Virtual office

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A virtual office is a combination of off-site live communication and address services that allow users to reduce traditional office costs while maintaining business professionalism.[1] Frequently the term is confused with “office business centers” or “executive suites” which demand a conventional lease whereas a true virtual office does not require that expense.[2]


[edit] History

The virtual office idea came[3] from the convergence of technological innovation and the Information Age. The concept has roots in the Industrial Revolution, where parallels to current work styles, specifically working from home, have been drawn. The term was first used in a 1983 airline in-flight magazine article about portable computing.[4] The virtual office concept is an evolution of the executive suites industry. However, the inflexibility of an executive suite lease doesn’t work for many business models and helped spur the virtual office concept.[5] The first commercial application of a virtual office occurred in 1994, when Ralph Gregory founded “The Virtual Office, Inc”[6], in Boulder, Colorado. This company expanded throughout North America and is now known as "Intelligent Office”..

[edit] Services

The term “virtual office” implies space utilization, but a full application includes professional live communications.[7]

  1. Communications services
    1. Remote Receptionist – A team of workers in an office environment working remotely, using high-tech Computer Telephone Integration software, to replace a traditional receptionist.
    2. Virtual Assistant – A virtual assistant is often a “lone eagle” working from home, who rarely meets their clients face-to-face.[8] A virtual assistant typically has no access to CTI Software.[9] Rates run $25 an hour and up.[10]
    3. Answering services/call centers operate from a centralized location for the purpose of receiving and transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. Users lament problems of security,[11] impersonal staff[12] with high turnover, language barriers, translation errors and a less-than-professional image.[13] When selecting an answering service, look for one based in your own country so that there are no language barriers.
    4. Voicemail is a low-cost technology that stores voice messages electronically. In customer service applications, voicemail has limitations.[14] Used for customer service, voicemail has become synonymous with frustration.[15] The complaints are legion and have inspired spoofs[16] on the voicemail experience. Studies also show that up to 75% of callers simply hang up when their call is answered by a machine.
    5. Virtual Office Space – Virtual office gives you a chance to own a high profile reputed address in a city of your choice, at a fraction of the buying or renting cost of such an address.
    6. Phone Answering Service – Virtual office phone answering service bridging the gap between you and your numerous clients.
  2. Space services
    1. Professional address – A prestigious building to be used as the business address.[17] A professional address alleviates the privacy and personal security concerns of running a home-based business.[18] A user can expand into new markets by utilizing a provider with multiple locations to establish a professional presence in the desired growth markets.
    2. Mailing address – The professional address can be used for accepting, sending and forwarding mail without the connotations of a PO Box. Under US law, a PO Box is to be clearly indicated and so not conducive for most corporate entities in this regard. Some VO providers offer 24/7 access to individually assigned and locked mailboxes. This allows the staff of a VO user to have a centralized location as a convenient vehicle for the secure transfer of paper documents 24/7. A mail-only provider may be subject to USPS CMRA regulations.[19]
    3. Reception CourtesiesReceptionists at the business address can receive and sign for incoming overnights, deliveries, packages and provide document drop-off/pick-up services.[20] On-site witnesses and notaries may be available, depending on the provider.
    4. Business Meeting Space – The on-demand use (hourly, daily or weekly) of conference rooms and offices for meetings. Meeting space can often be rented at short notice.[21]
    5. Casual Workspace – As an alternative to the distractions of co-working or the interruptions of a home office, office space is available on an occasional or “drop-in” basis, either hourly, daily or monthly.
    6. Executive suite – A small percentage of VO users lease space full-time time.[22]
    7. On-site amenities – A full-service virtual office will provide broadband Internet, fax-copier-printer, advanced phone features, conference calling, video conferencing, kitchenette and a business-worthy lobby/waiting area.
    8. Virtual Office Solution – Virtual office Solution gives duel advantages in whichever city you need and a reputed business address which would marginalize the gap created by established brand value.
    9. Live Virtual Receptionist – A virtual answering service is an automated system with a live virtual receptionist. These kind of services can be enjoyed without purchasing expensive equipments.

[edit] Users

A virtual office blends home and work to gain efficiencies in both.[23] Office expenses are low, while the user’s professionalism retains the image of a traditional, high-cost office.[24] A virtual office user can reduce their environmental impact, as well as the personal negatives of a daily commute.[25] Virtual office clientele have the flexibility to match expenses with revenue fluctuations immediately, as the costs are usually variable.[26] A virtual office can allow for low-cost expansion with no long-term commitments.[27] Users taking advantage of virtual office receptionists eliminate the traditional burden of health care, records, payroll, insurance & rent. Also, traditional time-off (sick days, vacations, personal leaves, etc.…) does not apply to a virtual staff.[28]

Common Virtual Office Users:

  1. Home-based entrepreneurs
  2. Accountants
  3. Attorneys
  4. Law Firms
  5. Mobile salespeople
  6. Trades (Home service industry: roofers, electrical, plumb, landscape, construction, repair/remodel, etc.)
  7. Doctors/Dentists
  8. Therapists
  9. Business consultants
  10. Mediators/conflict resolution
  11. Frequent travelers/foreign companies
  12. Chambers of Commerce
  13. Senior management
  14. Real estate
  15. mortgage companies
  16. Stock brokers/financial planners
  17. Collections agencies
  18. Networking groups
  19. Trainers/instructors
  20. Incubators

[edit] Economy

Virtual offices are experiencing growth even in a recessionary economy,[29] and not just in the United States.[30] As businesses look to trim expenses, virtual office services help reduce overhead while keeping professionalism high.[31] For example, by paying for space and communication infrastructure on an as-needed basis, businesses can keep office expenses to a minimum.[32] The portability of today’s technology also allows for a more flexible work environment.[33] As businesses trend to a more “online” workplace, the notion of paying for space full-time becomes anachronistic.[34] Traditional receptionists making $12–14/hour[35] can be replaced with remote receptionist services at a fraction of the traditional cost.[36] Some Virtual Office companies or Telephone Answering companies offer a Franchise system, enabling entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace for a fraction of the usual set up costs and with the added bonus of leads being fed to them.

[edit] References

  1. ^ BNET Business Directory.
  2. ^ Stewart, James J. ‘’Home Offices, the New Math’’. Business Week.
  3. ^ ’’It’syou’re your Father’s Office Anymore’’.
  4. ^ Kern, Chris. "My Word". http://www.ChrisKern.Net/history/myWord.html. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  5. ^ MacDonald, Peter; “Future Office ‘Virtually’ Here”. BCBR May 1996, Vol. 15, Issue #5
  6. ^ Business Plus. “Virtual Office helps soothe headaches for entrepreneurs”. Daily Camera. 1/17/1995
  7. ^ ’’The Virtual Office: The Gateway to Growth.
  8. ^ Bowman, Karen. “Virtual Assistance: A Global Economy, A Local Business”.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Starks, Misty. “Helping Entrepreneurs, Virtually”. 2006-07/08.
  11. ^ Goodchild, Joan. “Seven Deadly Sins of Home Office Security”. 2009-06-22.
  12. ^ Philips, Matthew. “Dial 9 to Speak with an Imbecile”. 2009-04-06.
  13. ^ “The Pros and Cons of Using an Answering Service”. 2006-09-13.
  14. ^ Keough, John. “Hang Ups on Voicemail”. Industrial Distribution. 1998-11-01.
  15. ^ Yellin, Emily. “Your Call is (not that) Important to Us”.
  16. ^ “Voicemail Hell”. Youmail. 2006-06-14.
  17. ^ Spencer, John. “Virtual Offices, the Perfect Solution…”. MWB Business Exchange.
  18. ^ Rao, Vishal. “Home-Based Business Safety”. 2006.
  19. ^ “Delivery to CMRA”. United States Postal Service. 2009.
  20. ^ “Four Major Responsibilities of a Receptionist”. Google Answers. 2002-08-29.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ ’’The End of Work as We Know it’’. Penelope Trunk. 12/12/07
  24. ^ ’’Why Rent’’. Business Know How.
  25. ^ Weiss, Eric. ‘’Your Car’’. 4/9/07
  26. ^ ’’Rolling Out the Instant Office’’. Business Week. 5/7/07.
  27. ^ Elder, John. ‘’Building a Virtual Corporation’’. 2/4/07
  28. ^ ’’Traditional Employees vs. Virtual Staff.
  29. ^ Mitra, Sramana. ‘’Wall Street vs. Virtual Street’’. Forbes.
  30. ^ 8/21/09.
  31. ^ ’’Intelligent Office Turning Heads. Boulder Daily Camera.
  32. ^ ’’Virtual Offices vs. Home-Based Employees’’. HSBC.
  33. ^ ”Office On-Demand Helps Downsizing Professionals”. Long Island Business News, Roger Kahn.
  34. ^ ’’Work, Entrepreneurship and Opportunity in the 21st Century’’. U.S. Chamber. 05/06.
  35. ^ ’’Average Receptionist Salary’’. 04/09.
  36. ^ Jaramillo, Noreen. ‘’Intelligent Office Saves Businesses Money’’. KFOX14. 2007.
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