1992, Neal Stephenson sent his career-defining “Snow crash” out to publish — a science fiction novel taking place in 21st century LA. Within it Neal described a three-dimensional virtual space, a successor to the internet that we currently know, and he termed it “the metaverse”. Flash forward to 28th October 2021 and tech giant Facebook announces it will be going forward simply as “Meta”, short for metaverse. Suddenly a far-off concept from science fiction is brought into our current reality and with Meta taking the lead, other tech giants were quick to follow. The buying up of virtual land and virtual office construction began to take off. All this going hand-in-hand with the increased normality of zoom calls and remote work, paves a clear path for the use of digital spaces in corporate and redefines the future of work.
When big companies like Meta and Microsoft start pushing virtual reality, other companies follow lead. That’s why the virtual office market is expected to be worth 111.68 Billion by 2026. Trendy companies are ready to jump on in and invest in horizon workrooms and virtual reality headset, but are the workers? The use of virtual reality offices is new, trendy, it looks good, but is it something that workers actually want?
Horizon Workrooms via. Meta
Workers response to VR
While a fun novelty, it’s unlikely that the amount of investment companies are making in VR will actually find any level of acceptable return. Whether VR is for video gaming, virtual chat rooms, or office space use, the audience reaction remains the same. It’s fun, its new, but it hasn’t found anything resembling mass appeal.
On top of that, experts are still weary about the health effects of virtual reality. They argue that VR shouldn’t be used for more than 30 minutes at a time due to loss of spatial awareness and discomfort on users. Experts have also shown concern over negatively impacted eye growth, motion sickness and hearing damage. A couple conditions that companies probably don’t want to take the fall for, but might have to, if they begin to burden their workers with virtual reality meetings.
In fact, if you’re looking for workers response to virtual workrooms, you won’t need more than a quick google to see the problems. Even the most open mind tech-enthusiast employees have voiced their issues with the virtual horizon offices. Josh Hendrickson from reviewgeek called it “the future no one will embrace”. Mark Ritson from MarketingWeek talked about his concern that it lacked human connection. The conclusion seems to be that its trendy, its futuristic, but it’s not necessarily going to be a staple of work life — not unless some serious changes are made.
The other side of the coin
Despite the hold ups we’ve talked about here; companies are still keen to jump in. Wanting to get ahead of the curve and try something new, companies are ready to jump into the metaverse. For some it will work, for others it just wont. Although we’ve talked about the problems, we haven’t talked much about the benefits. Its not a one-sided tale. Emeric Brard of Women Love Tech said Horizon workrooms were “The VR Office You Didn’t Know You Needed”. D. Hardawar of engadget titled his review “Facebook gets VR meetings right with Horizon Workrooms”. So whilst not everyone loves it, some people do, and there’s a divide there that seems to come down to the characteristics and interests of each worker. So how can you know if VR is the right investment for your office?
How to check if your workers are ready
VR headsets alone are a big expense, and if not received well can be a major expense with no return. To check if VR is right for the office, its always best to ask. In your next employee wellness or pulse survey, put a question in about how your employees would feel embracing this tech. We’ve put some example questions below which you can use.
- Do you consider yourself a tech enthusiast? Y/N
- On a scale of 1-10 how interested are you in trying new technology in the workplace?
- Have you used a virtual reality headset before? Y/N and following this with a second question: how would you rate your experience on a scale of 1-5?
- Are you familiar with horizon workrooms? And following this with: would you be interested in using horizon workrooms in the office?
- On a scale of 1-5 how interested are you in using virtual reality technology in the office?
Depending on your companies level of investment in VR, it may be worth sending out a survey specifically to gage the workforce response on the subject, even if its not tied into your regular pulse survey.
Need help with your survey?
At CiVS we offer 13 different question types with a range of customisable options to make your survey a perfect fit for your company and objectives. If you have any questions about survey structure, set up or process feel free to contact the CiVS team at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (08) 6314 0580.