The virtual office is a very popular business workflow model. Many startups and small businesses find this an opportunity to grow and prosper. As the name implies, a virtual office is an office that is not physically present. It is a workspace that can be used on an as-per-need basis. This model is best suited for remote working. It includes software and apps for team collaboration, project management, and data storage.
You don’t have to go to the office daily, instead, you can work from anywhere in the world. But, your clients will think you are located in an office nearby. You can now hire a talent pool from around the world. A virtual office is a shared workspace that offers many features to run your online business seamlessly.
A virtual office is very easy to rent and use. It is an online subscription service that can start with just a few clicks. Similarly, it can end with a few clicks as well. It is very easy to use and when you want to quit, you can do that easily without any prior notice. This feature can help you with the scalability of your business. You can easily and cheaply open new branches in new areas.
What are the features of a virtual office?
Different virtual office services offer different features. Some offer extended facilities to support their clients. However, some standard features define a virtual office. These are provided by almost all virtual office services. They are listed as:
- A legal business address of a prime business location.
- Call handling facility.
- Mail forwarding facility.
- On-demand conference and meeting room access.
- Office facilities like phone, internet, printer, copier, scanner, video calling, conference calls, etc.
- Amenities like cafeteria, waiting areas, kitchenette, restrooms, etc.
Why use a virtual office?
The first and foremost reason is the overhead cost. Renting and maintaining a physical office will take a big chunk out of your budget. You will have to cut in on important operational costs. This can adversely affect your business. The virtual office helps you with that. You can cut your overhead expenses by paying a minimal amount to rent a virtual office. Since this service is maintained by a third-party provider, you don’t have to pay for the utilities or any other expenses.
Some of the key benefits of using this service are:
- You or your employees don’t have to commute to the physical office. So it saves time and travel expenses.
- The employees work at the time that suits them. That is the reason they are more relaxed. This increases productivity.
- Since you are working remotely, you get access to the global talent pool. You can hire the best experts for your business from around the world.
- You can save overhead expenses. You can also save on technology and other office services.
- A virtual office gives you flexibility, not in just your service package and payment but also your working hours as well. This means your employees will take fewer vacations.
What are the legal and ethical obligations of using the virtual office?
Your virtual office will provide you with a legitimate physical office address. This address can be used on your marketing material and business cards. Other than that all the legal issues regarding the building are handled by the service provider. Registering the service is his responsibility as well.
There are a lot of misconceptions about whether it is legal to use a virtual office service. The other issue that comes to mind is how to handle taxation. Let us handle one issue at a time.
Is it legal to use a virtual office?
Many questions have been revolving around the virtual office right from the start. Its popularity has made these questions more persistent. Some people use their home address as a virtual office address. Most of these are located in non-business zones. Although it is legal to use a virtual office, select the one in a business zone.
There are certain businesses that you cannot run from home. You might need certain permits and licenses for operations. There are certain restrictions in some areas regarding the kind of business you can run if you can run any. Make sure to seek it all out before starting.
Since the businesses run through the virtual office service are usually small, they might not be registered. Many illegal businesses started to use this in their favor. This has also affected the reputation of the service itself. It is the responsibility of the service provider to ensure no such business is involved in using his service. As a subscriber, do a bit of research to know the reputation of the provider and listed users before subscribing. It is better to avoid any scandal that can harm your business in any way.
It is better to find a service that is located in a legitimate business zone. Also, make sure to check the registration of the service provider before subscribing.
Taxation and other regulations:
There is confusion and questions regarding taxation in the case of virtual offices. Most of the tax regulations are formulated for businesses in physical locations. But the recent popularity of virtual offices has raised many fingers in this direction. You should consult tax accountants or attorneys regarding your tax-related issues. You need to consider issues like provision of competent services, protection of confidences, adequate client communication, candor about practice, locational asset-related deductions, etc. before starting a virtual office.
The use of virtual offices is likely to increase due to many reasons. The advancement of technology is supporting this business workflow model. But before being a part of a virtual office, settling legal and ethical issues related to it is very important. These issues need to be clarified and dealt with beforehand.