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The benefits of a virtual office

The benefits of a virtual officeWe live in an increasingly technological world but as SMEs we also need to watch our cash flow more than ever. There are a whole range of options out there to make your office work from virtually anywhere.

The virtual office is concept being banded about more than ever in these uncertain times and for SMEs, the concept certainly seems to make sense. You might not have the money to lease the CBD office with the right postcode, but you can still have it. You can also get yourself a receptionist, a personal assistant or a swanky meeting room, all without them actually being yours. But nobody else needs to know that.

Companies like Regus and Servcorp can manage your mail and calls and gain access to offices and meeting rooms as and when you need them. You can choose from prestigious office addresses across Australia and the globe without having to come up with the rents they demand or commit to a long lease. The services available range from mail handling and phone answering through to shared office, meeting room and business lounge hours. For the start-up trying to make a better impression by not using their home address or a PO Box number, to the medium-sized business whose staff are mostly out on the road, there are solutions which can benefit everyone.

Not only is it convenient, scalable and much cheaper and more flexible than a full-time, ‘real’ office, the good impression that Martin Place or Collins Street address makes shouldn’t be underestimated.

Work from anywhere

However if you do still want to work from home, or anywhere else that isn’t an office, there are all kinds of services to help you achieve that too. Take international internet consultant John Nayler, who combines business and pleasure thanks to mobile broadband technology. As millions of Australian workers navigate frustrating traffic snarls, long coffee queues and public transport delays, Nayler runs his e-central business from a 12-metre catamaran, Dot Com, as he sails the idyllic Whitsunday waters in North Queensland.

Harnessing the speed and coverage provided by the Telstra Next G network, he can engineer a new online system, send and receive large files and respond to emails from clients as far away as Canada and London without steeping foot on land.

“My work is all tucked away in two devices: my notebook computer and my mobile phone,” he said. “This helps people stay in touch with me, regardless of whether it’s friends, family or my clients,” he said. “Now I always work from the boat. I get to anchor in the most beautiful places in Australia, do a spot of fishing and then clear my email. It’s great.”

For many, the home office is becoming increasingly important. As businesses come to grips with the effects of the financial crisis, streamlining operations and seeking cost-effective alternatives to traditional business practices is vital. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable and as they feel the increased pressure of the credit crunch. To stay viable, they must ‘think big’ and create a larger than life footprint without incurring excessive costs.

Software as a service

There are now Software as a Service (SaaS) based tools from companies like Citrix within reach of SMEs. These can help make a productive virtual office a reality. For low monthly subscription fees, SME owners can create a virtual office to eliminate costly overheads. Remote access, web conferencing and online support tools enable businesses to run from anywhere at anytime. Easy to use solutions such as web conferencing—otherwise known as online meetings—are levelling the economic playing field allowing smaller businesses to reach out to customers, prospects and partners irrespective of geographical location. There are a number of advantages of having a virtual office. A virtual office enables small businesses to:

  • Increase productivity by cutting out unnecessary travel;
  • Increase flexibility and responsiveness by having the ability to work from anywhere, anytime
  • Reduce or eliminate physical office space related costs;
  • Reduce telecommunication costs by using integrated VoIP (voice over internet protocol) solutions.

During these challenging times, smart small businesses that adapt the right technologies to enable their virtual offices, will not only survive the economic storm, but position themselves for growth when the climate improves.

Need conference facilities?
Audio conferencing services and web conferencing provider Budget Conferencing is a specialist audio and web conference service company. It provides tailored conferencing solutions to meet the needs of home office and small to medium size businesses. Whether you need to get a quick update from suppliers, present a product to a widespread audience, or run a training session, Budget Conferencing can provide the solution that best meets your needs.

You can choose from a variety of high quality audio and web conferencing services, depending on your size and your needs. They can help your business do web or audio conferencing, with or without operator assistance, from as little as 11c per minute.

Virtual assistants
Companies like Victoria-based Ace Virtual Assistance offer virtual office support for you and your business. They specialise in taking care of all your administrative and secretarial needs. A virtual assistant is an independent contractor providing secretarial and administrative support from their own home. They work using the latest technologies, to provide immediate professional support to busy entrepreneurs and business managers.

 A virtual assistant is just like having your very own personal assistant, only virtual.

Owener and virtual assistant Jodi Gibson, says: “I pride myself on providing a consistent, reliable service that is cost effective and meets the varying needs of my clients and giving them that leading professional edge.”

Virtual receptionists
The receptionist answering service from OfficeHQ gives your callers a true receptionist experience without having an another member of staff in your office, full time. And it’s not just a messaging service; all your calls are answered by friendly receptionists with your custom greeting and transferred to you wherever you are. You may be at home, on your mobile, at a hotel, or at a client site. You can update your contact numbers at any time online. You can also add and update notes for your dedicated receptionist.

Once your caller has been greeted, the receptionist will call you on your pre-selected divert numbers and, if you elect to take the call, your caller will be instantly patched through to you. Alternatively a text message will be sent to you by SMS and/or email, detailing the message left by the caller, and their contact information, allowing you to return the call at a more convenient time.

The options available are endless. It takes a bit of thinking outside the square (or you could say outside the office!), but a lot of these services are perfect for SMEs, especially in a tough economic climate.

Useful websites

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Jen Bishop

Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.

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