As our environment is changing so is our working decorum. These changes come with some disadvantages and advantages, most of all - it's full of learnings. VR is the product of this change and it will enable you to work productively.
There are upsides and downsides to the sudden arrival of the remote work era. The upsides are many: greater personal flexibility for employees, access to a world-wide talent pool, and the potential for cross-border collaboration.
However, there’s a significant downside.
It’s simply the reality that, for most, remote meetings are less engaging than in-person gatherings. Without the physical presence of co-workers, collaboration lacks a certain charge and electricity. And this adds up over the course of a workday, leading to what’s coming to be known as ‘Zoom fatigue’ - something that, according to a recent Robert Half study, plagues 38% of surveyed knowledge workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a big issue. The Harvard Business Review has found that an engaged employee is 55% more productive than one who isn’t. And, often, crucial meetings are where productivity matters most. Optimal decision-making requires concentration, energy, and creativity during pivotal discussions.
So, how do you retain the advantages of remote work, but add the energy that typically goes missing in remote meetings via video conference or comparable means?
Virtual reality (VR) is a powerful solution to maximize collaborative productivity, especially with regards to critical meetings.
There’s one concept that’s central to VR. Understanding it is absolutely necessary to grasping VR’s appeal. And that concept is presence.
Quite simply, presence is the full feeling of having a person in front of you. It’s the mental/physical engagement that naturally occurs during real social interaction.
Usually, presence is something we can only get outside the digital realm. You can’t feel presence during a Zoom meeting. Even though you know, in practical terms, that someone is there inside a Zoom window, a small visual representation of a person in only two dimensions doesn’t have the same neurological effects.
This is the unprecedented difference that VR makes. Modern VR delivers presence remotely—emotionally and mentally, it feels as if you’re in the same physical space as other participants in your virtual space.
“..by introducing the 3rd dimension into digital meetings, it creates the emotional and mental perception of being in the same physical space as the people you virtually meet and collaborate with.” Christoph Fleischmann, CEO and Founder of Arthur
Due to this fact, VR meetings can feel as invigorating and stimulating as any meetings in the physical realm. You can connect with your talent in Tokyo and Ohio without feeling isolated by distance.
There’s another important advantage that isn’t immediately obvious.
Total immersion increases productivity
In a regular meeting, it would be rude to have your laptop out, unless you needed it for a specific task. It would also be distracting—you would face the constant temptation to refresh your inbox or check out the latest Slack, to say nothing of the social networks you enjoy.
But this is what we’re all doing now in meetings. We’re on distracting devices when we communicate with our colleagues. Even if we are exceptionally disciplined about not engaging in those distractions, avoiding them still requires mental energy.
With VR headsets, by contrast, the user experience is end-to-end, saturating the entire visual field. It’s utterly immersive. A recent study on elearning conducted by PwC (an Arthur customer) found that VR learners were 3.75x more emotionally connected to the content than regular in-person classroom learners. When engaging in VR there are no distractions, bouncing icons to click on, or red notification circles. In addition to the many other ways in which VR maximizes collaborative engagement, this alone increases attention by default throughout meetings.
And, when the meeting is over, the advantages of VR persist.
Evergreen conference rooms
At the end of real meetings, you’ve got to clear out. Everything comes off the whiteboard, the papers leave the table, and the space returns to normal. With VR, this doesn’t have to be the case.
VR meetings take place in virtual workspaces, and this means that you can generate a new workspace for every project. One room can be devoted to product update X, another can be devoted to marketing initiative Y, and so on. These virtual spaces persist when the meeting is over, and any relevant materials presented therein can be preserved for the next meeting.
This means that notes can remain on the virtual whiteboard, and design sketches can be left up for further modification. Instead of each meeting being an isolated event, ongoing meetings can become a continuous collaboration across multiple sessions. The virtual space becomes an intellectual and creative canvas—a spatial organization system for important collaborations.
Beyond this, VR offers infinite space. Usually, you have to return your collaborative spaces to their original state because you only have so much real estate. What you have needs to be shared with other teams. In VR, the space available to users is unlimited, creating vast potential that cannot be tapped into in a traditional, physical office setting.
A purpose-built solution
Zoom meetings are a good-enough solution, and some organizations will continue to rely on them. However, VR meetings are a purpose-built solution for the remote era, rather than a stopgap. They offer emotional connection, maximized attention, and persistent virtual workspaces in the endless non-confines of infinite space. They’re here to stay. In the future, more and more organizations will come to rely on VR when discussing what matters most.