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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

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.

U.S. Chamber decides against political ban for Capitol insurrection

A pedestrian passes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters as it undergoes renovation. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed Friday it won't withhold political donations from lawmakers who simply voted against certifying the presidential election results and instead decide on a case-by-case basis.

Why it matters: The Chamber is the marquee entity representing businesses and their interests in Washington. Its memo, obtained exclusively by Axios, could set the tone for businesses debating how to handle their candidate and PAC spending following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

CDC lets child migrant shelters fill to 100% despite COVID concern

Intensive care tents at overflow shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control is allowing shelters handling child migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border to expand to full capacity, abandoning a requirement that they stay near 50% to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The fact that the country's premier health advisory agency is permitting a change in COVID-19 protocols indicates the scale of the immigration crisis. A draft memo obtained by Axios conceded "facilities should plan for and expect to have COVID-19 cases."