Star Interview

Is VR the solution to remote work problems?


Remote working became the ‘new normal’ seemingly overnight, but the concept is not without issues. However, it seems that virtual reality may hold the key to truly solving its problems...

Films such as Back to the Future and Ready Player One have shown us dystopian visions of a future in which the bleakness of reality is escaped through virtual reality (VR). Yet VR is not just another sci-fi trope, it is much more than just a pipe dream – and may have vast implications for a future of work in which a significant proportion of the workforce is operating remotely.

Is VR necessary?

With the ability to address and converse with a whole company through video chat, and when software such as Slack and Microsoft Teams is abundant, is there really a need to turn to VR? Seemingly so, for some professionals at least. In fields such as recruitment, the swift move to remote working means potentially sourcing candidates from all around the world and some believe that the video interview doesn’t replicate a face-to-face meetup well enough.

This, according to Faye Walshe, Director of Innovation, at recruitment firm Resource Solutions, can be solved by the implementation of VR. “VR enables employers to differentiate themselves in a competitive market and it is no surprise that it has been deployed primarily in sectors where the competition for top graduate talent is fierce – accountancy, consulting and finance,” she explains.

 

In a world of increased remote working, VR offers a vital way of providing interaction

VR to boost wellbeing

Improved communication would also have a vast impact on employee wellbeing. CoSo Cloud’s data suggests that email continues to be the primary method of communication for remote workers and therefore, unsurprisingly, more than half feel disconnected from their teams. Almost one in five believe loneliness to be the biggest challenge they face. So, could introducing another level of remote interaction in virtual reality be the solution?

Tom Symonds, CEO of Immerse, a public-facing VR company, thinks so: "In a world of increased remote working, VR offers a vital way of providing interaction. At a time when virtual collaboration and digital connection are rapidly becoming mainstream ways of co-working, VR will be one of the tech tools that takes centre stage. Now is the moment for companies to start exploring the potential of this technology to increase employee engagement, productivity and retention,” he says.

VR has limitless potential for the future of work

 

Work from work

Then there’s the issue of adequate working space. When remote working was quickly implemented, many workers made do with monitors stacked on books and computers on kitchen counters. Yet the time in which such working environments were acceptable has passed and as working from home looks increasingly likely to remain for the indefinite future, more strategically devised arrangements must be found.

And for this, Facebook thinks it has found a solution. Facebook’s Head of VR, Andrew Bosworth, recently posted a teaser video on Twitter showing how an office desk could be projected in front of the user at home – complete with multiple PC screens – while they are strapped into a powerful Oculus Rift headset, incidentally a VR specialist company that Facebook purchased in 2014.

But is VR likely?

Of course, currently the concept of widespread adoption is just that – entirely conceptual. However, companies such as Facebook, Sony and VR cycling start-up Zwift have made masses of headway in the production of such technology. Currently, powerful VR headsets are already widely used in companies such as Boeing, BP and Walmart to train workers. Paul Gilliam, HR Director, UK & Ireland, at L'Oréal says that VR has become an essential part of the company’s L&D: “VR has limitless potential for the future of work. Our office is also the head of our training school, where VR and augmented reality form an essential part of the experience.”

And whilst it seems that a future in which all remote workers are wearing virtual reality headsets may seem farfetched, Tim Drewitt, a VR expert and Coder at Kallidus, believes that it may become a reality sooner than you would think: “Time will tell, but it’s possible that this exciting immersive technology could be adopted faster than previous new learning approaches and may prove to be as game-changing in learning as the advent of the PC.”


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