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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

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.