Blog | August 2023

Do Virtual Offices Require Maintenance?

The real estate industry’s adoption of virtual technology has the potential to change how we think about facility management.

Tim Geoghegan

Director of Sales Enablement, ISS North America

Remember Jaron Lanier? He is the computer scientist who popularized virtual reality (VR) concepts and tools in the 1980s. While Lanier did not invent VR, he mainstreamed the technology’s application. Commercial real estate firms were early adopters in utilizing VR for space tours and marketing assets before smartphones became ubiquitous. Now, the advent of virtual space is greatly expanding in use and utility across commercial real estate. 

The Expansion of Technology


While entertainment and gaming are perhaps best known for adopting VR, the technology is used widely by a range of industries. The emergence of digital twins, the virtual version of a physical entity, has helped to broaden the use of simulated representations in the workspace. Company meetings, events, and collaboration are just a few uses where virtual space is appropriate and infinitely scalable—exponential access at an incremental cost.


The initial iterations of digital real estate were closer to a schematic than a rendering. Sharp lines, primary colorsnot a lot of depth or detail. But just as with CGI for film, today’s virtual office can incorporate photorealistic imagery to provide teams with an alternative or supplemental space to engage and collaborate. All the accoutrements of a physical office may be available, such as whiteboards and water coolers, to create as immersive a user experience as possible.


What Qualifies as Space?


Early adaptors abound creating crossover uses in the virtual space for transactions and engagement that historically occurred in the physical world. For example, Sotheby’s launched a new digital VR platform that allows visitors to view digital artworks available at auction.


But is it really a “space?” And if it is, is there a need to maintain it? 


The VR space we engage with through our avatars may not have coffee spills to clean up or an ambient temperature to manage, but it is not purely virtualit exists on a server. It is served to users via a network. It is based on technology that will be upgraded, or at some point considered obsolete, and replaced by a new application for the virtual office function.


Access to the space, as well and outcomes of collaboration in the form of potentially sensitive documentation, will require strict cybersecurity. If participants are EU-based, there may be a need to review the space vis-a-vis GDPR. In addition to cybersecurity concerns, there will need for similar management of branding, intellectual property, and the transfer of other real world needs to the digital environment. 


A New Kind of Facility Management


Although maintenance of the space might include none of the traditional facility management services, it will require the experiential services provided by workplace specialists today. The user experience is as critical in the virtual world as it is in the physical world. 


We need to accept that virtual space is being embedded into the collective real estate experience and adjust our services and procedures to align with the growing possibilities offered by virtual space. Technology is inherently dynamic and always changing to meet new needs. As a result, the facility management industry must continue to embrace adaptability and innovation to stay competitive going forward.

About the Author

Tim Geoghegan

Director of Sales Enablement, ISS North America

Contact Timmailto:tim.geoghegan@us.issworld.com?subject=Inquiry