OK, I’ll admit it – the headline is a bit of an attention grabber. The virtual office is the latest thing, but of course there are many perfectly valid reasons for renting an office, and often it’s the only way that you can run your business sensibly, and I wouldn’t seriously suggest otherwise. It might even be necessary to work nine to five (if you run your own business part-time!)
However, there are times when it can be a good idea to sit back, take stock and work out whether your business has changed, and whether you can realistically turn it into a virtual office operation. With today’s cloud technologies it’s easier than ever to close that office door and work collaboratively with people in a wide range of locations.
Do you remember that really brilliant meeting you had with someone at an exhibition a couple of years ago? The one where you came away thinking that if only you could find someone like that on your doorstep instead of 200 miles away? Well, 200 miles is no sort of barrier with a virtual business – you can work with whoever you need or want to, instead of being forced into working with people on your doorstep.
Not only that, but also you can save money doing it (no expensive office space), and also most likely enjoy a vastly improved work/life balance (much less time wasted travelling). That sort of working environment can attract the brightest and best for your business, wherever they may be based.
Location doesn’t matter any more
Think outside the box too. Just because your brilliant marketing person left last year in order to have a baby doesn’t mean that she can’t contribute to the business any more. Why can’t she continue to knock up those superb proposal documents she used to write? You don’t care if she needs to do it in the evenings after the baby is asleep – what difference does that make? You can easily work out a process whereby she can carry on providing valuable business input, and at any time of the day and night she’s hooked up to the virtual office, with all the files, emails and information that she needs.
You do need some ‘face-time’, though – it helps the business and personal relationships that we all rely on, as well as preventing people going stir-crazy sitting on their own. Some people thrive on that, others don’t, so you need an alternative. Sometimes you also need to meet clients, and that’s not so easy with the baby on your knee.
Plenty of Options
Either you can take a small office/ meeting space somewhere – far cheaper than accommodating the entire staff – or you can make use of flexible office space – hot desks, or whatever you want to call them. These facilities are simple and cheap to use as needed, and they often come with high-quality meeting rooms and conference spaces – rent them by the hour or as you need them. If the team needs to come together for a project, then rent a number of desks for a couple of months.
There are no barriers beyond our own cultural expectations. Unless you are manufacturing widgets, in which case you obviously need a widget machine and somewhere to plug it in, you should really be questioning whether that office space is paying its way. Space is very rarely revenue-generating, so expenditure on it should be questioned in the same way as you would query the people that you employ that are not revenue-generating. You need administration and support, obviously, but you need to control those costs – the rent and ever-increasing rates that space costs you should be similarly controlled.
Why not consider a virtual office? It may not be as frightening as you think, and it might be the impetus that your business needs to get to the next stage!