Virtual Office: Advantages and Disadvantages
Starting a business has its own fair share of laborious activities to consider. One of the most important things that top the mind is having a workplace where the team can coordinate with each other.
To be honest, finding the right place to work that suits your vibe and is lenient on the pocket is not a very easy task. Moreover, there are several factors to consider before buying an office space.
Every entrepreneur wishes to hold an office in a prime business location that he hopes would add credibility to their job. However, the prices in these areas are sky-high and start-ups or small companies are hardly able to afford them.
The workspace of an enterprise is a reflection of the brand image which is why it is necessary to build an office that meets the demands of the business.
Despite these hurdles, modern technology has come to the rescue of several small to medium-sized businesses offering them modern office-space solutions.
Having a physical office is far from the necessities that business owners need to worry about. Moreover, it is simply redundant as it has certain physical boundaries.
On the other hand, virtual offices emerge as a rising trend among companies with numerous benefits that make them popular in the corporate world. Let us have a look at what they are and the pros and cons of owning one.
Table of Contents:
- Virtual Office Reduced Facility Cost
- Virtual Office Reduced Equipment Cost
- Virtual Office Emphasis on Formal Communication
- Virtual Office Reduces Work Stoppages
- Social Interaction and Social Contribution:
- Virtual Office for Business Registration
- Virtual Office for GST Registration
- Receptionist & Mail Handling Services
- Providing Computer Resources
- Providing Access to Information
- Arrangement for Forwarding Phone Calls
- Arranging Conference Calls
- Arranging Regular Meetings:
- Follow-up of Work Routine
- Objective Evaluation of Work Performance:
What is a Virtual Office?
The idea of a virtual office emerged from the acknowledgment of virtual organizations. Modern technology that has led to office automation is where the first virtual offices developed.
A virtual office is one that functions as a company’s virtual workspace with all necessary facilities but no physical space is provided.
In order to remain in synchronization with other members of the office and remain updated with important announcements, employees on virtual offices can interact through various modes.
Some commonly used communication tools are audio/video conferencing system, voice mail system, laptop, computers, Thinkpad, cellular phone, fax machine, and electronic mail.
Once the required communication system is installed at the employee’s personal workspace, they can perform their tasks without any interruptions. People working in virtual offices usually work from home or restaurants, airports, cars, customer offices, etc.
The electronic alternative to physical offices greatly reduces the space required to function effectively and instead replaces it with a ‘productivity center’.
As a result, a lot of office work that can be avoided is out of the to-do list, and employees can focus on more important works and hold instant meetings.
Advantages of Virtual Office
A virtual office’s main agenda is to keep the team connected even if they are physically away from each other. There are several benefits that can be reaped from installing a virtual platform to work. Some of the most important ones are listed below:
1. Virtual Office Reduced Facility Cost
A physical office requires upkeep and maintainance. Thus a lot of money is wasted on infrastructure that is often not of an immediate requirement.
Not only can the company save up a huge amount by getting rid of the unnecessary physical space but the employees also are relieved of the stress of commuting to work everyday.
2. Virtual Office Reduced Equipment Cost
There are several equipment that is required for the smooth functioning of a physical office. However, on the other hand, switching to a virtual office requires no such equipment.
Instead, companies just have to focus on making sure that the local area network is working properly. This is the minimum required to function with a virtual office however other electronic communication tools or work-related devices could be needed with respect to different industries.
3. Virtual Office Emphasis on Formal Communication
Since communication at a virtual office mostly takes place on the formal network, everyone is in loop of what is going on. It not only ensures that information is delivered without any error but also only the relevant thoughts and ideas are approved to be introduced in the common network.
This is quite contrary to a lot of informal conversation that takes place in offices with the important discussions being left out.
4. Virtual Office Reduces Work Stoppages
There are a lot of events that prevent employees from being able to reach the office to do their job. This could be floods, storms, inability to access mode of transport, etc.
In cases like these people can simply just sit and work at home without the tension of not being able to make it to the office.
5. Social Interaction and Social Contribution:
One of the most important benefits of holding a virtual office is that it helps in maintaining work-life balance in a lot of ways. For remote workers, it helps save a lot of travel time which they can invest in socialising or doing something they like.
There could be other instances as well where employees aren’t able to come to the office. For example: elderly people, new parents, handicapped people and so on.
Top Business Use Cases For Virtual Office
A business owner personally can avail a lot of benefits when it comes to starting a virtual office. Most of these pertain to GST and Business registration. Read on to know more:
1. Virtual Office for Business Registration
Owning a physical office is not a necessity if you want to register the services your business provides to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) or even the authorities at the local level. A virtual office itself guarantees you the right to register yourself officially.
2. Virtual Office for GST Registration
In order to get a GST registration for a particular state, you need to have an office address pertaining to that state. Since several small companies might agree that it is impossible to have a physical office in every state, there is a legal loophole.
A virtual office is enough to allow the process of getting a GST number registered for your service in a particular state. The virtual office provider offers you all important documents necessary for getting a GST registration like NOC (No Objection Certificate), Utility bills, and rent agreement.
3. Receptionist & Mail Handling Services
Even though you don’t have a physical address at a particular location, virtual office providers offer you all-important services with extreme reliability and responsibility.
You can be assured that the products and services are timely being delivered to clients and they will always be available on the phone calls to assist you through any obstacles.
You even get a receptionist who can talk to customers in the local language of the area which is an advantage to your business when you’re trying to expand yourself. All in all, it means that you will have ample opportunities to help you grow and a virtual office to assist you in this path of success.
Disadvantages of Virtual Office
Most disadvantages related to virtual offices do not belong to the technical aspects. Instead, it is the social aspect that needs to be worked upon in order to function smoothly. Some of these are:
1. Lack of Belongingness
With no social connection or a lack thereof, employees never have the team spirit within them for a project or a sense of belonging to the organization.
The virtual office system limits them to the screens of their device with only minimal formal conversation. This feeling of not being related results in a higher employee turnover rate which could even be detrimental for the company in some cases.
2. Psychological Fear of Job Loss
When an employee works virtually for an organization, they live in constant fear of losing their job because they believe that they are indispensable for the organization.
This psychological fear develops from the thought that any person with equal competency can replace them easily. This in turn affects their motivation and leads to lesser productivity.
3. Family Tension:
The age-old tradition of having the elders of the family leave the house every day for work is being broken. Sometimes, for some people, it is difficult to accept the fact that the working member is spending their working hours at home instead of going to the office and returning by evening.
They might even start considering them less productive which might lead to tension in the family. This family tension leads to stress in the employee which affects their performance at work in the end.
These disadvantages that although seem trivial, could affect the company’s growth in a lot of ways. Many organizations are working towards resolving these with suitable measures.
An example of this could be given by IBM of the USA. The company conducts regular seminars that promote ideas on “how to remain in touch with peers, managers, and clients” and “how to promote team atmosphere among virtual office workers”.
So, what’s the verdict?
Looking at the advantages and disadvantages, you must now be clear about what you can expect from a virtual office. However, it all boils down to the needs of the company.
If you are looking to save money by not purchasing a physical office and doing it all virtually, this is the best option. Not only small businesses, but global corporations are also using this method as a cheap alternative and benefitting immensely from it.
When it comes to the disadvantages, they are very few and can be easily overcome with the right planning. It is all now up to you, whether your business really needs that physical space and if virtual office would be the right option for the future of your business.
Measures for Making Virtual Office Effective
Here is a list of some important steps to take in order to effectively manage a virtual office:
1. Providing Computer Resources
A large part of a virtual office is technology. Therefore companies need to invest in computer resources and other such technological equipment that will facilitate the workspace to function efficiently.
Moreover, it is important to make sure that these are commensurate with the needs of different employees.
2. Providing Access to Information
Making the right information available to the right person is extremely necessary. Easy access to information is a prerequisite of any virtual office.
Employees in these kinds of workplaces function best with an information-oriented approach to things and it helps any operation become successful.
3. Arrangement for Forwarding Phone Calls
Although you have a virtual office where the team remains connected all the time, it doesn’t mean that you don’t really need a physical office.
You should have a fixed office where certain tasks can be carried out that cannot be done virtually. It even helps in assisting the virtual office in cases like forwarding phone calls to certain employees.
If possible, the enterprise should also take steps where the telecommuters can access a certain voice messaging system from the place where they are working.
4. Arranging Conference Calls
Arranging conference calls is very important when it comes to virtual offices because this is how the team stays connected and ideas and thoughts are shared.
It could either be telephonic or through a video. It helps a lot in making employees feel connected and have a sense of responsibility and belongingness.
Not only that, certain problems or hurdles are better solved in a group. Therefore the organization should make sure to schedule conference calls at regular intervals.
5. Arranging Regular Meetings:
Although the sole idea of a virtual office is to allow people to work without having to go to offices, arranging timely physical meetings is important.
Even if the project can be executed without having to meet in person, these meet-ups could help fellow workers connect to each other and build a strong community where everyone feels like they belong to the team.
Therefore take measures to organize such formal or informal meetups and make even telecommuters join them.
6. Follow-up of Work Routine
Companies should encourage remote workers or telecommuters to follow a personal work routine. Not only does this allow them to be more productive but they will be less distracted during work.
People would understand that they ought not to disturb them as it is their working hour.
7. Objective Evaluation of Work Performance:
Since telecommuters do not show up at work every day, organizations should take steps to design objective criteria that measure their performance at work.
This evaluation should be done quantitatively in order to be more precise about the amount of work done. In cases where the performance cannot be measured in terms of quantity, they can be qualified.
Each qualification criteria should be defined appropriately. These evaluating criteria should then be discussed with the telecommuters so that there is no confusion from both ends regarding what is expected to be done.
This also enables a certain form of discipline even if they are not at the office which is important both for the employee and the employer.
The idea of setting up a virtual office immediately crosses out all the worries that come with purchasing and furnishing a premium office.
This amazing idea is a boon especially for small to medium-sized businesses where saving money is an important thing to do. Moreover, you enjoy amazing benefits like having a professional business address, GST registration, reception courtesies, courier services, and many more.