How to create a virtual office

The beauty of running a virtual office is that you have all the upsides of a fully staffed regular office, without the downside of office politics, distractions and spiralling property costs. It’s easy to set up a virtual office; it won’t cost you a fortune and you can do just about everything you’ve come to expect as part of office life.

Say good morning – log on, boot up, click on skype and say ‘good morning’ to fellow workers. Skype is the ultimate app when it comes to the ‘virtual water cooler’ in the virtual office – workmates gather round, have a catch-up on last night’s adventures, and can then get on with the day.

Attend meetings – US technology company Citrix Online is making inroads to the UK with their suite of virtual office products. For meetings, try GoToMeeting that allows you to present, demonstrate and meet all you want – with colleagues from across the globe. Keep in touch with projects and deadlines – there’s nothing better for online project management than Basecamp. It’s one of my favourite online tools. With it, you can keep track of messages, tasks, files and deadlines, and offer restricted access to your clients so they can see how the project’s running too. It’s an elegant, user-friendly web application that you can access from anywhere, which is perfect for the virtual office.

Brainstorm face-to-face – get together in your virtual office for a creative pow-wow or a discussion on budgets by using Skype’s video call feature. All you need is Skype and a webcam. Get hooked up and ready to connect face-to-face with your team. Have a coffee break – enjoy some light relief with Twitter. This addictive application lets you follow your friends and say what you’re doing in less than 140 words. It’s perfect down-time material! Saving money You can create a virtual office on a shoestring of a budget. The applications mentioned here are free or competitively priced. Using all of them will cost you approx £25 per month. Compare that with the costs of renting and maintaining an office and you can see which option wins in the price wars.

Saving time Not only do you save money with a virtual office, you save hours of time. Up to one whole day per week, in fact. Communicating and collaborating with a team no longer means stepping into a car or on to a train.

Feel the benefits of being part of a team, from the comfort of a home office. Wear what you like, listen to what you like and work as you like. It’s the perfect world – in real life, and virtual life!

*Emma Jones is the founder of Enterprise Nation, the home business company, and author of Spare room start up – how to start a business from home.

She runs a virtual team from her home office in Shropshire.

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