Until 2020, flying to meet your client was not unusual at all. Studies have shown that even though business travel accounted for only 12% of passengers, it contributed 75% of airline revenues. According to Deloitte Insights, in 2020, US Companies reduced their travel budget by 90% or more.
As the pandemic recedes and people are again able to travel, the situation begs the question: What advantages does virtual reality provide compared to conventional meetings?
Views of employers and employees on hybrid work
Hybrid work is a mix of remote and in-office work hours. A survey by Mercer in May 2021 found that 7 out of 10 companies said a hybrid-focused model would become their new norm. Survey has also shown that only 3% of white-collar workers want to return to the office five days a week. Gartner's research showed that only 1% of the surveyed leaders expect their employees to return to the office full-time. These survey results show that Hybrid work will potentially become the new normal and is expected by employers and employees alike.
While there are many benefits to hybrid work, careful planning is necessary to realize such advantages. Companies must consider in-person and virtual meetings complementary rather than an either-or choice to ensure a smooth hybrid working environment. Below are the two aspects companies need to consider regarding whether to opt for in-person or virtual meetings.
Two significant aspects to deciding on virtual meeting vs. face-to-face meeting
The complexity of the meeting
Lower complexity meetings like alignment calls are perfectly possible on video conferencing platforms. However, when it comes to more complex meetings like brainstorming or scrum meetings, people need a more engaging setting like in-person or VR. Complex meetings need a more comprehensive set of productivity tools and more opportunities to interact. All in all, it needs to enable creativity and motivate people to speak their minds. The fact that in-person meetings are conventional organically makes them more comfortable for many people. But if your participants are all located across the globe, do you plan to fly them in and arrange their accommodation? This dilemma takes us to the second aspect of deciding between virtual and face-to-face meetings.
Estimated travel costs and environmental impact
The more dispersed the participants, the higher would be the travel costs. Such travel would also increase your company's carbon footprint and negatively impact your brand. Even for daily or weekly meetings, the ability to do highly productive and collaborative work from home reduces the need to commute to a physical office for every collaborative meeting. You might wonder that VR equipment is somewhat expensive and requires substantial investment. However, with that thought, it is also essential to consider that this investment has long-term returns and a multitude of benefits.
Overall, depending on the complexity of the meeting and the cost structures, companies should decide between the different meeting methods for different needs.
The following section elaborates further on the benefits of enterprise VR by covering some benefits of VR meetings over physical meetings.
Advantages of VR meeting over a physical meeting
Infinite Virtual Estate
VR provides its customers with customizable infinite spaces. You can arrange the productivity tools according to the meeting flow you have in mind. In VR, you can have your next meeting in rooms in a variety of settings like the Swiss Alps or even Mars.
Lower Travel costs
Conducting multi-location meetings entails very high costs comprising from flights to accommodation. Meeting in VR is a proven way to reduce your travel costs without compromising your team's productivity.
An essential advantage of VR meetings over physical meetings is that VR rooms are ever-present. In VR, your subject matter will stay in the room even if you leave the space. Such persistence allows anyone to enter the room at any time and work independently on a subject or recap a session at a later point in time. You don't need to rub off the whiteboards or rearrange the room for the next meeting.
VR office provides a broad set of productivity tools at your fingertips. You can spawn as many whiteboards and pinboards as you need. You can pin presentations, images, and 3D icons on the virtual pinboards. You can also make comments and annotations in multiple ways. Private audio zones are also available to create breakout rooms in the same space if necessary.
Full Focus Mode
It is true that when we get everyone away from their main distraction points, it creates a great environment for collaboration. Once you wear the VR headset, you enter a no-distraction environment where you won't be able to see any notifications or people outside your meeting room. Hence you would be immersed entirely in solving the problem at hand. Estimates have shown that, on average, it takes 23 minutes to regain deep focus after an interruption. Thus by distancing you from distractions, VR enables you to achieve deep focus. Once you enter deep focus, you have limitless opportunities for all participants to create, propose and show their ideas.
Team building and team spirit
In-person meetings include small talk, lunch or coffee, some ice breakers, or meetings near the water cooler. Those meetings bring the team together, cultivate culture and create a sense of community. In Arthur, we strive to bring that experience via our product irrespective of whether you are in-office and have hybrid working colleagues or whether you are working remotely. You can easily create company-wide or team-specific areas where you can grab a virtual drink or meet up for coffee and share news. If you then decide to jump into quick and spontaneous after-work game time, you have access to a great number of icebreakers, games, and team-building activities.
Equality of opportunity
It is possible that extroverted people will be more engaged in video calls, thereby ending up having an oversized effect on the group dynamics. In an in-person meeting, though, it is easier to have control and involve everyone in the discussion. We have that same advantage with virtual meetings in VR. Further, the creativity of the introverted colleagues is given more opportunity by the variety of tools like pinboards, sticky notes, and whiteboards. Overall, you can have a much higher involvement during virtual office meetings as compared to physical office meetings or video calls.
In a hybrid work world, in-person communication is limited
Your office could be located in the best spot and might even have the most comfortable and pleasant design. However, consider the effort and material resources it would take to adjust the ideal room setting, mood, and context for each meeting. In your virtual office, you can create as many customized rooms as needed. For example, for each client meeting, you would be able to create a space with their branding and provide a customer experience that is one step further. You can run a retrospective or a brainstorming session in an environment and room best suited for that meeting type. For instance, it could be a calm place with a summer setting outside the room, and that enhanced detailing could help bring the best out of the participants.
Even though a virtual office can not replace in-person meetings fully, it can be a welcome and helpful addition in a hybrid world. Virtual office in VR bridges the gap between in-person and video meetings with some aspects that are similar to real life. At the same time, it enhances the experience by expanding the possibilities. A virtual office enables seamless collaboration from different locations while reducing the costs of meetings and improving the workplace experience.
Stay tuned to our blog and newsletter to learn more about VR and Arthur.
To try Arthur yourself, you can book a VR session with us, where we will walk you through all the benefits available to you based on your business needs.