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

Modern video games have the power to immerse players in their virtual worlds, making them feel like they have been transported to another dimension. Once in there, users become familiar with the environment, establish relationships with others, and utilise available resources – similar to what can be experienced in the real world. In fact, this very practice can also be employed to replicate real-life settings, including workplaces and offices.

While remote working can have its downsides, there may be possible ways to address them by using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). By combining physical and virtual elements, these technologies enable complete immersion in a virtual world. Though still emerging, some companies are using VR and AR in creative ways to address challenges in the workplace.

This piece delves into the prospective benefits that virtual and augmented reality technologies can bring to the workplace. It explores how these technologies can positively impact employee wellness, flexible work arrangements, and cost efficiencies.

The World of Virtual Reality

Picture a scenario where you log into a virtual workspace identical to your pre-pandemic office. You will notice familiar elements such as desks, break rooms, meeting spaces and colleagues, although they may look slightly different. Spotting them is easy thanks to labels floating above their heads, and when you approach them, a chat window opens for interaction, with their responses based on your actions.

In contrast to video games, interactions with other characters in virtual reality are not predetermined. Instead, characters respond authentically based on the simulated environment. Conversations can mirror those that might take place in-person, touching on various topics including work-related matters, personal life and recreational activities. Large group meetings can be scheduled at specific times and some companies are adopting virtual reality solely for meetings, as it fosters greater engagement and enjoyment compared to traditional video conferencing.

Benefits for the Organisation

Incorporating a virtual workplace can offer a number of benefits for companies:

  • Improved working conditions.

    Unfortunately, some organisations do not provide fair treatment to employees working remotely, leading to feelings of discrimination compared to those working in an office. It is crucial to ensure that every participant in a virtual environment has equal access to all the features and services available.
  • Located conveniently in the middle.

    Multi-office companies are setting up shared spaces to foster greater collaboration among employees.
  • Greater focus on training.

    Resources for staff development and training may be accessed on digital platforms.
  • Reduced number of teleconferences.

    Working in a virtual environment offers the advantage of fewer video calls and less “Zoom fatigue”.
  • Cost savings.

    Virtual reality has the potential to be an affordable solution 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.
  • Enhanced teamwork.

    In virtual settings, remote employees can make up for any missed opportunities by holding informal meetings and brainstorming amongst themselves.

Companies are increasingly adopting virtual reality solutions to provide staff training in areas such as customer service and public speaking, referred to as ‘soft skills’. As the Harvard Business Review highlights, VR technology offers an entirely immersive learning experience for trainees. These programmes are designed for use with virtual reality headsets, allowing workers to hone and develop their skills by interacting with digital representations of customers and other important stakeholders.

Benefits for the Product Manufacturing Industry

Virtual reality (VR) technology has the potential to significantly enhance the proficiency of experts in certain fields.

  • Medicine

    Virtual Reality (VR) technology has the potential to substitute the use of human cadavers in medical training by enabling augmented reality features to evaluate images of the internal organs of a patient. Additionally, VR could be employed to treat particular psychological ailments.
  • Military.

    Virtual Reality (VR) simulations offer military personnel a realistic training environment that prepares them for a range of scenarios, including aviation, combat and medical operations.
  • Large equipment maintenance.

    Professionals specializing in machine repair and maintenance can benefit from training with virtual replicas of actual equipment.
  • Real estate properties.

    Potential buyers from anywhere in the world can take a virtual tour of a house before deciding to purchase.
  • Education

    Virtual reality is a versatile tool that can benefit nearly any industry. Teachers, for instance, can use photorealistic virtual environments to take students of all ages on virtual field trips to historical sites or contemporary structures and landmarks. In the video below, a group of educators share their insights on integrating virtual reality into their classrooms.

Technology Creators: Who Develops These Solutions?

Major technology firms such as Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook have already released virtual reality devices. Companies like Spatial provide software that enables employees to participate in virtual environments. This software includes features such as whiteboards, video displays, modeling platforms, sticky notes, drawing backgrounds, and even relaxation areas. Additionally, each user can create a virtual avatar using a selfie.

Many specialists concur that the existing technology and software are insufficient to promote wide usage of virtual reality. As a Vox article states, “to accomplish this goal, the technology requires greater connectivity – particularly 5G, which could significantly enhance the capabilities of AR, VR, and numerous other technologies.”

Stay Updated in This Online Space

The extensive adoption of virtual reality (VR) in the workplace is still some distance away. According to an Inverse article, this is due to technological limitations. The current VR headsets are still relatively bulky and can cause motion sickness in some individuals, which hampers progress.

In comparison to a Zoom meeting, a virtual reality meeting has its unique advantages and disadvantages. For example, Zoom enables features like screen sharing, which may not be available in a virtual reality meeting. However, users could face difficulties typing while wearing virtual reality gloves. Also, meeting etiquette is still being defined by virtual reality meeting participants.

This technology has vast potential, and it may not be a case of choosing one over the other. There is an opportunity to use virtual reality as a supplement to existing in-person and digital approaches. Businesses must consider how to incorporate new technology into their existing strategies and prepare for the future.

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