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The Pros and Cons of Virtual Offices

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

The trend of virtual offices is starting to gain momentum. However, as every single product out there, even virtual offices have advantages and disadvantages.

  • Virtual offices are an affordable alternative to a traditional office building for online businesses who may not need a physical location
  • Working remotely gives employees more freedom to work how they want, while still providing a framework for success
  • Virtual offices are not for everyone and do present some management challenges if your business is not entirely online. 

With recent developments relating to the novel coronavirus, more businesses have had to shut their doors and send employees home to work.

So what are virtual offices? And is there a definite verdict when it comes to virtual offices? Whether you think it's a great idea or a bad one, this article will help answer some tough questions you are probably asking right now.

The pros of virtual offices

First of all, let's take a look at the pros.

Lower  overhead

Virtual offices allow businesses to significantly lower their overhead and allocate funds to other areas that may require stimulation.

With prices well below those of brick-and-mortar offices (as is evident from the experiences of many entrepreneurs, thousands of dollars can be easily saved by replacing regular office space with virtual offices). They represent the ideal option for companies that are trying to make their presence felt in quite a few places at the same time.

Less management needed

The second greatest advantage of virtual offices is the lack of management needed. Regular offices have to be managed on a regular basis; a virtual office needs little management, simply the right tools for everyone involved.

Employees also have greater flexibility to develop their workflow and productivity habits, which can lead to increased creativity and innovation.

white paper published by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology found that in a survey of telecommuters, participants said that working remotely significantly increased job satisfaction and relationships with supervisors, and significantly lowered work-related stress. 

This is because virtual offices give employees the freedom to manage themselves, which can have major benefits if you have the right team.

Less opportunity for office conflict

Even the most amicable offices have their issues. It's difficult to gather a group of people with differing personalities and not experience some conflicts or disagreements. Virtual offices allow companies to continue to be productive without creating an environment where personalities may clash. And communication doesn't suffer – teams can always be brought together via messaging or video conferencing apps when a question or issue comes up that requires communication with the whole team.

The cons of virtual offices

Lack of physical space

There are plenty of pros when it comes to virtual offices. But what are the cons? There surely have to be some, right? Well, there are, indeed, some downsides to virtual offices.

The lack of physical space is naturally the most important one, and it is something that business owners have to include in their business plan. If space is something that will be needed later on, virtual offices might not be worth the upfront cost savings.

Although increasingly less necessary in today's digital world, many businesses are not sustainable without a physical space. If you're in a client-services business, having a physical location communicates a sense of permanence and professionalism that is hard to attain with a virtual office.

The nature of your business will largely determine if a virtual office is right for you. The future of work will most likely feature a hybrid of both virtual and in-person communication, and as a business owner, you'll have to decide where you land on that spectrum.

Less community

Although remote work has its obvious benefits, diminished contact with co-workers can lead to isolation within a company. Face-to-face contact builds a sense of companionship and trust that is hard to replicate in a virtual office.

Team-building exercises, office parties and after-work social gatherings may seem unnecessary if your entire office works remotely. However, these activities can be great morale boosters and help build a sense of community within the workplace.

As a business owner, you can always decide to promote a culture of connectivity and interpersonal relationships, even if you opt for a virtual office. Scheduling the occasional in-person meeting or community gathering can be a good way to harness the benefits of a virtual office without sacrificing human connection.

Potential for decreased productivity

Although a virtual office may boost worker productivity, there is the potential for slacking. Many employees need the structure and discipline that a physical office provides to do their best work.

Communications may suffer if team members are emailing each other back and forth rather than having a direct conversation. If clear, actionable goals are not set and recorded it can be hard to tell if everything is running smoothly, or if employees are cutting corners because they don't have a supervisor looking over their shoulders.

Every employee is different, and while one may benefit from telecommuting, another may suffer. As a business leader, you have to determine what is best for your team.

So, what's the verdict?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the specific needs of your business. If you are looking for a cheap alternative to regular office space and don't need additional physical space, virtual offices might be exactly what you are looking for.

It is easy to survey the current business landscape and see that, and there is no reason why your own business venture couldn't benefit as well from a remote workforce.

Consider what your business needs and how it will operate to determine whether this is the best option for you.

Image Credit: kerkez / Getty Images
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