A virtual office is a working environment that has all the essential equipment. Any office, real or virtual, needs a computer, a telephone, and in most cases, the internet. Almost every new business starts as a virtual office because every home has the essential tools, whether it is a sole proprietor working for themselves or a small group that spread across the country and the world.
Because a virtual office requires no physical space, it is cheaper than a traditional office due to the lack of overhead. Gone are the costs of renting or buying a building, maintaining it and providing furniture and services for on-site employees and customers. Communications bills can be equal or higher for the virtual company. The increased cost comes in the form of increased cell phone usage and long-distance costs.
With the higher communication costs, the lack of face to face meetings also becomes a challenge. A physical office’s key benefit is meeting with one another and having quick meetings and brainstorming sessions. The challenge is to recreate the efficiency of the boardroom meeting room.
There are many tools to help teams collaborate and share ideas. For example, teams can use Cisco Webex for web conferencing, Google Docs to share calendars, email servers, and Skype to speak to one another; DropBox makes it easy to share files between one another; instant messaging allows for quick questions and answers.
Nothing has replaced the handset with the tools mentioned. As helpful they are, the key decision-makers and stakeholders in any project still rely on a telephone conversation. Herein lies the increased cost of communications. This leads to the question I posed on another blog, what phone number are you marketing to your customers and suppliers?
The last essential tool that every virtual office needs to add is a business telephone system that enables unified communications—one number of collaborating, sharing ideas, and staying in contact with clients.
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