Third quarter sees stability in virtual office enquiries
However by the conclusion of Q3 2009, year-on-year growth in virtual office enquiries came to a halt as enquiry figures dipped below that of the same period in 2008 (see below graph).
But despite this year-on-year decline, enquiries have been rising steadily month-on-month throughout Q3 2009. In fact Q3’s figures culminated in the second highest enquiry figure of the year so far, reached in September, which was second only to January 2009.
See the below graph for an illustration of officebroker.com enquiry trends for virtual offices over the first three quarters of the year (2008 vs 2009):
Positively, enquiry figures for virtual offices in 2009 appear to have followed a consistent pattern throughout the year. Aside from some fairly minor peaks and troughs, enquiries have remained stable in an otherwise difficult economy.
In addition, Q3 has produced a month-on-month rise in enquiries from July to September, suggesting a positive start to Q4 2009.
Virtual offices grow in popularity as recession takes hold
officebroker.com figures show that during the third quarter of 2008, enquiries for virtual offices increased sharply – a rise of 97% in July 2008 compared to the previous month.
The recession is said to have officially started in Q2 2008. At this point in the year, the decline had taken hold and many businesses were struggling, needing to cut costs in order to survive. One of the biggest overheads a business can face is premises, and for some, an office was simply unaffordable.
Therefore it’s possible that some businesses chose an alternative workplace during this time, such as the virtual office, by way of combating the cost of overheads whilst also seeking to promote business growth.
For small firms looking to grow and prosper, virtual offices provide a professional business address, mailing and phone handling facility, and use of essential amenities such as meeting rooms and conferencing equipment. This is ideal for smaller businesses, as it can help to assist growth by providing cost-effective support, whilst also projecting a more successful company image.
Recession encourages rise in start-ups
In addition to existing firms looking to save money, there is also evidence to suggest that the decline gave way to a surge in start-up businesses.
One common side-effect of an economic decline is a rise in redundancies and unemployment. However research suggests that over recent months, many individuals who have been made redundant have chosen to turn an otherwise negative situation to their advantage, by taking the opportunity to start up their own business venture.
For fledgling firms and entrepreneurs, a physical office can often be too costly in the early stages of trading, but a virtual office can provide the professionalism needed to help win over new clients, suppliers, and build a more successful business image.
Therefore it’s possible that the increase in virtual offices from Q3 2008 was closely related to the official start of the recession in Q2 2008, and an increase in redundancies which led to the creation of new businesses.
Reduced workstation rates in serviced offices encourage small businesses
However according to the above graph, figures show that the high level of enquiries received for virtual offices in Q3 was not sustained in the early stages of 2009. This could be as a result of reduced workstation rates for physical workplaces, such as serviced offices.
For example in central London, officebroker.com statistics show that the average cost of a workstation in Q1 2009 was ┬ú418, a 23% drop from Q1 2008ΓÇÖs ┬ú542. Following on, Q2 2009 increased the difference even further ΓÇô as Q2 2009 was down 28% to ┬ú475 from Q2 2008ΓÇÖs ┬ú660. (To find out more about serviced offices in the region, view our Central London market report for further details.)
Therefore it may be possible that some businesses chose to take advantage of reduced workstation rates in serviced offices while the opportunity was available, thus reducing the number of enquiries received for virtual offices at the start of 2009, when compared with the sharp increase seen in Q3 2008.
However, despite workstation rates for serviced offices remaining favourable for clients throughout the first three quarters of 2009, enquiries for virtual offices have remained relatively consistent throughout the year, and have even started to rise by the close of Q3 2009.
The virtual office itself is a valuable tool for small businesses, and these figures show that many firms are choosing to utilise the services of a virtual workplace despite the opportunity to obtain a physical workstation at a discounted rate.
This suggests that the benefits of the virtual office are becoming more popular, and business owners are recognising their advantages – especially as the economy continues to remain unstable.
To find out more about virtual offices, contact one of our expert consultants for free help and advice.