Want to unlock the secrets of successful virtual office management?
Perhaps you’ve heard about the benefits of a virtual office but don’t know where to begin.
Or maybe you’ve had to turn to virtual work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Either way, we have some tips that could help you set up a virtual office in no time.
In this article, we’ll cover what a virtual office space is, and how a virtual office can benefit your company. We’ll also highlight 4 tips for successful virtual office management.
This Article Contains:
(click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- What is a Virtual Office Space?
- What are the Benefits of a Virtual Office?
- 4 Practical Tips for Successful Virtual Office Management
Let’s get started.
What is a Virtual Office Space?
A virtual office provides most of the things a physical office does but in a virtual space.
In a physical office, your employees can access the tools needed to do their jobs, collaborate with each other, and meet clients if necessary. A virtual office space provides all these but flexibly and affordably.
You also have virtual office service companies that provide systems for your employees to work from anywhere. These solutions include phone numbers, voice mail, a business address, and video conferencing.
Since services are paid monthly, they’re relatively inexpensive compared to a physical office space.
Start-ups, SMBs, and growing companies can keep their overhead costs low while accessing a wider reach of talent and services by switching to a virtual office.
A virtual office service can also help if your business was negatively impacted by the economy’s downturn by keeping operational costs low.
What are the Benefits of a Virtual Office
Here’s a closer look into the key benefits of a virtual office.
One of the ways a virtual office can benefit your business is through cost-saving. You can save on the start-up costs associated with physical office premises.
A physical office involves many expenses and long term agreements. For example, you’ll need to lease office space and outlay capital to purchase physical office equipment.
So how does a virtual office help?
A virtual office saves costs associated with furnishing an office and purchasing equipment. It also saves capital on the day-to-day running of physical office space.
Additionally, management and staff save time and money on commuting by not regularly traveling to the office. .
2. Simple to Set Up
Remote work requires less equipment than office bound work as long as you have a laptop and internet access. Remote employees can carry their laptops around, allowing them to work on the move.
However, you’ll need to choose the right virtual office software for your company based on your industry and workflow needs.
3. Lower Start-up Risk
By switching to a virtual office, you can start operating with more ease and fewer risks than a company with an office space.
Instead of approaching a bank for a loan or an investor for capital to acquire expensive office space and equip it, you can start operating immediately.
This way, you avoid debt, which puts your company in a position to focus on operations and expansion. All the capital that comes into the business can be put back into growth operations rather than paying back start-up loans and investor dividends.
Moreover, if you opt for a virtual office space, there is less risk if the business suffers losses down the road. A virtual company can quickly and easily adjust or cease operations that are unprofitable.
4. Greater Flexibility
Being able to determine when and where you work is a serious game-changer for staff and management.
Not being bound to an office saves on travel time to and from work. This means more time to focus on other activities that contribute to the growth of the business, like sales and marketing.
More flexibility can also result in a greater work life balance, so your employees are happier and more productive.
5. Easy Scalability
Virtual office space allows a business owner to scale operations without physically moving to a larger, more expensive office. This is a stress-free way to grow because the physical office space is not a limiting factor.
You can expand your presence in new locations and even have multiple operations nationally and internationally without renting an office or having to acquire actual real estate.
As a virtual employer, you can also up your talent acquisition game because not committing to a single office location gives you the flexibility to source talent from anywhere.
4 Practical Tips for Successful Virtual Office Management?
Here are 4 no-nonsense tips for successful virtual office management:
1. Set Up Effective Processes
When setting up a virtual office, focus on four key areas:
A. Virtual Office Administration/ Office Management
A virtual office manager (like a receptionist) can help ease the administrative burden on a business owner, especially as the business expands.
While administrative tasks are some of the most time-consuming for any business, it can be easily handled by a virtual office manager or virtual office software. For example, you can hire a virtual receptionist for inbound call management.
Having a virtual office manager or receptionist is a cost-effective way to enhance your customer service.
A virtual receptionist can be a remote member of your staff or part of an outsourced service and can still provide a sense of professionalism to customers on behalf of the brand.
Another time-intensive task is tracking employee attendance and time management.
Productivity management tools like Time Doctor helps employees and managers keep track of their work, giving you detailed insights into productivity automatically. This way, you won’t have to do any manual work!
B. Virtual Sales, Marketing and Social Media Management
For a company that functions exclusively online, your social media management is especially important.
Whether you have one salesperson or an entire marketing team, they can function remotely — giving them the time and space to focus on marketing campaigns that help with business acquisition and retention.
If you don’t want to hire a social media manager, there are software programs such as Buffer and Hootsuite which put all your company’s social media tasks in one place — making it more cohesive and easier to handle.
C. Virtual Bookkeeping
Within a virtual office environment, engaging a virtual accounting and finance team will save you both time and money. Instead of hiring an entire department to handle your bookkeeping, this function can be easily outsourced.
Additionally, tools like Time Doctor make it easier to handle tracking time and managing payroll related to virtual work. This makes bookkeeping as you can keep track of your staff who get paid per project or work on an hourly basis — simplifying the payroll process.
D. Communication Processes and Software
Naturally, when none of your team members work from a physical office environment, effective communication is crucial.
Communication tools such as telecommunications and messaging services (Slack) are good options if you don’t want to hire a dedicated receptionist.
You could also consider engaging in a virtual office service. Such companies provide you with a business address, telephone answering services, and even virtual meeting rooms if necessary.
You can even schedule appointments, direct incoming inquiries, and voice mail — helping you cover all fronts.
2. Hire the Right Team and Equip Them with the Right Tools
Getting the right virtual employees on board can make or break a remote organization.
Ensure those responsible for recruitment and human resource management understand the type of employees required for a virtual company.
So when deciding on whether to hire remote staff or outsource a job to a service provider, ask yourself questions like:
- “Do I need an office manager to ensure the smooth running of the business as I would normally hire in a traditional office?”
- “Who will handle the human resource and payroll needs of the company?”
- “Should I hire an in-house person like a virtual assistant who understands the company’s vision to handle social media posts, or is outsourcing this a good idea?”
A virtual employee will need discipline and a high level of intrinsic motivation to work from home (also known as telecommuting.) You will need to trust your team to deliver the high quality of work needed within the required timelines.
That’s why it’s worth spending more time making sure you have the right team in place so you can ensure the productivity and success of your virtual company.
But what traits make a successful virtual worker?
- The ability to prioritize and focus on the right tasks at the right time.
- A tendency towards action rather than one who requires constant supervision to ensure productivity.
- Good written communication skills because most or all communication will be done via email, instant messaging, and team chat rooms.
- A support system outside their virtual office environment.
Your team will require functional laptops and an internet connection. Your virtual organization will also require cloud storage and digital systems for instant messaging, video conferencing, telephone answering, office management tools, and so on.
3. Focus on Communication
Remember, communication is more important in a virtual environment than in a physical office space.
In a survey conducted by Buffer in November 2019, poor communication within the company was one of the main concerns of remote workers.
In a virtual environment, the manager responsible should communicate with the virtual worker often, maybe even more so than they would in a traditional office. This will help build the relationship and trust.
It’s important that telecommuters and all members of the team have access to the collaboration tools required to work well together.
While email is the most common form of communication in a virtual office space, video conferencing and other resources can also connect your team virtually. You can avoid the misinterpretation of emails by using instant messaging apps and video calling apps like Skype and Zoom.
4. Ensure a Great Work Culture
Ensuring an excellent virtual work culture is to your company’s productivity.
Here’s how to do it:
A. Assign Clear Responsibilities
In a virtual office, each employee is responsible for themselves and things can get confusing. Without being in the next office or cubicle, it’s important that the concept of teamwork among co-workers isn’t lost.
Office workers identify a lack of clear responsibilities as a workplace stressor and even more so in a virtual office. So start with the details, making sure any communication issues are ironed out at the beginning.
Management must take the lead when it comes to the finer details of the work processes and give every employee detailed instructions at the start, like how to use certain tools, to avoid confusion.
Encourage the team to ask questions before beginning tasks. This way, everyone in the organization understands the plan and is working towards a common goal.
B. Implement Virtual Office Hours
With remote workers, there is the inevitable temptation to work overtime and exhaustively.
That’s why it’s best to implement set office hours for full-time team members. Employee productivity tools like Time Doctor can help by ensuring that no one is working more or less than they should — resulting in a well-balanced work life.
And when you have a good work-life balance, you have higher job satisfaction. Happier remote employees are not only productive, but they are also likely to stay with the company longer.
C. Build Team Bonding
In a traditional work environment, the management or business owner has a lot to do with the overall culture of the office. Since virtual employees are not office bound, you’ll need to put in a more concerted effort to do the same.
In a survey conducted by Slack in 2020, 45% of new remote workers said they felt a lack of belonging. This hampers collaboration and slows the communication process, reducing productivity.
However, with a remote team, building bonds is more of a challenge than in a traditional office where people easily develop friendships because they spend so much time together.
So how can you solve this problem?
Conduct virtual team building activities to bring isolated virtual employees into the fold and facilitate team work, even without physical coworking spaces.
Virtual games can help create that camaraderie and support system that remote workers often lack. Games like Virtual Bingo and Remote Office Trivia are just some ways to get employees to “come together” without actually being in the same space.
A virtual office certainly has its perks, but there are also some challenges that you need to overcome.
Focus on implementing the right strategies from the start, engaging the right team, and ensuring they are well equipped for remote work.
While it does take some planning and practice, once you have all the ingredients in place, managing and growing your online business in a virtual workspace will be a breeze!
Liam Martin is the co-founder of Time Doctor—one of the world’s leading time tracking software for remote teams. He is also the co-organizer of Running Remote, the world’s largest remote work conference.