Office working has changed dramatically over the last two years, forcing businesses to revaluate their office space, working practices and consider more flexible, cost-effective solutions.
Virtual offices are one such solution that has been pushed to the fore during the pandemic, particularly for start-ups and small businesses. It can be daunting in the early stages of a business deciding whether to base your business at home or rent out an office space for that more professional business image. Virtual offices, however, provide that next step without long-term commitments.
Whilst not a new thing, more businesses are now embracing the virtual office concept, with its simple, flexible and economic benefits, allowing more focus on growing a business.
What is a virtual office?
A virtual office does what it says on the tin. It offers the benefits of having a real-time office in terms of a company address, post collection, phone answering and access to meeting rooms, but doesn’t tie you into the long-term commitment of an office, especially if you’re a new business and not quite ready to take the plunge.
As you grow your business, having an office space seems the most logical step but it doesn’t have to be. Virtual offices are quick and easy to set up, contribute to low overheads, particularly in the early years of your business, and can help improve productivity. Therefore, it makes sense as a first step before committing to long-term office leases.
Companies like the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre have been offering virtual office solutions for several years, with businesses taking advantage of registering their businesses at a reputable organisation, with connections to the University of Huddersfield.
Lucy Gardner from Packaging Elements explains how this format has helped her business
“Innovation and development are fundamental to Packaging Elements Limited so a link with the 3M BIC has always been very apt. We are based close by but being able to, for example, have samples delivered to the 3M BIC address rather than a residential address is logistically easier and contributes to our professionalism.”
“The membership connects us with the 3M BIC and the University giving us access to relevant training, events, other resources and opportunities for collaboration.
“The Virtual Office membership package provides everything we need at the moment, but we also know that if a particular project requires it, we can add services such as arranging meetings on site, accessing the expertise and facilities available and using the hot-desking space. This is always good to know!” Lucy adds.
Virtual offices also work well for more established businesses that might want a ‘virtual’ base in a city or different area of the country. Many Northern based companies have registered addresses in London via virtual office schemes and vice versa with businesses based in the South wanting a Northern hub. A company may have a sole representative from the business in the area, so it also reduces the need to pay the overheads for on an office just for one.
How can it help my growing business?
A large percentage of start-up businesses are born at the kitchen table. Budgets are often small at the start, so working from home is a logical, more cost-effective solution while you get your business off the ground. Here’s how a virtual office can help grow your business:
- Investing in a virtual office is professional and credible, but also provides the flexibility to work anywhere, not just from home, but from a café or even while on holiday.
- The monthly cost of virtual offices is far less than rent on a physical office, and usually have more flexible terms.
- Having a professional address linked to your business is also much better than having your home address as your company’s base. This is certainly worthwhile if your business is client facing. Having access to meeting rooms avoids having to invite people to your house and keeps your personal life separate and secure.
- It also works if your work requires talking to people confidentiality. Being in a meeting room means you’re not discussing things in a public space.
- There’s also the fact that it’s more environmentally friendly with no commutes, helping to keep your carbon footprint low.
- Having your post delivered to an alternative address also solves the issue if you’re not at home 24/7. Postal collections services can take your post and packages and store them for you to collect, or in some cases will forward on for an additional cost.
Most virtual office solutions also offer co-working, hot-desking, call answering and forwarding services, as well as access to shared areas within the building, such as workshops and office services. As a bonus, many also provide access to business support and the opportunity to connect with other businesses through networking events.
The 3M BIC’s virtual office space offers businesses the opportunity to register their business at the centre, access a post handling services, call forwarding, as well as other benefits such as discounts on meeting rooms. Additional add-ons are also available to enhance your membership and support your business growth.