How Virtual Reality Will Change Where We Work

David Sapienza, VR Studio Director, HTC
David Sapienza, VR Studio Director, HTC

David Sapienza, VR Studio Director, HTC

It is still the foundational years of virtual and augmented reality and there is a great big ocean of ideas and thoughts on how the technology will impact our lives. Although there is a lot of enthusiasm about VR movies, social apps, and gaming, the most impactful solution to our daily lives could be allowing for a decentralized workspace. These new mediums, AR and VR, are and will continue to be the primary technology that shapes future workspaces.

It has been said many times that the only way to get real work done is to get everyone in the same room so decisions can be made and ensure everyone is on the same page. But why is it better? In the era of telecommunication and video conferencing, why do companies still fly people around the world to have face-to-face meetings?

The answers lies in what is unspoken.

As humans we have evolved to become adept at reading the body language of others. This ability to decode another person’s state is a crucial part of being a team player in the workplace.

  An unfortunate knock-on effect of our ability to connect and communicate, is that we are all too connected by our devices and often team members are reading emails or texting, paying half attention to whomever is talking  

During meetings, participants are typically able to read-the-room and get a sense of the feeling, that sense is something

that doesn’t translate well via teleconferencing. Too often a camera can’t fit remote teams into the visible camera frame, or if everyone is visible then their features are so small it is hard to discern any facial reaction. Also, you can never get away from the fact that one group is in one location and another is in a separate location. Video conferencing creates an “us” and “them” co-working situation, which is not conducive for team building.

Virtual reality and the emerging technology however, not only allows for body language to come through, but it also breaks down the wall of “us” and “them.” Working in the real (or virtual) same space binds teams.

An unfortunate knock-on effect of our ability to connect and communicate, is that we are all too connected by our devices and often team members are reading emails or texting, paying half attention to whomever is talking.

After having my studio use virtual reality for our meetings over the past year, it is clear that the unforeseen benefit is that the participants become fully engaged. The habitual nature to reading your inbox, or the unconscious looking at your phone temptation goes away. You become fully present, engaged, and it doesn’t feel like a punishment – even if you are the best multi-tasker in the world.

The unspoken cost of your time.

Communicating with your team or clients via a letter in the mailbox and waiting for it to be delivered seems so antiquated today, but soon we may say the same thing about sending yourself in a mailbox also known as an airplane (or car), waiting for you to be delivered to your destination.

How long is a work day? Maybe eight official hours. But is it really? How long did it take to get ready for work, how long did you sit in traffic, how long did it take you to get home? When you do get home, how long does it take for you to get settled? We don’t often talk about the unpaid time our jobs require. Even if our jobs do require us to fly, we talk about the cost of the flight, not the cost of the full process. Time to coordinate schedules, flights, rental car, hotel arrangements, and then the dreaded expense report.

Is it all really worth it? What if there was another way?

Businesses pay exorbitant fees for office spaces in central city locations - managers and employees spend hours in traffic just so they can ensure they are in the same location to function together as a team. Again I ask, what if there was another way?

What if we embraced a 24 hour open virtual office space building, where you can login and be at your desk within seconds? What if you can see your peers walking around or having hallway conversations in this virtual space?

Businesses that embrace what virtual reality offers will not only be able to bring down costs, but they will be able to find the best employees regardless of location. As an employee who dreads traffic, imagine if you could sleep in a little bit and still come in to work on time in your virtual office space, oh and you don’t to worry about what to wear, or how your hair looks. Imagine not living where you have to, but living where you want to? Imagine still being able to feel a part of a team, but your physical presence somewhere else?

As an early adopter of virtual reality I don’t have to imagine it, I am living it.

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