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Next-Generation Offices Go a la Carte

Content provided by IBM-ForwardView eMagazine .

As SMBs strive to keep overhead low, maintaining a competitive edge no longer means having to purchase expensive equipment and tony office space. Flexible workplaces are rapidly gaining traction and giving rise to office services available when, where and how businesses need them.  It may be the end of the long term lease.

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In just the past few years, the number of mobile workers and telecommuters has soared. Increasingly, workers are performing some or all of their work duties outside the office, and industry analysts predict the number will continue to rise over the next few years. In today's global economy, a flexible office arrangement can offer huge advantages to all types of SMBs-from home-based businesses to larger teams of road warriors.

Conducting business outside the domain of the traditional, well-appointed office can seem a daunting prospect. Although modern technologies such as high-speed Internet access have made working from home technically feasible, maintaining the professionalism of an office environment from the dining-room table can be more difficult. Most mobile workers don't have receptionists and conference rooms in their homes, and business travelers trying to conduct business from a hotel room often find the facilities inadequate.

That's where the flexible or outsourced office services come in. These business centers offer fully furnished and equipped offices available by the hour, day or month and are located near suburban areas and in prime locations in major cities. Flexible offices are rapidly gaining traction in the business world as an excellent option for teleworkers and road warriors. In addition to offices, services such as professional administrative support and access to meeting and training rooms and videoconference suites are also available. 


Technology on the Go

The Regus Group, the world's largest provider of outsourced office services, offers more than 750 world-class business centers-from luxurious to practical. In addition to offices, each center has customizable meeting and trianing rooms, a business lounge for business travelers as well as video conference suites.  Regus also offers a variety of virtual office options perfect for the home worker. 

To maximize cash flow and reduce risk for small busineses, there are no high upfront costs associated with outfitting a Regus office and each business decides what term fits its needs.  With a simple, one-page agreement, all a professional has to do in a Regus office is walk in, sit down and start working.

Flexible office solutions like those offered by Regus, available in cities worldwide, are making the lives of business travelers easier as well as more productive. Awkward client meetings in hotel lobbies and noisy restaurants can be a thing of the past now that, with just one phone call, a business traveler can arrange an all-day meeting complete with multimedia capabilities and a catered lunch. Forget trying to fax from the cramped hotel lobby. Flexible office services offer all the technology and assistance needed to conduct business efficiently and effectively while on the road.

For Regus this also means offering business travelers "Network Access" memberships that give them access to its 750 business lounges around the world.  If a Network Access member needs a day office or a meeting room, those can be arranged on an as needed, ad hoc basis with add-ons such as catering and videoconferencing available, too.


Satellite Offices Without Sky-Rocketing Costs

It is worth noting that outsourced workplaces are not limited to telecommuters and business travelers. Many SMBs need to have a physical presence in multiple locations to maintain high visibility. But equipping and managing regional and/or satellite offices can be expensive and cumbersome. 

Opening even a small office requires negotiating leases, buying furniture, purchasing and installing network and phone systems, and hiring staff, not to mention ongoing management issues. When a satellite office grows, a company has to go through the process of acquiring and outfitting new space all over again. And when time comes to close or relocate a satellite office, the patchwork of leases and storerooms full of leftover office equipment can be a major headache.

Outsourced workplaces can help SMBs avoid the hassle and expense of outfitting and managing a satellite office, since the office space, furniture, network and phone access and staff are managed by experts focusing on those tasks. This enables SMBs to focus on core business issues instead of time-consuming office management. They gain the flexibility to relocate, expand or downsize without being burdened by long-term lease commitments.


When All You Need is a Fancy Address

For home-based business owners who don't want a home-based address, there is a variant of the outsourced office known as a "virtual office." A virtual office allows a home-based business to have a prestigious, corporate mailing address and professional telephone answering services without having to lease an actual physical space. And if a home-based business owner does need professional office space occasionally, he or she can simply use an office or meeting room from a nearby Regus business center. 


An Office at Your Command

With employees distracted by rising fuel costs and congested highways, high real estate prices and the ever-growing trend toward globalization, more and more companies are looking to cut overhead and find ways to help employees become more productive.

The evolution of outsourced workspace services can help SMBs gain a competitive foothold through access to professional workspace whenever, wherever and however they need it.  Soon, thanks to companies like Regus, SMBs everywhere will always have a professional office to call their own.

Content copyrighted by IBM Corporation.

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