As the dust settles in our post-pandemic world, one thing has become crystal clear: the future of work is not in stuffy office cubicles. It's not in crowded commutes, in overly air-conditioned meeting rooms, or even in the customary water cooler chit-chats. The future of work, as many of us have begun to discover, can exist anywhere. 

What was once an unconventional setup – working remotely – has gone from a peripheral trend to a global norm. Yet, despite its numerous advantages, remote work does have its pitfalls

Miscommunication is commonplace. Collaborations become less organic, and the once lively office atmosphere is replaced by a quiet, often isolating, solitude. But what if there was a way to merge the benefits of remote work with the vibrancy and collaborative energy of physical office spaces? Enter Virtual Reality (VR) workplaces.

Futuristic, immersive, and remarkably realistic VR workspaces are poised to redefine the boundaries of remote work. From the Metaverse to Apple's recently unveiled headset, we're taking a closer look at VR workplaces and what they could mean for the future of work. 

VR and the workplace: A historical perspective

The roots of VR can be traced back to the mid-20th century. However, it wasn't until the 1990s, with the emergence of the Internet and advancements in graphics and computing power, that it began to mature. 

Early applications of VR were primarily found in gaming and entertainment, offering a tantalizing glimpse of an alternate, immersive world. Over time, VR has expanded its reach into more practical areas, from healthcare and real estate to education and, now, workplaces.

There have been several major breakthroughs in VR technology in the workplace. 

One of the most significant is the use of VR for employee training. VR is progressively being used to help train employees to do their jobs, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which hastened the need for virtual training. When it comes to training, VR is used to train workers in "soft skills" such as customer service and managerial skills. But it's not just soft skills. 

One case study on employee training using VR is Walmart, which has trained more than one million of its employees in VR. One of the most commonly used modules is "The Pickup Tower," which allows customers to pick up online orders. Trainees received step-by-step training operating this new machine, with instant feedback when they made mistakes. 

Before VR, each associate spent an entire day training inside designated stores, with some one-on-one, hands-on training and some e-learning. VR decreased the training from eight hours to just 15 minutes, with no drop in effectiveness.

Another example is H&R Block, which deployed virtual reality (VR) training to place new call center agents in extremely realistic job simulations, allowing them to practice the soft skills crucial to supporting clients throughout the anxiety-ridden tax process. Nearly 1,800 agents completed the VR training, and it improved other KPIs in the call center. For example, the average time customers spent on hold was reduced by 50%.

Overall, these case studies have shown a return on investment for companies implementing VR training for their employees. However, VR's use in the workplace isn't limited to training applications. 

The intersection of VR and remote work

With the rise of remote work, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new opportunity presented itself for VR. The rapid adoption of remote work models exposed certain challenges, including decreased collaboration, feelings of isolation and the absence of a shared physical space. 

With its ability to create a shared, immersive and interactive environment, VR offers an intriguing solution.

VR has the potential to revolutionize remote work by increasing collaboration and boosting creativity while working remotely. It can help teams picture their projects before they come to fruition and share their early-stage ideas.

One of VR's biggest strengths is the capability to make those at a distance feel like they're near each other. It's why several VR companies are betting that VR office environments, working from home and remote collaboration in VR will be the future of work.

Several VR apps are built for remote collaboration, such as Connec2, Glue, Immersed, MeetinVR, MeetingRoom, Rumii and Spatial. One example of a company that has launched a VR app for remote collaboration is Meta (formerly Facebook), which launched the open beta of Horizon Workrooms.  

Overall, VR can create a simulated environment by stimulating senses, enabling users to experience real-life settings virtually and interact with other people located in remote locations. And now, with the Oculus 3 on its way and Apple's latest announcement, we'll have hardware that can keep up, too. 

Apple's VR headset: A new era for VR workplaces

At WWDC 2023, Apple gave the world a first look at the Vision Pro, a mixed-reality headset, its first new tech platform in years. The Apple Vision Pro, which goes on sale early next year for $3,500, is what CEO Tim Cook calls the first Apple product you look through rather than at. It's shaping up to be the slimmest mixed-reality headset released so far, and during the presentation, Apple showed off the ability to use the device like a laptop, a TV screen and a gaming platform.

The Vision Pro is controlled using your eyes, hands and voice and has an Apple Watch-like dial to adjust between virtual and augmented reality. Apple wants the Vision Pro to span work and entertainment. The headset wirelessly and automatically connects to a Mac, and you can take over your computer's desktop (as well as all of its processing power) when wearing the headset. At WWDC, Apple showed off the headset as a tool for running more interactive meetings and working with colleagues.

The buzz created by Apple's VR headset announcement has rekindled enthusiasm for VR workplaces. Known for its track record in design sophistication and user-centric technology, Apple's entry into the VR arena is eagerly anticipated. It could be the turning point that helps VR workplaces move from the fringes into the mainstream.

Looking ahead: The potential impact of VR workplaces

As we stand on the precipice of this new era, it's worth casting our gaze forward. How might VR workplaces reshape our professional lives? What might the fusion of physical and virtual workspaces mean for collaboration, communication and the overall employee experience? 

Let's dive in and explore the potential impact of VR workplaces on our future work lives.

Reinventing collaboration

With VR workplaces, collaboration is no longer restricted by geographical boundaries. Teams can gather in a shared virtual space, brainstorm ideas and tackle problems as if they were in the same room.

Bridging the physical and the virtual

In a VR workplace, the physical and virtual worlds merge, providing an immersive and interactive experience. This offers a way to overcome the isolation often associated with remote work and recreate the camaraderie and energy of a physical workspace.

Eradicating geographical barriers

With a VR workplace, geographical boundaries cease to matter. Employees located thousands of miles apart can convene in a virtual room, interacting as if they were mere inches apart. The world becomes your talent pool, unbounded by physical restrictions.

Redefining training and development

In industries where hands-on training is crucial, VR can offer a safe, controlled, yet realistic environment for learning and development. This could revolutionize employee training and development.

A brave new world of VR workplaces

The journey toward VR workplaces is an exploration of uncharted territory. It's an exciting, challenging voyage filled with unknowns and immense potential. The anticipated entry of Apple into the VR sphere could well be the catalyst that propels VR workplaces into the mainstream.

As we prepare for this thrilling new chapter in the evolution of work, it's time to start imagining the possibilities. What would it be like to attend a team meeting in a conference room that defies the very laws of physics? We're on the cusp of a new era, and it's a journey we invite you all to join. 

At Outstaffer, we help companies embrace the future by making it possible to find, hire and manage top employees from around the world in just a couple of clicks. In addition to our borderless hiring, we also provide access to tools like managed devices and VR Workplaces, so you can work with your team wherever you are. 

Want to learn more? Schedule your consultation today.

Jul 12, 2023

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