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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.

Go deeper

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations were "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 7 hours ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand, which were later lifted.

7 hours ago - World

North Korea launches 4th suspected missile test this month

A news broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, of an apparent North Korean missile test on Monday morning local time. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired "two suspected short-range ballistic missiles" eastward from Pyongyang on Monday morning local time, per South Korean and Japanese officials.

Why it matters: The fourth such launch since Jan. 5 comes days after North Korea's military warned of "stronger" action if the U.S. moved to have more sanctions imposed on the country.