For those looking for a truly flexible work situation, both coworking and having a virtual office offer great solutions. Both offer you a great deal of flexibility and autonomy, and both can help build your company’s brand presence. So, what are the notable differences that will help you determine which to choose? Ultimately, it comes down to where, when, and how you want to work.
While both a coworking space and a virtual office offer flexibility in where you work, the scope of that flexibility is vastly different. Depending on your coworking space provider, you can likely choose between working at a desk, on a couch, in a lounge, on a beanbag chair, etc., but you are still limited to an option within that space. With a virtual office, you are not provided with a place to work, so your scope of options now includes everything from your bed or kitchen table to a bench at the local park. This level of flexibility can be invaluable for someone who travels or is otherwise constantly on the move.
On the flip side, though, not having a place to work means not having others to work with – whether they are your colleagues or not. Psychologically, there are a lot of benefits to connecting with others. In fact, “across multiple studies, controlling for factors like income, geographic regions and even genetics, the single most important ingredient for long-term happiness appears to be how and how often we connect with other people.” Coworking spaces, like the one Work Better operates out of our Park Avenue South location, can provide members with opportunities for daily social interaction and regular networking happy hour events.
Taking into account the ‘when’ of how you like to work is important when deciding between these two options, but it is also a little less straightforward. If you have a virtual office and work wherever you choose, then it’s likely you can likewise choose to work whenever you choose - but that isn’t a given. For example, if, as a virtual office member, you work from home, you may find that working after the kids return home from school or late at night when your roommates are hanging out in the living room can be challenging.
Similarly, depending on the coworking office space provider, you may be restricted to working within their business hours or you may have 24/7 access to the space like Work Better members do.
So, if the ability to work at any hour is a part of your personal working style, be sure to evaluate your options and to ask any coworking space provider you consider about their after-hours policy.
When it comes to the ‘how’ of working, that’s when coworking and a virtual office begin to divide the most. Once again, depending on your provider, a virtual office may only come with an address for you to associate your business with or it may come with access to amenities if the provider offers other services like coworking and/or managed office space. For example, Work Better virtual office members receive access to services such as meeting rooms, day offices, mail scanning/forwarding, live call answering, and more, and some packages even include these services. If you only need limited access to onsite services or don’t require them at all, then a virtual office is a great choice.
Another thing to consider is how much of a technical infrastructure and how much access to various business tools you need. If your business depends on you being able to access reliable, fast, and secure internet or if you need the regular use of a copier or conferencing equipment, for example, then the right coworking space could be your answer.
What it really comes down to whether your choice is more about brand presence or your presence in a space. But if you’re still unsure which of these two options would best suit your working style and business’ needs, talking to a professional in the field is your best option.