Communication and company branding & identity are as important to businesses as profit is. The difference lies in the extent to which these are important and used by business on a day-to-day basis. A simple example would be a grocer shop vs. a freelance software developer. Both need to communicate to their customers almost daily, but while the grocer needs to do it physically, face-too-face, thus necessitating a fully functional physical workplace, a freelancer require very limited to no physical communication with his clients.
With communication comes business branding. Depending on how well the grocer maintains his shop and displays his products, his shop’s branding would be impacted. The freelancer’s branding on the other hand would depend on the quality of his professional services and electronic communication with his clients.
It is important to understand the concepts of a business’ branding and physical presence to understand the differences between three modern options in office space – services offices, coworking spaces, and virtual offices.
What Do They Mean?
Virtual office, as the name suggests, is a workplace that does not exist physically but only in the internet realm. A company offering virtual office services usually have the following included in their package:
- Handling physical correspondences and faxes of their clients
- Voicemail and reception services
- Drop off and pick up points for their clients’ parcels
- Prestigious office address
- Occasional conference rooms
Virtual offices are most commonly used by freelancers and service entrepreneurial ventures with just two or three founding members. They require the flexibility to travel for their work, or don’t really need an office space to conduct their business and earn their revenue. But for communication and legal purposes, they require an address – which is particularly important if you use a virtual office for your International business expansion purposes. So they hire an e-office provider who would allow them to use their legal address and provide the above-mentioned services for a subscription. Their clients have the flexibility of paying for the services that they require and when used, not always.
Coworking Spaces are physical workplaces which are shared by a number of organizations. Consider one floor of a business building partitioned into four sections for four different offices, with few common, shared facilities such as conference and break rooms. Companies offering coworking spaces usually also accept subscription payments from their clients.
A serviced office is much like a coworking office space, the only difference being the number of amenities offered in their subscription service packages. Just like in a serviced apartment, the person renting out of a serviced office need not worry about office repairs, cleaning, stocking supplies, investing in office equipment such as furniture, laptops, etc., and utility bills. Everything is taken care of by the company offering the serviced office premises, and their clients only have to pay the subscription fees to them. A coworking space has lesser services and office equipment offered to the clients, but these days a hybrid of these two offices are more commonly found in most places.
Differences Between The Three Options
Although all three are legitimate options commonly available these days in most countries, businesses should know the key differences between them to choose the option best suited to them.
A virtual office has almost no physical presence while serviced and coworking spaces do have one. So businesses that frequently need to meet their clients or need their employees to physically work with each other every day are best suited to the latter two options. As explained before, virtual offices are best suited for freelancers and businesses where employees can use instant messaging software, Skype or teleconferencing for communication.
Frequency of Services Used
Virtual offices are usually used on a long term basis because business that opt for this usually stick to the same business model permanently. Companies offering virtual offices usually get paid for 6 to 12 months rather than on a monthly basis. Coworking spaces on the other hand are subscribed on a need-to-use basis. So companies prefer to subscribe them on a monthly basis rather than in long term. Companies that usually start off on a experimental basis, or have pilot projects, or need physical presences for a limited time rent the coworking space until their short term goal is achieved. By then the reason they hired the physical space would ended have wound up or merged with their permanent, physical workplace. Serviced offices are also usually rented or leased for long term compared to coworking spaces.
Flexibility & Scalability
Virtual offices don’t have that many services included in their packages to pick and choose from, so flexibility doesn’t play a major role here. Clients usually use the same services for their entire subscription period. Coworking spaces have limited flexibility – it is after all one large office building or floor that is compartmentalized to accommodate a number of businesses to work together. So the location of the businesses remain the same, and the services may vary a bit – conference rooms are used occasionally depending on which one’s available when, limited office furniture and equipment are provided so they remain static, and the office address remains the same for the entire subscription period.
Serviced offices on the other hand can be customized much more; here, you have a readymade, fully set-up office space and all the services required offered in one package. So clients can select which of the services they require and when they are needed. Serviced offices can comprise of an entire floor or building rented/leased by one company, with limited to no coworking. It’s not common to find 5 different business sharing the same serviced office premise. So a company using serviced office can easily scale their business operations as compared to coworking spaces.
Virtual Offices offer very limited number of services, coworking a bit more, and serviced offices the maximum number of them. Serviced offices in fact include all the services offered by both coworking and virtual offices, and have a few more of their own.
In the US, virtual offices are typically available for monthly subscriptions starting from $100, while coworking spaces are available from $200. Serviced offices’ median subscription cost is $500. Depending on which part of the country you operate in, and what kind of locality you prefer, the costs will vary.
Which One Should I Choose?
The answer is quite cliche, really: It depends on your particular needs. Do you need the physcial address, while the rest of the services aren’t really what you’re after? If so, virtual office is for you; do you need full-fledged services? Then serviced office is the one you should choose; do you need a workspace you can access only when you need it? Coworking space may be the one you’re looking for.
One thing for sure – whichever options you take, make sure that you choose reputable service providers. You can’t afford messing up your business’ reputation and trust, as well as wasting your hard-earned money on sub-par services.