Real Offices Vs. Virtual Offices

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Over the past few years it has become increasingly common for people to set up virtual offices instead of real ones. Virtual offices can take many different forms, from a single entrepreneur working online from home, to a large company offering telecommuting and online servicing to their employees, who are unable to commute to the company’s real office location.

There are even actual companies who offer virtual office services, taking care of all administration, for instance answering the telephone or emails. Real offices and virtual offices both have many advantages and disadvantages. This often leads to the question as to whether having a virtual office is better than having a real one and this is discussed further below.

1. Renting of office space

One of the biggest advantages for having a virtual office instead of a real one is there is no need to pay high rent for a property. Many businesses that utilise the idea of a virtual office are small or just starting up and so cannot really afford to rent a standard office space, especially if living somewhere like London or another city.

Setting up a virtual office means entrepreneurs can stay in their preferred location without having to worry about steep rental prices affecting their profit margin each month. Employing a virtual office company means you don’t worry about rent at all, as they take care of themselves and you just pay for their service.

2. Overhead costs

When you rent an office space, it is not just the rent you need to factor into your budget. You also need to consider a vast number of small overhead costs, which quickly mount up. For instance, gas and electricity, internet and cleaning bills will all need to be taken care of, amongst other things.

Having a virtual office will mean all these costs are immediately cut down or in some cases eliminated completely. Although this will depend on whether you are working from home or not, as you will obviously have to pay your own home’s bills but at least you have control over these and are not spending thousands of extra pounds each year on overhead costs for your office.

3. Paying your employees

This will vary depending on which kind of virtual office you employ. For instance, if you have employed a virtual office service company you will generally only have to pay for the actual office package itself. The people doing the virtual office work are taken care of and paid for by the virtual office company.

If you are a single entrepreneur working online from home, you will only need to pay people on a freelance basis, depending on what you have agreed in advance. A company who are utilising the idea of a virtual office has more flexibility in what they pay their employees since there is no need for employees to commute, buy work clothes and so on. In this way a lot of money can be saved on salaries and benefits.

The downside to not having employees right in front of you is you are not always aware of how they are conducting themselves when working for you. The same is true of those working for virtual service companies but in this case; you don’t even know them. Many of those answering your calls and emails will also be working for other people too, and as such their knowledge base will have to be spread. This means their answers for you may not be as detailed as you might like and you may find they are portraying a less professional image of your company than you might like.

4. Productivity

If you employ a virtual office company to take care of all your administrative duties, it can take a lot of the pressure off you. As such, you may find your productivity levels increase because you no longer have to worry about, or spend time on, all the admin. You are therefore able to focus on the most important aspects of your business and hopefully make more money by doing so.

However, companies who allow employees to work from a virtual office, or even entrepreneurs who work from their own home, are taking quite a risk. This is because there are many distractions at home, from the TV and children to the home phone, internet and local shops. As a company it is very hard to supervise your employees working in this manner and it can easily lead to productivity levels decreasing.

5. Social and business interactions

Many people prefer to work alone and are actually much more productive when they don’t have the distraction of colleagues asking them for coffee or general office chit chat. However, as the old adage goes, ‘No man is an island’ and as such everyone needs social interaction to some extent. Employees working from a virtual office are also very isolated and slow to pick up on what is going on in the real office, such as opportunities for promotion and other exciting prospects.

Business interactions can also suffer since everything is done via telecommuting or web conferencing. For example, simple brainstorming sessions, or on the spur of the moment meetings, can be a lot of bother, especially considering the likelihood of the technology malfunctioning.

The truth is, no matter which option you choose, a real office or a virtual one; you should be able to make it work for you. There are a lot of cost implications for renting a real office and employing full-time staff to work in it but you do get to see what each of them is doing on a daily basis and can therefore measure productivity and check you’re getting the most for what you’re paying.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to virtual offices and all options should be able to save you money, depending on how determined you are to make it work. In this day and age where we all crave flexibility and freedom at work, a virtual office is the perfect solution.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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