary operations

Elements of a virtual office

Virtual offices may be located as independent buildings or include a suite of small offices. Some virtual offices may even have an open-concept office space with desks for collaboration. A virtual office may include all the amenities employees might find at an actual office, including desks and printers. Here are a few common elements of a virtual office:

  • Physical mailing addresses: One of the most important elements of a virtual office is the physical address. This gives a company or organization something to show in its contact information and provides a place to receive mail and hold meetings.

  • Conference rooms: Many virtual office locations offer spaces for meetings between team members and clients. This can include smaller meeting rooms or large private spaces with presentation equipment.

  • Receptionist services: A virtual office may have receptionist services that include greeting guests, providing directions, and answering phone calls. This can help make clients and customers feel more confident in the business.

  • Software: Some virtual offices may offer programs like video editors, e-mail management, and design programs to members. This can help a company lower costs for technology and software.

  • Furniture: When you have a virtual office, there are often spaces for relaxing and working in the building. This can include common areas, meeting rooms, and private offices that have furniture like couches, desks, and large tables.

  • Support: Depending on the virtual office you choose, it may come with dedicated staff members who help you with your tasks. For example, a virtual office's associates may help you organize and mail your packages.

Related: Remote Work Policy: Importance and What to Include

What to consider before using a virtual office

If you're looking to secure virtual office space, it's important to research the options available. Here's what to consider before renting a virtual office:

Location

The first aspect to consider when choosing a virtual office is the location. You may choose a virtual office near you, as this can make it easier to take advantage of the services. It can also be helpful to choose one in an impressive location, like a large city. For example, if you live an hour outside of Ontario, you may choose a virtual office in the city and travel there once a week to meet with clients.

Office equipment and amenities

You may need an office space that has high-speed internet, several electrical outlets to plug in computers and additional devices or kitchen space to hold snacks or bottles of water for meetings. Consider how often you may visit the physical location and what amenities are necessary for your daily tasks.

Furniture needs

Assess the office and determine if it has the amenities and furniture you require. If you plan on working from the virtual office frequently, you may want to see if there are private desks you can rent. For example, if you have a large team and plan on meeting with them once a month, you may want an office with a large conference room.

Services provided

Some virtual offices may include receptionist services with a dedicated phone line or a postal mailbox with a physical address. Consider how often you may receive mail or if you need shipping and fulfilment or receptionist services. While a virtual office rental may have several benefits, each one has different offerings.

Rates

Some virtual offices may have daily, weekly, or monthly rates to secure office space. There may be contracts to hold the business' space at this location. If there's a membership fee, consider if the costs are beneficial to conducting business at this location.

Related: Remote Workforce Definition (With How to Find a Remote Job)

Benefits of virtual offices

These are some potential virtual office benefits:

Lower costs

A company may save on office costs by implementing virtual offices as they may be more affordable. A small business or an entrepreneur may find that a virtual office can help keep costs low as they don't rent an entire office. Instead, they can rent a virtual office space and share it with others. This helps maintain a professional business presence without incurring high overhead costs.

Related: Remote Management's Pros and Cons (With Best Practices)

Decreased commuting times

If you choose to work from a virtual office instead of a physical one, this can save you time on a commute. This saved time can help reduce frustrations and increase productivity. Another benefit to the reduction of commuting is that it may also be more ecologically friendly.

Flexibility

Virtual offices give employees multiple access options, allowing them to pick the one that best suits their work style and lifestyle. Virtual offices provide the flexibility to work from home or visit a virtual office space as needed. Some employees may find increased productivity by switching their work environment frequently to inspire creativity and collaboration.

Networking

Virtual offices provide access to resources, information, and networking opportunities that might not be available at home or in a traditional office space. For example, some virtual offices may have a reception area to share business cards or greet other employees. Some businesses thrive on networking, like real estate or sales, and may find new clients or partners from networking in virtual offices.

Professional image

Virtual offices add credibility to businesses and projects. A virtual office is a professional business address that allows for telephone answering services and deliveries. By ensuring the business has all the elements of a traditional company, you may appear more professional in meetings or with clients.

Structure

If a company wanted to establish its own office space, it may take longer than getting a virtual office. This is because the company may establish the structure of the office, including the amenities, furniture, and technology. A virtual office comes with a structure and doesn't require you to plan or implement office layouts.

Related: Remote Work vs. Work from Home: Differences and Similarities

Potential virtual office disadvantages

Virtual offices may have a few challenges employees can solve with simple solutions. Some virtual offices may have limited availability, as multiple businesses share the office space. If the virtual office space you use has a lot of clients who already booked their services, you may have a harder time finding an available conference room.

Consider researching virtual office spaces that are large enough to accommodate multiple businesses or ensure you book any meetings and conference rooms ahead of time. Some team members may also find it more difficult to focus and stay motivated when working from home. Implementing frequent check-ins and training team members during this shift can help remedy this problem.

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