How Much More Like an Office Environment Might Virtual Reality Make Working from Home?

Anyone who has experienced a modern video game can appreciate just how easy it is to become engrossed in a virtual world and feel as though you have been transported there. Just like in the real world, you can become familiar with your surroundings, build relationships with those around you and make the most of the resources available. This practice is not just restricted to the world of fantasy; it can also be used to accurately replicate real-world environments such as offices.

Remote working can bring some drawbacks, but virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) may offer potential solutions. VR and AR involve full immersion in a virtual world and the use of a combination of virtual and physical elements. Although still in its early stages, certain businesses are using these technologies in innovative ways to tackle workplace issues.

In this article, we explore the potential of virtual and augmented reality technologies to improve the workplace environment, including how they could contribute to employee wellbeing, flexible working and cost savings.

The Virtual Reality Scene

Imagine logging into a virtual workspace which mirrors the one you were accustomed to before the pandemic. You will see desks, meeting rooms, break rooms, and colleagues, albeit they may have somewhat different physical characteristics. You will be able to identify them easily due to the labels that appear above their heads. When you approach them, a chat window will open and their response will depend on how you interact with them.

In virtual reality, interactions with other characters are not predetermined like those in video games. Instead, these are genuine responses from the character representing the setting. Conversations may be similar to those you would have in person, covering topics such as business, family and leisure. Meetings can be organized with large groups of people at specific times. Certain businesses are utilizing virtual reality solely for meetings as it encourages a higher level of connection and enjoyment compared to traditional video conferencing.

Gains for the Company

There are several advantages for corporations to adopting such a virtual workplace:

  • Enhancement of working conditions.

    Unfortunately, some businesses do not treat their remote employees fairly, leaving them feeling as though they are treated less favorably than those working in an office. It is important to ensure that every participant in a virtual environment has equal access to all features and services available.
  • Conveniently situated in the middle.

    Multi-office firms are providing common areas to encourage employee interaction.
  • Increased emphasis on training.

    The resources for developing and training staff may be found on a digital platform.
  • Diminished number of teleconferences.

    Reduced videoconferencing and less Zoom fatigue are two benefits of working in a virtual setting.
  • Cut down on expenses.

    VR has the potential to be cost effective for businesses, as it eliminates the need for office space rental or purchase, reduces the need for purchasing supplies and eliminates the cost of business travel.
  • Teamwork was improved.

    Employees can compensate for any missed opportunities when working remotely by holding informal meetings and discussing ideas amongst themselves in the workplace.

Businesses are increasingly utilizing virtual reality solutions to train staff in ‘soft skills’ such as customer service and public speaking. As noted by the Harvard Business Review, VR technologies provide a completely immersive experience for learners. Such programmes are designed to be used with virtual reality headsets and give workers the opportunity to connect and practice their skills with digital representations of customers and other key stakeholders.

Produced Goods Market Gains

Virtual reality (VR) technology have the potential to greatly improve the efficiency with which experts in some fields carry out their duties.

  • Medicine

    Virtual Reality (VR) technology has the potential to replace the use of human cadavers in medical education, with the ability to employ augmented reality functions to analyze images of a patient’s internal organs. Furthermore, VR could also be used to treat certain psychological disorders.
  • Military.

    Virtual Reality (VR) simulations have the potential to provide military personnel with a realistic training environment in which to prepare for a variety of scenarios, from aviation to combat and medical operations.
  • Repairs on big equipment.

    Experts in the field of machine maintenance and repair may benefit from training using virtual replicas of real machinery.
  • Properties in the real estate market.

    Viewers from all around the globe may virtually tour a house before making a purchasing decision.
  • Education

    Virtual reality has the potential to be a powerful tool for almost any industry. For example, teachers could use photorealistic virtual reality environments to take their students of any age on virtual tours of historical settings or modern structures and landmarks. In the video below, a group of educators discuss their experiences of incorporating virtual reality into their classrooms.

Who Is Responsible for Creating This Technology?

Apple, Microsoft and Facebook are amongst the leading technology companies that have already launched virtual reality hardware. Companies such as Spatial offer software to enable employees to engage in these virtual environments. Features include whiteboards, video displays, modelling platforms, sticky notes and drawing backgrounds, as well as areas for relaxation. Each user can also create a virtual avatar based on a selfie.

Experts agree that the current technology and software are not adequate to encourage widespread adoption. According to a Vox article, “to achieve this, the technology needs more connectivity – particularly 5G, which could significantly expand what we can do with AR, VR, and many other technologies.

Follow This (Online) Space for Updates

It has been observed that the widespread use of virtual reality (VR) in the workplace is still some way off. An article published by Inverse suggests that this is due to technological restrictions, as current headsets are still somewhat cumbersome and can cause motion sickness in some people.

When compared to a Zoom meeting, a virtual reality meeting has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Whilst Zoom has features such as screen sharing, these may not be supported in a virtual reality meeting. On the other hand, users may find it difficult to type using virtual reality gloves. Meeting etiquette for virtual reality meetings is still being developed by users.

There is a significant amount of potential to be harnessed in this technology, and it is not necessarily an either/or situation. It is possible that virtual reality could be used to supplement existing in-person and digital methods. Companies should consider how to integrate emerging technology into their current strategies, and plan for the long-term.

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