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Let’s face it, in a post-pandemic world, the traditional office is in danger. Commuting hours to work just to go sit at a desk with, relatively speaking, a bunch of other strangers breathing the same air no longer sounds like a desirable thing to do (sorry extroverts). Especially with the digital age in which most of our work is done through files stored in the cloud and communicating via digital means, the traditional office no longer seems cost-effective or intuitive.

That is not to say that the idea of the office should be done away with. In fact, the office will remain the foundation on which good business is built. The way it looks, however, is bound to change.

This is where virtual offices come in. A virtual office is an ‘office space’ that is rented out and gives business owners almost all of the benefits of a commercial property but with much lower overhead costs. There are many advantages and a few disadvantages in deciding to use a virtual office, which will be considered below:

Advantage: Cost-saving

One of the most expensive parts of owning a business has traditionally been the leasing of commercial property which has a tremendous effect on overhead expenditure. By having a virtual office, you save on those overhead costs – with most basic virtual office packages going for less than R1 000 p/month. Considering that renting commercial property roomy enough for all your employees will often be a 5-figure number, this advantage makes it an ideal option for start-ups and businesses looking to cut costs.

Disadvantage: Difficulty integrating into the company culture 

One of the main benefits of the traditional office is that it is easy to build a strong company culture where new employees meet their co-workers and can form stronger relationships. Unfortunately, when it comes to a virtual office, especially if it does not include physical desk space, socialising and team-building may take more effort (although it is by no means unattainable).

Advantage: Professional business address  

One of the most important parts of running a business is having a physical location and it is a legal requirement for incorporating a company. While it may be possible to use one’s home address, a physical address in a city centre will evoke a much higher trust in prospective clients and it comes at a fraction of the cost.

Advantage: Phone & mail services 

Most, if not all, modern virtual offices provide phone and mail services where you are provided with a reliable number where calls can be taken with your company name (and even forwarded to you no matter where you are). These services often also include the receiving of mail and parcels, making it a cost-effective way to handle formal communication.

Disadvantage: Home distractions 

With a virtual office, it means that most of your employees will probably be working from home, which means that there is little to no formal structure for remote workers. But while there may be more distractions at home, there are many studies that have surprisingly proven that remote work leads to overall increase in productivity, rather than a slump.

Advantage: Flexibility and remote work 

Healthier workers produce better work, and the fact is that remote work cuts out the costs and time necessary to commute in and out of the office every day and puts time back in the hands of the employee. When employees are able to work from anywhere, it can drastically increase their mood and aid productivity.

Disadvantage (but surmountable)Lack of physical assets 

When it comes to the remote office, some key aspects are often found lacking, such as furnishings and physical assets like printers and boardrooms for meetings. This means that there may be a greater onus on the employee to secure the right environment and tools to do their work to the best of their ability. However, many virtual offices do provide co-working spaces or semi-private desks with separate boardrooms that add to your facility – and can be rented out accordingly. So those workers who need to be at a physical location can still have all the tools available, while the rest can work remotely. Many of these virtual offices are kitted with exceptional Wi-Fi facilities and even printers.

To see if a remote office will work for you and whether it is the right move for your business, feel free to contact your financial adviser or lawyer who will be able to detail the more complex issues (if any) in a move to a virtual office.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)