What is the potential of virtual reality in the workplace?

For the majority of workplaces, working online and interacting with digital technologies both inside and outside of the office walls have become both a necessity and norm. This impersonal form of interaction however continues to be an issue for employees. Can Virtual Reality help businesses to overcome the impersonality of online communication? 

Virtual and augmented reality will become an $80 million market by 2025, predicts a new report conducted by the world-recognized investment bank Goldman Sachs. To put this in perspective, this is roughly the size of the desktop PC market today. Is this realistic? Well, opposed to the adoption of smartphones and tablets it is expected that the adoption of virtual and augmented reality technologies will be slower. On the other hand, as the report noted, ”as the technology advances, price points decline and an entire new marketplace of applications hits the market, we believe VR/AR has the potential to spawn a multi billion-dollar industry, and possibly be as game-changing as the advent of PC”.

How can virtual reality be relevant for and add value to workplaces and business overall? Let’s explore that in the following.

Virtual reality as the catalyzer of improved collaboration

Imagine being miles away from your colleagues or customers, yet feeling that you are physically inhabiting the same meeting room and office space. Virtual reality can help catalyze that experience. As soon as you strap on the headset and noise-cancelling headphones you can immediately enter a collaborative and immersive virtual environment.

Sensors implemented in for example Oculus Rift pick up and translate body language and other types of non-verbal communication that you would miss with traditional tele-conferencing or Skype. Language barriers can also be washed away, as these applications hold the capability of translating in real time.

In a time where a major part of our interactions are happening online, people feel more and more isolated as no contact can measure up with personal contact. In remote offices, it is harder to get employees to maintain focus, and a continuous isolation from their colleagues can lead to both a less productive and less cohesive team.

And this is exactly why it virtual reality holds an enormous potential for strengthening inter-organizational collaboration.

From hypothetical to real-world training

In some cases, virtual reality has already made an impact on training. Taking NASA as an example; thanks to virtual reality, they can make sure that the people they send into space have some amount of experience in becoming detached from their shuttle and have to use a backpack to navigate their way back or performing complicated tasks in zero gravity. Virtual Reality enables NASA to simulate all these situations.

However, you do not need to train for being an astronaut before virtual reality can make a huge difference in the workplace. Customer service training, as an example, requires teaching employees how to impact, retain and understand customer satisfaction as well as the use of greetings, body language, appropriate tone of voice and even the best way to deal with customer complaints.

These skill sets can be quite difficult to hone if the learning is hypothetical. With virtual reality however, employers are able to simulate real-life situations which exposes employees to situations such as the handling of consumer complaint, dissatisfaction or how to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one. Also, consider how medical professionals can receive the best training possible using these virtual reality devices, without the need for less realistic simulations or even human testing.

Enabling human resources to find the right fit

The workforce today consists of a large number of millennials. This generation seeks a high degree of flexibility, mobility and in general a great emphasis on work-life balance.  Therefore, for this generation a company’s culture makes up one of the biggest considerations when evaluating and considering a new employer.

Here virtual reality can enable the HR department in multiple ways. First, virtual reality applications can enable employees to get as much mobility and flexibility as they desire; by virtually accessing the office space. Thereby virtual reality technology gives employees the autonomy in terms of when, where and how they work.

Second, what about using virtual reality to help potential candidates take more informed decisions? In that context, virtual reality technology can be used for showing a day in the life of an employee at the employer’s organization and experiencing a tour of the company offices. Facilitating this can in the end benefit the human resource departments that both can increase retention rates and decrease employee turnover.

What is the potential of virtual reality in the workplace?

All in all there lies a huge potential in using virtual reality among businesses. That being said, the adoption will be slow as the devices are still connected to high costs and it will take time to create personalized applications that fit the uniqueness of each business.

However, as more and more work becomes virtual and to some extend also remote and as training, with ever-changing consumer demands, will become more complex – more businesses will be curious to explore how virtual reality can be adopted to improve organizational business processes.

Can you see a potential in adopting virtual reality in your organization? Share your opinions in the comment field below.

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