The virtual office of present is a far cry from the place where business was done just five years ago. While front-running conferencing tools like Skype are still used, there are far more tools available to run a business virtually, and those tools are far more reliable than the ten-ish second lag time that used to exist when attempting a conference call from across the world.
Virtual offices are growing in popularity, and when popularity rises, innovation continues to push forward and make things better and better for users. The next five years and beyond is looking more positive than ever when it comes to how a vide is constructed and how it will be run moving forward.
Our friends at VirtualHeadquarters.com.au shares the trends in virtual HQ that every business owner needs to be aware of.
What exactly is a virtual office?
A virtual office is currently, in most cases, a real world office that’s rented to “virtual tenants” who’ll rarely if ever use the physical facilities. Real world use is often offered in a limited capacity (Eg., once or twice monthly for free, and for an additional fee if needed beyond that). In most cases, businesses use a virtual office space to register their business to an official address, receive official business mail, and hold occasional meetings.
Several growing businesses and corporations use virtual offices to set up a business entity in a set location or locations, without incurring the high costs of leasing or buying an expensive office space, purchasing all the amenities such as furniture and supplies needed, and paying employees to fill seats.
In most cases, a virtual office will provide the following:
- An official business address you can use to register the business, receive government and customer mail, and list on marketing materials.
- A virtual receptionist available to take and forward calls, take messages, provide support (in some cases), and receive visitors at the physical office location.
- After hours answering services to take messages or forward calls to you and your employees.
- Access to virtual conferencing tools are often offered, but with competitors like Google and Microsoft, along with more advanced conferencing tools offered by SalesForce, etc., this is rarely a selling point for using one virtual office provider over another.
- In many cases, physical access to facilities such as office space, casual and executive meeting rooms, lounges, and the use of office essentials such as WiFi, printers, faxes, etc.
- In more advanced virtual office services, access to call center staff, virtual assistants, online freelance specialists and much more are also offered.
The Future: Virtual reality comes to the virtual office!
Visualize a scene in the not-too-distant future where you’re actually sitting across a conference table from your coworker who lives and works thousands of miles away in another distant country. This scenario isn’t referring to the type of video chat the majority of the business world now does, such as through Skype, Facebook, or Google Chat.
Virtual glassware eliminates distance woes
Rather, you would place a pair of virtual or augmented reality glasses, such as the popular HTC Vive or Oculus Rift on and everyone is kind of, but not actually sitting in the same room talking and working together. People all over the world are using these expensive headsets to play games and businesses are (slowly) beginning to take advantage of the ability to sit in the same room, not literally, but virtually.
The fact is, virtual reality is fast closing the gaps in business where distance is concerned. Far less business travel will be necessary, which will ideally either increase productivity to a level never yet experienced and/or increase work/life balance.
Virtual brainstorming to go to another level
It’s one thing to have everyone in the same space together, being able to see one another and talk work-related matters. It’s another thing to bring other essential virtual tools into the office framework. Imagine a virtual whiteboard where everyone involved in a meeting can scribble notes that everyone else can see, agree with or Vito (erase/change)? The ability to cut/paste, expand and eliminate will be accomplished with the same ease enjoyed when handling notifications and open programs on your smartphone.
Then there’s other design elements that can be incorporated into the virtual office of the future, such as a 3D design mockup in the middle of a virtual table everyone can look at, offer suggestions, make additions/corrections — etcetera — with split-second timing. Engineers and designers in all industries will enjoy the ability to collaborate on a level never before experienced. Again, while initial costs of integrating software and hardware into the virtual office will be initially high; the costs saved on travel and other lost time scenarios will offer companies untold cost savings as these and other virtual office tools are implemented.
Virtual doesn’t have to equal complete separation from the team
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that as the scope of a virtual office expands, we’ll all eventually end up in a virtual world where human connection ceases to exist. We should all strive to make sure this never takes place. Physical connection is important, and there’s tons of science to back this reality up.
The “reality” of virtual reality is that the ability to set up an office in cyberspace simply means key players on a team won’t need to be in the same physical space at all times. Virtual office technology will also quickly make a move into physical office spaces, and in fact, it already has. Collaboration tools designed to streamline communication, sales, accounting, and more already exist.
As technology like virtual and augmented reality move forward and improve, the entire concept of a virtual office will be changed forever. Barring a world-shifting event such as that which ended the reign of the dinosaur, technology will continue changing the way we work and do business.
Where is virtual office technology heading in five years? Nobody really knows the extent, but we do know that the tools developed between then and now will most certainly have a positive impact on productivity and innovation.