Virbela: a company that creates space for virtual reality offices

According to HR managers, the key to success in the new hybrid world will be to experiment and be willing to put aside policies that didn’t work and try something new. This could include building a virtual office in the cloud using Virbela.

Virbela implemented a virtual office for its team of 180 employees where they work in a six-story building with offices, small meeting rooms, an auditorium and a roof space. One of the floors is open to the public.

Related: Five predictions for the future of the office

“Some team members sit in their virtual offices so people can come in and there are people who can close the door,” says Alex Howland, CEO and founder of Virbela, in a TechRepublic article. “We try to generate opportunities for more social interaction, so it’s not just a job.”

Creating a virtual space where remote and face-to-face employees can use both will help prevent a second-class experience for remote workers and create a hub for all employees.

“With that approach, everyone has the same level of play and everyone has the same access to leadership,” Howland says.

Howland initially started the company to provide management training to graduate students, and eventually realized that virtual training can be as effective as face-to-face teaching, so he expanded that platform approach by adding some 300 new customers since the pandemic.

Scott Likens, PwC’s technology leader, says one of the biggest challenges in terms of getting companies to implement this is that many think this type of technology is just for games and it’s hard to implement. Likens sees two ways for this virtual reality to work: a completely virtual training that can be done at home and a more collaborative experience that involves numerous people and elements both physical and virtual.

eXp Realty, a residential real estate company, was one of Virbela’s first clients and has no physical offices. They operate on a “cloud-based campus” where they do everything to hold meetings to recruit agents in a virtual office with more than 60,000 agents in 17 countries.

Jason Gesing, CEO of exp Realty, says conversations in the hallway and dining room exist in both the virtual office and the physical office.

“Keeping the microphone open in public spaces is key in the virtual world so you can start a conversation with other avatars (i.e. colleagues) in the space you can recognize,” he says.

Virbela has a web version of its software that runs in a browser and has another option to download it for a more immersive experience.

“Most of our clients use our initial campus and offer their own brand everywhere to make it look like their space,” says Howland.

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