When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everyone was in need of solutions – a solution to replace their fitness classes to a solution that lets them speak with others without endangering their health.In a business context, companies started using a range of video conferencing solutions for office meetings. The boom was such that by April 2020, Zoom had 300 million active users. One might have thought that video conferencing and 2D collaboration solutions were the perfect answer. Still, the lack of in-person feel left the participants exhausted and less engaged with the content - giving rise to the term Zoom fatigue. Research has shown that nearly half of the surveyed professional workers report a high degree of exhaustion due to the perpetual use of video conferencing. As peoples’ needs change, the markets evolve.
VR for work is the latest talk of the technological town. Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology where the user is placed at the center of a simulated environment. Unlike when using computers and mobile phones, VR places the user inside the event. So instead of interacting with a screen on a 2D scape, the user is immersed in the surroundings and can interact with 3D objects. Such an immersion means that this technology stimulates multiple senses, including vision, hearing, and sometimes touch. VR initially started as a gaming fascination, but its application can now be observed in a variety of business uses.
As the pandemic slowly subsided, companies wondered whether they still needed virtual reality business meetings. And the answer is proving to be a resounding yes. VR meetings are not being seen as a complete replacement for in-person meetings or video calls. As an increasingly large number of employees and employers attempt to have a hybrid workforce, they will need the right tool kit to conduct productive meetings and maintain a healthy work culture. Remote work has generally increased the productivity of employees, and the operating costs of maintaining huge office spaces are slowly becoming debatable. Productive remote work is also enabling employees to achieve a favorable work-life balance. Considering all the trends and demands surrounding the ‘future of work’ topic in 2022, the companies would be well served to think of meeting solutions – in-person, video conferencing, virtual reality – as complements rather than competing solutions.
The use of VR for productivity
Companies are using VR to conduct client meetings, training workshops, product road mapping, and other high-complexity meetings. Since the onset of COVID-19, companies have embraced the virtual model of collaboration through zoom and other video conferencing platforms. A BCG research concluded that even though individual productivity has increased, the collaboration effectiveness is low and emotional disconnect is high. The shift to remote work motivated enterprises to find a way to maintain productivity and culture in the company. Thanks to the immersive nature of VR, according to a PWC study, the participants can learn more quickly, retain more knowledge and gain a deeper comprehension of the discussion. Other such capabilities are helping companies improve productivity, collaborate better, and maintain team culture.
Types of VR collaboration
The customizable nature of VR allows one to transform the space according to the purpose at hand. Once you have a clear objective of what you want to achieve using VR, you can leverage a variety of spaces and customize them to create a range of meeting spaces, each uniquely suited to conduct a different kind of virtual office meeting.
In VR, your team can conduct all sorts of meetings, from small daily stand-ups to big training sessions. Everyone from their remote locations can come together and share ideas using collaboration tools such as whiteboards, 3D objects, pinboards, and sticky notes.
Given that companies and clients are often located worldwide, VR helps companies achieve complete flexibility in how and from where they deliver engaging client presentations. The productivity tools help them guide the customers through complex content in a digestible manner.
One of the advantages of conducting meetings in VR instead of on 2D platforms or in-person is the persistent content presence. In VR, your subject matter will continue to stay in the room even if you leave the space. While some team members may work on the project in the morning, others can access their output and build on it many hours later in a different time zone when the first set of team members are possibly asleep. Such persistence features and flexibility allow anyone to enter the room anytime and collaborate on the subject asynchronously.
The immersive nature of VR makes it an appropriate tool to generate the feeling of in-person presence for a distributed team. This increases the likelihood of people forming genuine relationships based on interactions beyond stand-ups and meeting calls. In VR, you will be able to organize many activities like a game of Pictionary or an ice breaker session of trivia to build a connected workforce.
Advantages of VR for office work
Virtual reality can address the challenges with video conferencing and hybrid work. Remote teams are hard pressed to solve zoom fatigue and the lack of engagement among colleagues. Here is how Virtual Reality can overcome these challenges and increase your remote team’s productivity.
- In-Person Presence - Presence is the full feeling of having a person around you. With 2D video conferences, that feeling is greatly diminished, and natural social interactions are impeded. The immersive nature of VR with spatial audio can help create a more natural environment for meetings of any kind.
- Full Focus Mode - Once you wear the VR headset, you enter a no-distraction environment where you won’t be able to see any notifications and are entirely immersed in solving the problem at hand.
- Host Complex content - Productivity-focused VR offices provide a vast array of productivity tools, such as pinboards, whiteboards, 3D models, and more. Using these tools in a 3D environment allows you to deal more critically with complex ideas than in a regular video conference.
- Save on Travel expenses - With the ability to host realistic conferences online, there is no need to fly in keynote speakers or analysts for in-person client meetings. This, in turn, helps to reduce both your company’s carbon footprint and travel expenses.
Many companies like PwC and Societe Generale are already taking advantage of the immersive nature of Virtual Reality to increase the productivity of their meetings.
How to set up virtual reality meeting rooms
Setting up your virtual office requires some integral steps to ensure you have the right solution to collaborate seamlessly in virtual reality. A VR meeting needs all the participants to have a VR headset, software geared towards productivity, and a strong internet connection.
As with any technology-based solution, having the proper hardware and software can make or break your company’s overall experience with that solution. It can be argued, though, that software is more critical when it comes to making a selection than the hardware since it’s the software that will conduct your meeting and bring your virtual world to life. As you gain experience in using the various tools offered by the VR solution, you will be able to set up your VR meeting rooms seamlessly.
The future of VR meetings
VR and VR headsets have come a long way since 1985, and there is still a long way to go for them to fulfill their full potential. As development efforts continue, VR Headsets are becoming sleeker and more mobile. VR headsets are experimenting with MR aspects like incorporating hand tracking and visualizing your physical tools in your VR environment. Over time VR has moved from sci-fi movies to an actual tool with great utility. As the headsets become more versatile and accessible, they are bound to impact virtual reality meetings greatly. Headset advancement coupled with other technological advances like 5G technology will also improve the quality of the shared experience as it will enable better image processing and more realistic projections.
Arthur Technologies is a large-scale virtual office space that enables businesses to collaborate in XR, offering enterprises the advantages of in-person work without geographical constraints. We help companies - especially those with geographically distributed and hybrid teams - meet, collaborate, and manage work. To read more about the use of virtual reality in the workplace, please check out our other blogs.