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Virtual Offices, Shared Office Space and Co-Working: The new way of working

Business is changing. The economy is shifting towards smaller businesses, start-ups and self-employed consultants and freelancers. This is changing the way people work. Thanks to technology, today’s entrepreneurs and workforces are increasingly mobile, on-the-go and flexible. As a result, they are turning towards flexible work spaces that fit their lifestyle.

This has driven an evolution in the concept of office space.

Traditional office space, when well located, properly furnished, well equipped and professionally staffed, creates a professional environment and boosts productivity. However, finding, furnishing, equipping and staffing such a traditional office requires a significant and long-term investment of time and money.

The first virtual offices addressed some of these challenges, allowing businesses to rent a professional address, a dedicated phone number, and a shared receptionist to answer phone calls and take messages.

Today, virtual offices have evolved into a complete solution, offering fully furnished offices, boardrooms, meeting spaces and workspaces with state-of-the-art office equipment and secure wifi, and a range of amenities such as mail forwarding, call answering and administrative services, all available on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Located in key areas or vibrant business hubs, virtual offices provide the professionalism and enhanced productivity of a traditional office, without the costs of buying or renting space and furnishing, equipping and staffing the office, or the inflexibility of long-term office rentals, equipment leases and employment agreements. Through virtual offices, a new breed of businesses can access office or meeting space and/or administrative assistance that allow for maximum productivity on extremely flexible terms and at affordable rates, freeing up both capital and cashflow for investment in the business.

Evolving further from the virtual office concept, "shared office space" or “co-working space” is one of the fastest growing trends in the way people work. While shared office space is essentially a virtual office shared by a diverse community of independent business owners, it delivers even more benefits, most notably a shared community network.  

Although each business operates independently, business owners, entrepreneurs and managers work within a shared community in which they can connect with each other, not just with colleagues as in a traditional office. This allows for collaboration and networking with like-minded business people, creating opportunities to connect socially, grow networks and tap into new resources. A shared office further lends itself to recommendation, referrals and feedback from like-minded business owners in real-time.

Even larger corporates find that their staff are more productive when working ‘offsite’ with other teams, rather than working in one office with the same team day after day. These employees have access to a community of like-minded professionals from a range of industries – a rich pool for new ideas and inspiration.

I am optimistic about the growth of virtual offices and the new trends arising from this successful concept, such as shared office space or co-working space. Businesses of all sizes are discovering that a virtual office is the ideal solution, offering cost-savings, increased productivity and exceptional flexibility required to succeed in today’s dynamic and rapidly changing business world.

Business trend analysts agree that the virtual office phenomenon is worldwide and is here to stay. The annual DeskMag Global Co-working Survey confirms a massive growth in co-working spaces: with the number of co-working spaces worldwide growing from 1000 in 2011 to 11,300 in 2016, and the number people working in these co-working spaces increasing from 43,000 in 2011 to 835,000 in 2016. The latest survey predicts the number of co-working spaces to grow to 13,800 this year, with a million people working in these spaces in 2017. (Source:  http://coworkingeurope.net/2016/12/31/first-results-global-coworking-survey/)

The evolution of office space into virtual offices – and now into shared office space or co-working space - has brought cost-effective and flexible solutions for start-ups, small businesses, travelling professionals, companies exploring business opportunities in new areas and businesses that are downsizing or looking for temporary space. Virtual offices have become enablers of a new way of working and connecting businesses, offering a real solution for the realities of the modern business world by creating a seamless and hassle-free business environment conducive to growth and success.  

Author: Sibongile Booi, Founder of Second Office