Dec 12, 2020 - Technology

The virtual reality office

Illustration of a VR headset next to a steaming cup of coffee and a pen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While offices remain closed and travel isn't an option, some companies are turning to virtual reality to bring employees together.

Why it matters: Let's face it: Slack sessions and Zoom happy hours can only go so far to promote company cohesion. VR can provide another outlet, even if the technology is still in its infancy.

What's happening: True to its name, the workforce of Remote, a startup that helps companies with HR, has been fully remote since its founding. But as the company grew from 8 to approximately 60 employees distributed around the world during the pandemic, its CEO Job van der Voort was forced to find innovative ways to keep his company together.

  • So van der Voort launched an initiative to provide all Remote employees with VR headsets to enable them to have formal meetings, conversations and even social events in a more immersive virtual space.
  • "At first it feels very silly to put on the headset," says van der Voort. "But eventually it helps you feel more present with someone when you're all together in VR space."

Details: Strivr, an immersive learning company, has seen an increase in demand for its VR training sessions during the pandemic, as executives can no longer travel to satellite offices.

  • "Virtual reality environments have great potential for expanding access to the best learning principles possible," says Michael Casale, the chief science officer at Strivr.
  • "When people can interact with the environment, they can freely explore decisions, instead of the lessons being forced on them."

Yes, but: Top-line VR headsets are still expensive, and not every employee will feel comfortable interacting with colleagues in virtual environments, let alone while planning an online "Grand Theft Auto IV" heist.

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