Put down the VR Headsets, and turn your cameras ON.

Virtual Reality (VR) technology has been hailed as a revolutionary tool that could transform the way we work and interact. With the rise of remote work and virtual meetings, some have suggested that VR headsets could be the next big thing, offering immersive experiences that transcend the limitations of traditional video conferencing. However, recent studies, suggest otherwise.

In a recent survey, only a mere 3% expressed a desire to use VR headsets regularly in their work. Even among the tech-savvy 18-25 age group, this number only increased slightly to 6% (1 in 19 employees). These findings underscore a crucial point: while VR technology may hold promise, it is not yet poised to replace human-to-human interaction, especially in the context of virtual meetings or webinars.

One of the key reasons for this reluctance is the inherent nature of VR itself. While VR can create immersive environments, it also introduces barriers to communication and collaboration. Wearing a VR headset can be isolating, cutting off users from their physical surroundings and making it difficult to maintain the interpersonal connections that are essential in a professional setting. Moreover, VR headsets come with practical challenges that make them less appealing for everyday use. They require specialised hardware, which can be expensive and cumbersome to set up. Not to mention, the discomfort of wearing a headset for extended periods of time can be a significant deterrent, plus long-term impact it could have on eyesight and hearing.

In contrast, traditional video conferencing, with webcams turned on, offers a more accessible and familiar experience. It allows participants to see each other's facial expressions, gestures, and body language, which are crucial for effective communication. With the rise of high-quality video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the need for VR headsets in meetings seems even less compelling.

It’s well known that human-to-human interaction fosters a sense of connection and empathy that is difficult to replicate in a virtual environment, including in avatar form. Being able to see and interact with colleagues in real-time helps build rapport and trust, which are essential for collaboration and teamwork. With many companies more recently seeing employees seeking hybrid working, opposed to fully remote, VR headsets may create additional barriers to relationship building once past the novelty.

While VR technology continues to evolve, it is clear that it is not yet ready to replace human-to-human interaction in the workplace. Instead of investing in expensive VR headsets, companies would be better served by focusing on improving existing tools and platforms to make virtual meetings and internal training environments more engaging and effective.

Ultimately, while VR headsets hold promise for the future, they are not a practical replacement for human-to-human interaction in meetings. The recent study's findings reflect a broader sentiment: that traditional video conferencing and webinars, with webcams on, remains the preferred mode of communication for most professionals. As technology continues to advance, it's essential to prioritise solutions that enhance, rather than replace, human connection in the workplace.

Communication Skills