- Due to the emergency measures taken to control the spread of Coronavirus, the idea and reality of home working has exploded.
- The 1st Quarter of 2020 has seen sales of office space drop by 50%, whilst sales of virtual offices have increased by 50%.
- The sudden and current flight to the virtual office will not be temporary, but will come to represent a ‘new normal’ in the business world—and one office space providers should strategise towards right now.
This article has been supplied by Your City Office, a global provider of flexible and virtual office solutions founded by Simeon G. Howard.
There is no doubt that the virtual office concept established itself on its own merits; and, over the years, has slowly but surely grown in popularity as a modern business solution, if not model.
However, with the recent arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, societies are experiencing an unprecedented state of upheaval—a significant feature of which is the almost total retreat of work from the office to the home.
The trend of remote working from home had already been well established before this societal upheaval presented itself; and, given the nature and trends of modern business and technology, remote working solutions were in any case expected to become the standard model at some point in the near future.
Despite these trends, providers of office space have generally underestimated, if not ignored, the significance of them: more often than not, providers will emphasize their serviced office space – both in terms of investment and promotion – whilst making a mere gesture of virtual office options to their range of services.
Why Lagging Office Space Providers Should Now Start Taking the Virtual Office Seriously
Prior to the worldwide reality of locked-down society, this undervaluation of virtual office services could have been excused as technically, the virtual office was still a niche market in the business world. Now, however, it must be said that providers of office space that are not increasing their investment in providing and promoting virtual office solutions are being negligent in this respect, as the current explosion in demand for virtual offices almost certainly represents the beginning of its long-term rise to prominence.
In terms of pandemic-era developments in home working, what we have thus far witnessed is the following:
- Workers who lost their job and decided to start their own business.
- Workers who still have their job, performing it remotely from home, but have had their hours cut—and so have decided to start their own business to make up for the missing hours and pay.
- Workers who have maintained their full-time job, performing it remotely from home, and whose employer has switched to a remote work model (or who has at least massively scaled-back on office space, opting for a mix of remote and fixed-office work).
Considering that it has been made quite clear – i.e. unanimously, by authorities of all kinds – that the pandemic and the emergency measures taken against it will be present for some time, the above developments in remote working trends should not be considered as temporary inconveniences, but as being transformative of working culture.
While most providers of office space have yet to see the significance of these developments, business persons experienced in both virtual and serviced office space have foreseen them.
Simeon G. Howard, founder of Your City Office, has been well aware of these trends:
“I always thought it strange to see some office space providers typically neglecting virtual office services—because not only has the demand for it continuously grown since I first got into this industry , in many cases, virtual office services are simply more profitable.”
And now, amidst social and business world upheaval, he is concerned that the office space industry is still not catching on.
“As far as I can see, office space providers generally still don’t truly understand the potential. They never understood that the virtual office solution is the business model of the future, and really they should have been investing in it back then. But since it’s been made all too clear that remote work is here to stay, I’m sure many will take it more seriously now.”
Mr. Howard, who has 16 years experience in the virtual office and office space industry, has these words of advice for industry professionals:
“Stop thinking of virtual office services as an attachment to your offerings of serviced office space. Don’t get me wrong; serviced office space is still your core offering, and you should definitely maintain your ability to provide it effectively. But realise that now’s the time to make a decisive shift in your business’ emphasis, by creating a balance between virtual office and office space services.”
What Should Office Space Providers Do to Successfully Adapt?
“The current social and business climate”, continues Mr. Howard, “has already seen a large drop in office space sales, and a large increase in virtual office ones. Furthermore, it’s still early days in terms of pandemic-related developments, which, if prolonged, could see a polarization of this trend—anything from an 80% decline in office space and a 200% increase in virtual offices.”
Therefore, office space providers should look to:
- Focus as much of your attention as possible on up-scaling your virtual office services, which you should henceforth treat as a market in its own right.
- Without overinvesting, or neglecting the long-term importance of your office space services and clients, make the plans and preparations to safely shift your business’ to a balanced investment in both serviced and virtual offices.
- Avoid making any rash, premature, or immoderate business decisions during what is ultimately an uncertain time—in other words, try to remain astute, and don’t be pressured into anything.
For more information on Virtual Offices or to discuss partnership opportunities with Your City Office, operators are invited to contact Simeon Howard: www.yourcityoffice.com (UK) or www.yourcityoffice.co (US).