6 Ways Virtual Reality is Reshaping the Workplace
Last month, Apple unveiled the Vision Pro, its new virtual reality (VR) headset which promises to “seamlessly blend digital content with the physical world.” Around the same time, Meta announced the Meta Quest 3, a complete redesign of the company’s popular virtual reality VR headset.
While modern VR headsets were initially designed for gaming, today’s technologies offer much more. The headsets developed by Apple and Meta are both mixed-reality devices, which means they use pass-through cameras to blend virtual things with video of the real world. They also offer immersive environments with avatars, spatial audio, and eye-tracking, across hundreds of gaming, fitness, entertainment, travel, and social experiences.
Of course, virtual reality also has numerous applications in the world of work, and companies are beginning to get on-board. PwC’s 2022 US Metaverse Survey found that 51% of companies are either in the process of integrating VR into strategy, or have already built VR into at least one dedicated line of business.
While we’re still a long way away from seeing widespread use of VR in the workplace, the pace of adoption will likely begin to accelerate over the next few years. According to Deloitte, the VR market is expected to grow by 50% in 2023 compared with the previous year, generating almost $7 billion in global revenues.
This is partly due to the ongoing improvements to VR technologies, and it could also be because organizations are realizing the many ways in which VR can benefit their bottom line. In fact, VR has the potential to significantly improve nearly all aspects of the employee experience. In today’s article I’ll discuss how VR can make a positive impact by:
- Increasing employee productivity
- Supporting training and skill development
- Improving the onboarding process
- Enhancing remote collaboration
- Accelerating product development
- Supporting stress reduction and wellness
I’ll also provide examples of companies who are successfully leveraging VR to achieve these outcomes. Let’s take a look!
1. Increasing employee productivity
Modern VR headsets allow users to interact with apps and programs the same way they would on a desktop computer. This means employees can use programs side-by-side and resize them to any scale. Users can also link their headset with a keyboard or trackpad, allowing them to set up the perfect three-dimensional workspace.
VR can be especially useful in data-driven industries, where it can be used to visualize complex data sets in a more intuitive and immersive way. This allows employees to explore and analyze data more effectively, leading to better insights and more informed decision-making.
Companies paving the way: Apple’s Vision Pro looks like it will set a strong example in this space, by allowing users to create an enormous, portable 4K workspace.
2. Supporting training and skill development
VR can provide immersive and realistic training experiences for employees, especially in industries where hands-on practice is crucial. For example, in healthcare, VR can be used to simulate surgical procedures, and in manufacturing, it can help workers learn to operate complex machinery in a safe environment.
Across all industries, incorporating VR into learning programs can boost employee engagement and success, with PwC finding that employees in VR courses can be trained up to four times faster. In addition, VR can be uniquely leveraged to help workers develop soft skills. For example, Diversity & Inclusion training can use VR to simulate empathy-building experiences that help employees understand different perspectives.
Company examples: Walmart, UPS and Fidelity have successfully incorporated VR into their existing training programs.
3. Improving the onboarding process
In PwC’s 2022 Metaverse Survey, “onboarding and training” was the VR use case that companies said they’re most likely to explore right now. Virtual reality can be used to create engaging onboarding experiences for new employees, introducing them to the company culture, policies, and processes in an interactive and memorable way.
This immersive approach fosters a deeper understanding of the organization's values, mission, and objectives, resulting in quicker integration and reduced learning curves. Additionally, VR-based onboarding facilitates remote onboarding, making it more convenient for global teams and ensuring consistent training across all locations.
Employers leading the charge: Accenture is using a virtual campus to welcome 150,000 new employees into the fold this year.
4. Enhancing remote collaboration
Virtual reality can create a more immersive remote work experience, enabling employees to work from different locations while feeling more connected to their colleagues. Through VR, remote collaborators can share a virtual space, complete with realistic avatars and interactive environments, transcending the limitations of traditional video conferencing.
This allows employees to communicate and collaborate in a more natural, intuitive manner, and it could also facilitate greater levels of inclusion. The sense of presence and spatial awareness offered by VR enhances nonverbal communication cues, such as gestures and facial expressions, leading to a deeper understanding and empathy among team members.
Best-in-class product examples: Microsoft’s Mesh and Meta’s Horizon Workrooms offer immersive virtual offices where employees can meet with their teammates, either with a VR headset or from a 2D screen.
5. Accelerating product development
VR technology has emerged as a powerful tool with the potential to revolutionize product development. One of its key benefits is its ability to streamline the design and prototyping phase. Traditional prototyping methods can be time-consuming and costly, often requiring physical models and multiple iterations. VR eliminates these limitations by enabling designers to create and test virtual prototypes in real-time.
With the ability to interact with a 3D representation of the product, designers can identify potential flaws, make adjustments, and explore different design alternatives with greater efficiency. This iterative process allows for faster development cycles and a reduced time-to-market for new products.
6. Supporting stress reduction and wellness
As organizations continue to prioritize employee wellness, integrating VR into corporate wellness programs has proven to be an innovative and effective way to support employee well-being. For example, VR offers immersive experiences and simulations, and it can provide employees with various stress-relief techniques, mindfulness exercises, and relaxation sessions.
By escaping the physical confines of the office, employees can explore serene virtual environments, fostering mental rejuvenation and reducing anxiety. Additionally, VR offers personalized fitness programs (e.g., virtual exercise classes or yoga sessions) that encourage physical activity and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Proof point: Last year, a study from the UK’s National Health Service found that a short VR nature experience delivered during the workday resulted in increased feelings of happiness and relaxation, and decreased feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety.
The takeaway? Don’t ignore VR as you plan for the future of work
While virtual reality offers numerous advantages, its successful implementation requires careful planning, appropriate hardware and software, and consideration of potential challenges, such as the cost of VR equipment and the need for specialized content development. Nevertheless, when integrated effectively, VR can revolutionize the workplace, leading to increased productivity, enhanced learning, and improved employee satisfaction.
Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on today’s article!