Entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for ways to generate a profit without having to incur unnecessary expenses. For many founders, an office seems non-negotiable, but a growing band is challenging conventional wisdom. Physical offices, they say, might not be necessary after all.
Virtual offices are a kind of hybrid between having no office at all and paying for an expensive lease or rent for a fixed, physical office you can use all the time. Many startup founders know that they do not actually need a physical office space at all hours of the day. Most of the time, their co-founders and employees can work from home and, often, only need to travel to an office when entertaining clients, or meeting with VCs. Almost always an office in the traditional sense is surplus to requirements.
In this article, we're going to take a look at seven reasons why a virtual office makes a lot more sense for startups than its physical counterpart. Take a look at the following:
Reason #1: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
If you run a startup with corporate responsibility aspirations, then a virtual office can, again, serve your needs. Commuting requires energy. Trains and automobiles all use carbon dioxide to some degree, even electric varieties. For this reason, startups that cut down on employee travel to the office automatically reduce their carbon footprint.
It's also worth pointing out that offices themselves make heavy use of carbon dioxide for heating, cooling, running computers and lighting. If a startup were to rent out an office but then only use it for a few hours a week, that would represent a vast waste of both financial and material resources. A power plant somewhere would have to supply the building with energy, even when it wasn't in use. And a company that could make use of it would have to work in another building elsewhere.
Reason #2: Get More Flexibility
Traditional office lease contracts are not flexible. Often you're committed to renting office space for a couple of years or more. While this is a hassle for conventional businesses, it's worse for startups.
Businesses that have just been founded are unpredictable. In two years, you could be in a very similar position to where you are today, or you could have expanded vastly. You just don't know yet. Being locked into a contract to rent office space automatically puts you at a disadvantage.
The way the virtual office market works is different. You don't pay for long-term leases. Instead, you can opt to pay by the month and, in some cases, even shorter intervals, giving you flexibility.
Reason #3: Lower Search Costs
Finding the "perfect" office for your company is a challenge. With a virtual office, however, you get a lot more choice. Often, you can choose from a range of premises and select the one that you like most. If another location suddenly becomes beneficial for your company, you can switch to that one instead. With virtual offices, you have the freedom to choose. You're not locked down.
Reason #4: You Could Get A Reception Team
Hiring reception staff is expensive, but if you want a functioning office of your own, it's often something that you're forced to do. With a virtual reception service however, all that's taken care of for you.
Think for a second about how useful this is when you're trying to found a business. You don't have to spend time interviewing reception staff or sorting out payroll - it's all done for you. Neither do you have to manage reception staff: the virtual office company takes care of that too.
Reason #5: Much Lower Overhead
Virtual offices allow you to adjust how much you pay depending on how much physical office time your company needs each month. Some startups, for instance, only need to use official-looking offices a couple of times a month, if that. Others may need a couple of hours per day if they have a greater need to meet as a team.
The point is this: the amount that you use your office determines what you pay. Contrast that to the old-fashioned traditional office market. There you pay the same high rents, no matter whether you use your office for an hour a week or continuously, 10 hours per day, seven days per week. The person renting the space doesn't care.
Virtual offices, therefore, cut the cost of running an office considerably by only charging you for the co-working space and meeting room space that you actually use.
Reason #6: Make Your Employees Happier
If given a choice, most people would prefer to work from home. Commuting into a large city and sitting in a stuffy office, day after day isn't most employee's idea of fun.
Virtual offices, therefore, could make it easier for you to retain staff. As a startup, the last thing you want is to lose critical people because they're not happy with the working conditions. Virtual offices help to improve worker wellbeing and can be a great way to entice people to stay with you instead of pay.
Reason #7: Get Access To Global Talent
If you're launching a new and innovative product, you often need people with highly-specialized, even unique skills. Trying to tie everyone down to a specific physical location is, in many ways, counterproductive, and prevents you from getting access to the people you need. Startups, after all, live and die on the quality of their people.
Virtual offices help you get around this issue. You no longer have to insist that the people in your team come to physical premises every day. Instead, you use cloud services to let them work remotely towards your common, shared goals. Your virtual office, thus, becomes a kind of standby service you can use in the event that you have to entertain a client or hold a meeting.
So there you have it: seven reasons why a virtual office can make more sense for a startup. Can you think of any other reasons why freshly-founded companies might benefit from using virtual offices?