Virtual Reality May Make Remote Collaboration Easier
February 1, 2021
There are many benefits to working remotely. Remote employees are able to work more flexible schedules and avoid lengthy commutes to the office. Employers, on the other hand, can reduce overhead costs and boost employee morale by giving employees the option to work remotely.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to remote work as well. But it is up to employers to identify and address these challenges to ensure their remote employees are successful. Fortunately, the results of a new study indicate that virtual reality technology could be the solution to one common remote work challenge. Here’s what employers need to know:
The Current State of Remote Work
Remote work has become increasingly popular over the last several years. But in 2020, there was an unprecedented surge in remote work caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey revealed that one-third of the U.S. workforce is now working remotely all the time, and one-quarter of the U.S. workforce is working remotely sometimes.
Participants who responded that they sometimes work remotely spend an average of 11.9 days per month working from home. In other words, even those who only “sometimes” work remotely are spending about half of their workdays every month working from home.
The growing popularity of remote work may have been sparked by the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean this trend will disappear once the coronavirus crisis has been resolved. Even employers that were hesitant to allow their employees to work remotely have come to embrace it. In fact, 83% of companies believe that the shift to remote work has been a success.
Furthermore, fewer than one in five executives say they want to return to working out of the office five days a week once the pandemic is over. Based on this data, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Because remote work will continue in some form even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, it’s important for employers to make an effort to help their employees overcome these challenges.
What Are Common Remote Collaboration Challenges?
Most remote workers rely on video call platforms such as Zoom or Skype to collaborate with one another on various projects and tasks. But the results of a new study revealed that remote workers are becoming increasingly frustrated and unhappy with video calls.
HTC Vive recently surveyed employees in the United Kingdom to learn more about the challenges that they face when working remotely. One-third of survey respondents reported that they were exhausted as a result of countless hours of video calls. Nearly half of those surveyed also admitted that they would prefer meeting face-to-face with co-workers instead of meeting on a video call.
Another survey revealed that 45% of remote workers reported attending more meetings while working from home than when in the office. This statistic highlights how much time remote workers are spending on video calls with co-workers, which could explain their growing frustration.
Even though these results reveal that remote workers desire more face-to-face interaction, it’s unlikely that they will get their wish granted any time soon. Returning to the office—or meeting co-workers in other locations—is still too risky due to the threat of contracting COVID-19. Even after the pandemic is over, employers may choose to continue remote work, so employees may need to adapt to working remotely all the time or some of the time.
Face-to-face interaction might be out of the question for now, but there is another way to help remote workers avoid video call fatigue while also giving them the personal interaction they desire. Some experts believe that virtual reality technology could be the solution to this problem.
How Remote Workers Can Use Virtual Reality Technology
The term virtual reality refers to the technology that is used to transport users to a computer-generated simulated environment. Users aren’t simply viewing the simulated environment on a screen in front of them. Instead, users are fully immersed in the simulated world and able to interact with various elements of this virtual environment.
This technology has been used in the gaming industry for years, but it has many other applications as well. Now, experts are starting to see the value of using virtual reality technology to make the remote work experience easier for employees.
For example, virtual reality technology could help employers address remote workers’ discontent with video calls. Instead of using Zoom or Skype to meet via video call, employers could allow their remote workers to host virtual meetings powered by virtual reality technology.
Employees could transport themselves to a simulated environment by putting on a virtual reality headset. Using this headset, employees would be able to meet with one another in a virtual meeting room, which could be designed to look exactly like a traditional meeting room in a corporate office. The technology would make them feel like they were actually inside a meeting room rather than sitting at their home in front of a computer screen.
Each attendee could take a seat at a virtual table inside the room. They could take a look around the room to see other attendees—just like they would if they were meeting in-person. Then, they could conduct a virtual meeting in the same way that they would conduct an in-person meeting. They could even take notes on a virtual whiteboard located in the front of the virtual meeting room.
What Are the Benefits of Using Virtual Reality Technology For Remote Work?
There are a number of benefits to allowing remote workers to use virtual reality technology to attend virtual meetings.
Attending a virtual meeting is not exactly the same as attending an in-person meeting. However, it’s close enough to the real thing to satisfy remote workers’ desire for more face-to-face interaction with their co-workers.
In a virtual meeting, they will be able to see and interact with virtual representations of their co-workers, which will make it seem as if they are actually meeting with their co-workers in-person. This will help remote workers feel more connected to their co-workers even when they are working far apart.
Using this technology could also lead to better collaboration among remote workers. A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that employees are more connected to content and focused when using virtual technology as opposed to other types of technology.
Virtual reality creates an environment that is more conducive to collaboration. Only one person can speak at a time on video calls, but this isn’t the case in a virtual meeting. Employees won’t need to worry about muting and unmuting themselves whenever they need to talk. Instead, they can simply speak up when they have something to say, just like they would in a real in-person meeting.
Plus, employees won’t need to get dressed to make themselves presentable for a video call. In a virtual meeting, attendees will only be able to see virtual representations of each other, so it doesn’t matter if employees stay in their pajamas all day.
Attending a virtual meeting can also benefit remote workers who feel like they are trapped at home. Even though they aren’t physically leaving their home, attending a virtual meeting will make them feel as if they were in a new environment.
These are some of the many reasons why employers should consider utilizing this technology to make remote workers’ lives easier.
What Are the Barriers to the Adoption of Virtual Reality Technology?
Using virtual reality to help remote workers collaborate may seem like a no-brainer, but there are some barriers that could stand in the way of the widespread adoption of this technology.
First, there is still a limited understanding of how this technology works and more importantly, how it could be used to benefit remote work collaboration. This technology has been around for a long time, but many people are still unfamiliar with it. Those that are familiar with it often assume that it is only used in the gaming industry, which is far from the truth. As a result, it could be difficult to get decision-makers on board with the idea of adopting this technology.
The cost of this technology could also prevent widespread adoption. Employers who want to utilize this technology for virtual meetings must be willing to invest in virtual reality headsets for their employees. They must also be willing to invest in building a platform that allows their remote workers to meet virtually in a secure environment. Creating a secure environment is always important, but it’s crucial if employees are going to discuss sensitive company information during these virtual meetings.
Another barrier is the lack of awareness of remote work challenges among employers. Some employers have not taken the time to understand what challenges their employees are dealing with in a remote work environment. If they don’t understand these unique challenges, they won’t be motivated to address them with virtual reality technology.
These are serious barriers that could prevent the widespread adoption of virtual reality technology. However, if experts are correct in predicting that remote work is here to stay, companies may need to break down these barriers in order to use virtual reality technology to make remote work easier for their employees.