• United States

Get office space your way

Dec 22, 20054 mins

* More options than ever for small companies or branch offices

Home offices satisfy some people forever (a recent survey counted about 20 million in the U.S.), but success often forces change. When you add employees or start hosting meetings, your spare bedroom often lacks the right ambience.

In the old days, moving out meant renting office space. Since that was overkill for many, developers got smart and created the executive suite concept. Today you have more options than spam in your inbox.

If you stay in the office most of the time, a traditional executive suite will work. Office management will provide a receptionist to handle phone calls and accept packages, and you can reserve or rent meeting rooms when necessary. Add a couple more employees? Add a couple more offices inside the executive suite, and you can keep your same address as you grow.

In this virtual world, more options abound. Virtual offices, sometimes called telecenters, grew out of increased services offered by executive suites. When you need additional business support rather than just pure office space, virtual offices with virtual receptionists and virtual assistants can conform exactly to what you need.

One such company is Intelligent Office (see “When you can’t work from home“). You get to use a physical office when you need it and access to a Remote Receptionist – someone to answer calls, forward them, take messages, make appointments, and send and receive faxes.

If your company is spread around, Regus Group boasts 750 locations in 350 cities in 60 countries. You can use one company to support remote employees or contractors in offices all over the world. Or you can use the Regus network of offices to give you a local address and phone number in cities you only visit once a month. Virtual offices support plenty of sales and support people who can’t or don’t want to work from a home office.

Back in October we discussed phone services that make a group of home-based workers appear as if they are co-located in a single organization (see “Better phone service for small businesses“). But that may not be enough when you need to meet people in a remote city now and then. A coordinated virtual office company gives you a physical presence in the remote city, in case your customer unexpectedly drops by some materials. The office staff takes the delivery, apologizes that you’re not in at the moment, and your customer never knows you rent that office a few hours per month.

Today, anywhere you have a phone and a computer can be your office. Yes, that means your car in many cases with a cell phone and a laptop with wireless networking. But space in a nice commercial building with receptionists and meeting rooms beats the back seat of a Buick any day.

 Don’t forget some critical business details. You can’t leave a server running in an executive suite and expect the receptionist to play administrator, so you’ll have to make other arrangements for your e-mail and Web servers. Even if the suite offers e-mail, your name recognition goes up when you have your own domain for e-mail, so tell them no thanks. If you’re working out of a home office now, you probably have these outsourced anyway, so you can continue with your current arrangement.

While it’s nice for remote employees to have a virtual office to sit in occasionally, you still need to figure out the right way to collaborate electronically. Virtual office suites don’t include virtual sales management or accounting software.

That’s a problem for another day (coming soon, I promise). But with the options in office space on the market today, you have every opportunity to present a professional, and physical, appearance when necessary.