It is no secret that working remotely has become a new norm in recent years. In fact, the newest research from McKinsey shows that 58% of Americans have the option to work from home at least one day a week, and 35% can work fully remotely five days a week.
The interesting part is also that when presented with a choice of working remotely, 87% of people take it. This is not surprising considering that by only having a stable internet connection and a laptop, workers can avoid wasting time on their commute, dress more comfortably, and create a better work-life balance.
From the companies' perspective, introducing remote work is also not without its benefits. Shifting toward working remotely reduces their office expenses, increases profits, and employee satisfaction, as well as allows companies to have a larger pool of candidates to choose from when hiring.
So the old-fashioned image of a workspace being an office with four walls, a door, and a window is no longer as accurate as we all thought. Flexible, remote, and hybrid work demands modern companies go beyond operating within the confines of a physical space and move to a virtual one.
However, by limiting remote employees to only digital interactions through Zoom, emails, and instant messaging apps, companies are missing out on the benefits that come with an in-person work environment -- from spontaneous interactions and team bonding to efficient collaboration and brainstorming.
To get the best of both worlds - the convenience and flexibility of working remotely with the collaborative power of a physical office space - more and more companies are turning to virtual offices.
What is a virtual office?
In its simplest terms, a virtual office is a virtual work environment that exists online, where employees who are spread out across different locations can work, communicate and collaborate with ease.
A virtual office goes beyond having a wall of emails and a few video conferencing tools. It's a complete, integrated virtual ecosystem that gives employees everything they need to do their best work -- whether they're in the office, at home, or on the go.
Shifting to virtual offices has also become a popular choice for start-ups and small businesses that want to reduce their overhead costs without sacrificing the professional image and benefits that come with a physical office space.
In Kosy, companies from 125 countries have gotten to design their virtual headquarters complete with dedicated meeting rooms, lounge spaces, and private offices for meetings with potential clients -- all without ever having to step foot in a physical space.
What are the benefits of having a virtual office?
For some, the idea of virtual offices is an exciting leap toward the future of work. For others, it might look like an unnecessary gimmick designed to distract from remote work rather than facilitate it.
However, regardless of which side of the fence you are on, the benefits of a virtual office are hard to ignore. Here are just a few reasons why:
In a physical office, seeing who is around for a chat or a quick brainstorming session is easy. In a remote work set-up, however, it's not so simple -- all we have are status updates that often don't reflect reality.
In a virtual office arrangement, each user gets their own avatar to traverse their workspace. From the moment you log in, you can see who is available and where they are, making it easy to connect with the right people at the right time.
Furthermore, a virtual office offers managers a unique insight into how their remote team operates and how they interact with each other.
In a physical office, it's easy to tell when someone is slacking off or not integrating as well as they could. In a remote set-up, however, these things are much harder to spot.
Fun fact, it can take an office worker over 23 minutes to get back into working mode after it is interrupted by an email. That actually doesn't sound that fun at all, and with instant messaging being the prevalent means of communication in a remote workspace, it's easy to see how those 23 minutes can quickly turn into hours.
In a virtual office, users have the ability to see where their coworkers are allowing them to know when it's a good time to message them.
Pinging someone when they are in a middle of a brainstorming session in the war room is a surefire way to derail their whole progress.
In a physical office, spaces built for informal gatherings are now becoming prime spots for collaborative work. Think of coming up with a brilliant idea to tackle the latest project while sharing a cup of coffee in the office kitchen.
The lack of formality and pressure to figure something out is exactly what sparks creativity but it is not something that can be easily replicated over IM or a Zoom call.
In a virtual office, there are dedicated spaces for exactly this type of collaboration -- from dedicated team rooms to office cafeterias where people can gather for an impromptu brainstorming session.
In a remote work set-up, it is important to be on the lookout for the most common communication challenges such as the difficulty to build trust and rapport with coworkers.
When every interaction is scheduled and preceded with a formal invitation, communication can become quite stilted.
A virtual office gives employees the chance to have more organic interactions with their coworkers through proximity chat and the ability to navigate the virtual office as if it were a real physical location.
These features make positive interactions and building trust a natural process that, according to research, bolsters motivation, innovation, and company loyalty.
In a remote work set-up, the options for communication are limited to a handful of software applications. Which can be a good thing but doesn't feel like one when scouring through dozens of emails for the right invitation to a Zoom call.
In a virtual office, in addition to the most common communication software, interaction can be as easy as it was in a physical office -- coming up to a coworker and asking a question or entering a room where a meeting is about to start.
This consolidation of all communications in one virtual workspace can help reduce the chances of important messages and invites getting lost in the shuffle.
How to design a virtual office space
Designing a virtual space to conduct business in can be a daunting task, but with careful planning, it can be done relatively easily.
Here are some key steps to take when designing your virtual office space:
1. Define the purpose of the virtual space
While it might be obvious that the space is going to serve as your virtual office business headquarters, it's important to think about what else the space will be used for.
Will you be meeting clients in the space? Interviewing potential hires? Hosting team meetings or training sessions? All of these activities will require different types of spaces and need to be taken into account when designing your virtual office.
A virtual space can do wonders for remote collaborative work but it can also serve as a social hub for remote employees to bond. Are you going to lean into one or another or do you want your office to be a healthy mix of both?
These are all important questions you need to ask yourself beforhand to save money, time, and headaches down the road.
2. Define a theme
With the help of your team, start thinking about what kind of atmosphere you want to create with your virtual office space. Do you want it to be fun and lively or more subdued and serious?
Your office's theme will guide the design process and help ensure that all of your decoration choices work well together.
Additionally, if you are planning on hosting meetings with clients in your virtual space, it's important to make sure that your chosen theme aligns with your company's professional image and values. You don't want potential clients to get the wrong impression of your business.
3. Host a design session for your virtual office
One of the first things we at Kosy suggest to our new users is to hop into a temporary conference room with their remote team to design their new virtual office.
According to Knoll's report there often exists a disconnect between what spaces office workers need to do their best work and what their company actually provides.
By involving your remote team in the decision-making process about the virtual office layout, you're more likely to create a space that will promote collaboration and creativity.
Additionally, treat this experience as not only a way to brainstorm ideas for how the space should be structured but also as a virtual bonding experience. Having a say in how their new office space looks and functions can go a long way in fostering team spirit.
4. Get familiar with the virtual office
As your virtual office takes shape, it's important to get familiar with the space and how it works.
Not being used to new software can significantly stifle productivity so get your employees acclimated as soon as possible.
Schedule some time for yourself and your team to explore the new space, test out different features, and answer any questions that come up.
It might also be helpful to create a quick tutorial or walk-through of the space for new users. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows how to use all of the features available to them.
5. Establish communication etiquette
Something that is not often talked about but poses one of the most common challenges in the remote workspace is the lack of defined communication etiquette.
In a virtual office, your remote team will experience a shift from mainly asynchronous communication to being able to "walk up" to someone for a quick chat.
This unique feature can boost employee happiness and team spirit, resulting in a spike in productivity fueled by casual collaboration.
However, it can also lead to a lot of unnecessary interruptions and distractions if not managed correctly.
To mitigate this, we suggest setting up several rooms where team members can focus without being disturbed as well as social spaces for more casual conversations. Now, your remote team will know that if someone is occupying the "Focus Room" they should not be disturbed unless it's absolutely necessary.
6. Update your virtual office continuously
Once you've defined the purpose, hosted a design session, and chosen a theme for your virtual office space, it's time to start putting your plan into action.
But unlike a physical office space, a virtual office is much easier (and less expensive) to change and update. So don't be afraid to experiment with different looks and layouts until you find something that works for you and your team.
And remember, just because you've found a layout that works today doesn't mean it will still work six months down the road. As your team grows and changes, so too will your virtual office space. Be prepared to update and adjust accordingly.
Most popular types of rooms for a virtual office
Designing your virtual office from the ground up and figuring out which rooms will be most beneficial can be a tough nut to crack. After all, with so many use cases and customization options at your fingertips, it can be easy to fall into decision paralysis.
Recently Mayo Clinic looked into how workplace atmosphere can influence the pace and productivity of employees. This study was a peculiar mix of a simulated work environment, a group of test subjects, and the most common office distractions available at the push of a button (some that were later found to be comparable to mild forms of torture, yikes!)
What this fascinating study later found was that a perfect office space needs to consist of eight working zones, each bringing a certain benefit to the table in order to create a healthy and productive work environment.
When you create a virtual office space, you have the unique opportunity to integrate the results of this study into your space from the get-go.
So without further ado, here are the types of rooms you should consider adding to your virtual office space:
1. Personal offices
While the talk of a "personal office" may summon an image of a grandiose space that could cost any business owner a big buck, things are a lot different in a virtual office.
With unlimited virtual space at your disposal, you can create an office for each and every one of your employees without breaking the bank – or even taking up any extra physical space.
When it comes to personal offices in a virtual setting, think of it as creating a "home base" for each employee. This is a space where they can feel comfortable focusing on work and avoid distractions while working on their latest project.
Depending on the size of your team, giving a private office to each employee might simply not be feasible, even without the constraints of a physical location. However, it is still important to create a "home base" for them. It can be a smaller meeting room where everyone is expected to be working independently on their own projects, with a few one-person focus rooms situated nearby.
2. Open workspace
When you work in a physical office, it's easy (and expected) to have quick, impromptu meetings with your team members. But when everyone is working remotely, those same spontaneous meetings can often turn into hours-long scheduling nightmares.
This is why having an open plan workspace in your virtual office space is crucial. It helps encourage communication and collaboration, without the hassle of scheduling or coordinating.
Think of your open workspace as a virtual living room, where employees can gather to chat, quickly collaborate, and take a break from their individual workstations.
An open workspace still counts as a "work area" but it is less formal than a meeting room. It should be comfortable and relaxed, with plenty of space for people to sit and work.
3. Meeting rooms
While an open workspace is great for quick, impromptu meetings, there will still be times when you need to schedule a more formal meeting – whether it's with clients, your collaborative team, or even just a handful of team members.
You might need to adjust the look and size of the room depending on what type of meeting will take place inside. Even in a virtual office, a traditional conference room will require a large table and plenty of chairs.
However, in the case of a daily stand-up -- a dynamic short meeting where each team member gives a quick update on their progress -- it is actually recommended to make the team actually stand. So no chairs are required.
<an image of a project board feature in Kosy>
Finally, virtual offices have a few perks that physical office spaces simply can't provide. In Kosy, any meeting room can have a permanent project board assigned to it. With this feature, you can attach agendas, schedules, notes, documents, and any web apps to a specific room. This way, all the important information for a meeting will be in one place and easily accessible to everyone – no more hunting down that one file or trying to remember what was discussed last week.
4. Coworking rooms
To capitalize on these undisputed benefits, you need to create coworking rooms in your virtual office.
These types of spaces can take on many different forms, but they all have one purpose: to encourage employees to work together on projects.
Ideally, you should create several coworking rooms in your office space, each with its own unique atmosphere and purpose. For example, you might have a room dedicated to brainstorming sessions, sprint meetings, and a few simple coworking spaces for when your team needs to hunker down and get some work done.
5. Project rooms
Like coworking rooms, project rooms are designed to encourage collaboration – but on a more specific level.
In a project room, employees can come together to work on a single project or task. The best example of a virtual space being used for project management is the war room -- a place dedicated solely to the planning, execution, and debriefing of a single project.
In a physical office, a project room is typically populated with a ridiculous variety of office equipment to visualize the task at hand -- whiteboards, sticky notes, and everything short of a typical crime board with strings and photos to track the project's progress.
However, in a virtual office task visualization is a lot neater, more organized, and can be done with a few clicks. In Kosy, you can easily create a project room and assign a canvas project board to it -- every document, app, and note your team needs will stay in one place without spending a fortune on hastily scribbled post-it notes.
6. One-on-one rooms
In any office, there will always be a need for private conversations – whether it's between an employee and their manager, or two colleagues who need to discuss a sensitive topic.
In a virtual office, a one-on-one room can be leveraged for a variety of purposes. First, it is the perfect space for team leaders to hold office hours -- a time when employees can come to them with any questions, concerns, or feedback they might have. Messaging your superior unprompted can be a daunting task for some, so giving employees a dedicated space to virtually "pop in" for a chat can go a long way in building trust and transparency.
Having a traditional office to invite potential clients and hires to can go a long way in building trust and credibility – but what if you're a digital-native company that doesn't even have a physical address?
In Kosy, you can send invite guests into your virtual office to conduct an interview or a consulting session in a one-on-one room. By foregoing a typical Skype call and instead inviting someone into a professional, well-designed space, you can create a much better first impression and significantly increase the likelihood of closing that deal or landing that job candidate.
Lastly, the Mayo Clinic research we mention all the way at the beginning of this section highlighted the importance of creating "refuge areas" -- a space where employees can have a private conversation or take a break from the hustle and bustle of the office.
In a virtual office, one-on-one rooms can easily be turned into "refuge areas" for when your employees need a moment to themselves.
7. Social lounges
While some businesses may frown at "watercooler talk", making friends at work has been proven to increase job performance and satisfaction.
In a remote setting, simulating spontaneous and effortless interactions that would normally take place in a physical office can be a challenge. However, in a virtual office, nothing could be easier.
In Kosy, you can create a multitude of places for your team to relax, unwind, and chat over a cup of coffee. From a cozy cafeteria to a virtual pool, the sky's the limit when it comes to designing a place for your team to bond and socialize.
In addition to creating a virtual hang-out spot for your team, we also highly encourage you to perform team-building activities on a regular basis. Remote work can feel isolating, so making sure your team stays connected to one another is crucial for maintaining a happy and productive workplace. These activities can be held in a separate virtual room decorated with fun images and the rules for the game of the day pinned to a virtual whiteboard.
Design your virtual office in Kosy
Now that you know all the different ways you can design your virtual office space, it's time to get started!
Kosy offers a wide range of features and tools to help you create the perfect space for your team. With our easy-to-use platform, you can design, build, and customize your virtual office however you see fit.
If you're ready to get started, here's how you build your virtual office space in Kosy.
1. Sign up for Kosy
This is a pretty straightforward step. With our new pricing plans, you can sign up for Kosy and use it for free with a team of up to 5 users and are free to invite up to 10 guests. You can find out more here.
2. Invite your team members
Once you're in your virtual office, click on "Team" and invite your team members via email. You can also add them by sending them a link to your office.
Host a design session with them to come up with the perfect layout for your office space.
3. Start designing your virtual office
In order to start designing your space, click on the "Design office" tab. Here, you'll have access to a variety of meeting rooms designed in several different styles. To add a room to your virtual office, simply click and drag any room into your workspace and resize it if needed.
4. Add decorative touches
To make your virtual office look and feel like the best place to work, we've added a select range of interactive and decorative items.
You can find them all under the "Design office" tab. From plants to rugs, custom paintings, and bookshelves, you can use these items to add a personal touch to your office and make it feel like home for your remote team.
5. Add interactive items
Apart from decor pieces, we've also added a number of interactive items to help you create a more dynamic and engaging space for your team.
You can find these under the "Interactive" tab in the "Design office" section.
Here, you'll find your typical office equipment such as a whiteboard, noticeboard, and an easel that you can use to embed any website into your virtual office.
You can also place a music player in your office to set the perfect ambiance for concentration and collaboration.
Last but not least, we've also added a few fun items such as pool floaties and an office pet. Interacting with animals has been found to not only lower anxiety but also boost employee focus. So feel free to add a furry friend to your office and watch your team's productivity soar!
Moving to a virtual office is a major milestone for any company and you and your team deserve to celebrate.
Invite your team to your virtual office for a round of drinks and games from Kosy's app library. This will be a great opportunity to show off your new shared space and get everyone excited.
Remote work is about to get changed for the better.
There you have it! These are all the steps you need to take to design your very own virtual office space. With the right methodical approach and input from your remote team, you can build the perfect space that will help take your business to the next level.
Not sure where to start? Feel free to drop us an email at email@example.com and our team of experts will be more than happy to help you out!