We all need a place to work, but if you’re a smaller company, renting or purchasing office space can be incredibly expensive. Luckily, as technology advances, the way our workplaces look has also been changing. Choosing an office space may mean sharing coop work spaces with others or telecommuting, working remotely from home. Virtual offices are growing in popularity — technology now allows businesses the perks of a physical office without having to rent or lease a space, saving considerable money for the business. And for many employees, working remotely is a huge perk, especially for those with kids, as it gives them more flex time to provide childcare or simply spend more time at home with their children. So what do you need to know about virtual offices? Is your business right for one? And how does it all work?
What Is a Virtual Office and Who’s Using Them?
A virtual office provides your business a location that’s based in cyberspace. Yet, you have a local mailing address, local phone number, and access to conference rooms or daily offices. Portable office services are often included, as are staff members, who field and forward calls, or help set up conference lines. Owners and employees alike can work anywhere that they have access to an Internet connection and don’t have to commute in. And on-demand conference rooms and offices are available whenever you need them.
Virtual offices were first used commercially in 1994, but have seen a significant spike in growth in recent years. According to the Office Business Center Association International, between 2008 and 2009, there was over double the growth in virtual office rates. A new study shows that the top industries most likely to use virtual offices are financial, legal, consulting, technology, real estate/brokers, healthcare, marketing and advertising, entertainment, retail, and construction.
What Is the Benefit of Working Remotely or Using Coop Work Spaces?
In a poll of 1,000 companies, 65% said that they let their employees work remotely. Studies show this benefits both parties. Almost six of 10 employers say that they save money when they allow telecommuting and professionals can save money on transportation expenses and childcare, among other things. Given that almost 15% of Americans have switched jobs to cut their commuting time down, being able to telecommute is a huge draw.
Furthermore, productivity increases. Almost 70% of employees say that working remotely is productive and Sun Microsystems found that when employees work from home, 60% of the time they would have spent on the road on their way to work is used doing actual work.
Furthermore, telecommuting seems to reduce attrition (almost half of companies who allow this reported a drop in attrition) and the American Management Association reports that there was an almost 65% drop in unscheduled absences.
As far as coop work spaces go, such a space can be great for networking, requires less upfront investment, and allows people who may otherwise work alone to socialize. For some people, working in coop work spaces instead of from home provides more focus and structure to their day. These work spaces also tend to be much more creative and interesting in structure than a traditional office and still provide the basics — Internet, desks, chairs, printers, scanners, etc. And, the cost of being in the co-op space is still much less than renting or leasing an office of one’s own.
How Do I Get In On One of These Options?
If you live in a city, there’s a good chance that there are plenty of co-op work spaces around you — it’s just a matter of finding one that suits you. An online search or talking to acquaintances or colleagues might give you a list of places to look up and try out.
As far as virtual offices go, the process is similar. Check out firms who offer virtual office programs and see what might fit your business the best. Other small business owners you know may be able to offer recommendations or advice on how to set up your virtual office and what things you should be on the look out for.