I’ve often wondered what it really is that people are looking for when they search online for a “virtual office”. I thought a good place to explore would be a virtual dictionary, which displayed a number of definitions for the word “virtual”. Certain of the definitions were fairly easy to eliminate as not relevant, such as “of, relating to, or being a hypothetical particle whose existence is inferred from indirect evidence”. I suppose I shouldn’t have eliminated this one so quickly since I don’t have the slightest idea what it means, but it doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with office space.
One definition of “virtual” that sounded like it could possibly be helpful was “very close to being something without actually being it”. I can think of some examples that would probably fall under this definition, such as virtual tours, virtual books and from time-to-time, virtual girlfriends. There’s a part of me that hopes this is not the best definition for office usage, since many of the people who have virtual offices really DO consider it their actual office.
There is also a primary definition of “virtual” that reads “existing or occurring on computers or on the Internet”. With the majority of virtual office users having physical mailboxes, phone services with a human receptionist and meetings in an actual meeting room, this definition also did not seem appropriate.
I was beginning to think that we’re using the wrong phrase altogether and need to come up with a new term for “virtual office”. Then I had a brainstorm. Since it was a “virtual” dictionary anyways, I could probably just type in the actual phrase and get a definition. It seemed a little bit like cheating, or at least using the Cliff Notes, but I was stuck. So in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary I typed in the phrase “virtual office”. It came back “The word you’ve entered isn’t in the dictionary”. Back to the drawing board…
By. David Zazove