Like many bright ideas confidently predicted by futurists, the virtual office has not turned out to be quite as expected. But adapt it and it works like a dream.
In the late 1990s, in the midst of the technology hype, there was a flood of enthusiasm for the virtues of virtual working. We would all be connected. We would work at home. Offices would disappear into history.
Virtual working never took off. Like so many other short-lived obsessions, the fad disappeared into the managerial ether. People continued commuting. We are wired up to the hilt, but going nowhere. There had to be a better way.
And of course, there is. As so often is the case, the solution is neither one extreme (inflexible office life) nor the other (flexible, free and easy, office less virtual working). The solution lies in a pragmatic mix of the two, the best of both worlds.
Take for example, the founder of a young company without a real office to conduct presentations. With a virtual office, he would be able to bring clients into a luxurious boardroom and dazzle them with presentations on large screens using the latest audio-visual equipment and computer technology. A lot of business is show and tell – it helps to show and tell in an environment like this.
It is not just professionals who enjoy the virtues of virtual offices. For the expanding business, virtual working can enable low cost and controlled expansion. Companies unprepared for fast development might see increasing chaos – a regularly engaged phone number, haphazardly planned meetings and appointments and the like. With a virtual office, calls would be diverted to CityHub, where a team of operators armed with databases of diary entries and the latest whereabouts of key employees function as well as a full time receptionist, but in a more cost-effective manner.
In CityHub, clients pay only for what they use. This can include office rentals encompassing furnished offices, meeting rooms and boardrooms. Clients can also subscribe to something as small as a mailing address and phone number or as big as a full-time office space.
There is a growing collection of people who are starting businesses, testing markets, making presentations in foriegn cities, entrepreneurs or other periodic office space users who want to impress clients with the quality of the environment, the technology available, or even the prestige of an address. The office is not just a work place, but an image as well.
CityHub grows with new technologies – the idea is to integrate permanent, temporary and home offices into a single virtual entity. From anywhere in the world, clients can use communication tools they prefer to link into CityHub’s website. Communication links work the other way as well. Phone messages, faxes and e-mail can follow the client wherever he or she may be. All this comes at a fraction of the price.
Virtual offices can still be our future. At CityHub, we make it possible.