With around a third of the world’s population now under some form of lockdown due to the impact of coronavirus, businesses and their employees have had to quickly adapt to the ways of remote working.

Many millions are facing the sudden challenge of reaching and maintaining their usual levels of productivity from home while embracing different methods of communicating than what they’re used to – all without neglecting their own mental health and wellbeing.

Whereas simple phone calls may still suffice when only a brief conversation is needed, they can never replace face-to-face group meetings. Being able to see and hear the whole group via a single platform – whether it’s Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans or another – is now widely accepted as the next best thing to in-person gatherings.

In fact, this new way of communicating has become so effective, with millions more people now familiar with the technology, that many predict it will continue to be a crucial tool even after the situation returns to ‘normal’.

Staying in touch

Use of video conferencing has skyrocketed in recent weeks, and countless companies will be wondering how they would get by without them, but what many don’t realise is that virtual reality provides an excellent alternative.

Video calling is a great way of keeping contact, but it can also enhance the feeling of distance between the participants. You can see and hear the other people, but you can’t interact with them properly or have any real kind of shared experience.

In VR, there’s a much stronger sense of being brought together as the users are united within a single environment. By immersing participants in the virtual space, unwanted distractions are removed. Then there are the many collaborative options now available such as customisable scenarios, interactive drawing tools and 3D modelling, which can make team members feel more comfortable in the setting, share ideas and brainstorm in a similar way to how they would in person.

Not just a passing craze

Already analysts are envisioning a surge in demand for virtual and augmented reality equipment once the pandemic passes as the usefulness of remote working technology has surprised business leaders. Many are now realising the advantages of this approach, and that Zoom meetings only scratch the surface of what can be done with current tech.

Accenture has listed the shift to virtual working as one of its five new human truths that organisations need to address in the post-COVID-19 era, imagining a near future where “anything that can be done virtually will be” and companies that respond quickly to this new norm are more likely to succeed.

As well as presenting colleagues with a highly engaging new way of communicating from a distance, VR also scores highly in the area of safety. Many industries use advanced simulations as a way of training staff on a potentially hazardous task, and it is enabling employees to train and work together safely when physical proximity is no longer possible.

What’s really important though during this difficult time is that we don’t just ensure the job gets done when working remotely. Good team morale is critical to the functioning of any business and many will be struggling to keep the mood up in the current climate when their usual working environment and familiar patterns have been taken away from them.

But with VR, teams can even create their own virtual office – and/or a meeting room for hosting clients – and try to recreate as much of what they would normally have as they can. This can provide a big boost to team bonding and help combat that sense of isolation that millions are currently experiencing while under lockdown.

Virtual team building

VR was already gaining traction as a modern option for team building before the pandemic struck but now it is beginning to attract even more attention in this regard. Companies can not only use virtual reality to unite employees in a captivating simulated environment to carry out work duties; they can also utilise it to develop and strengthen relationships between staff.

There is now a huge selection of solutions out there that allow groups to collaborate on various work-related tasks or take part in tailored team building experiences. These are a great way of boosting team spirit and connections while ensuring they are kept safe – even more important today as we deal with this unprecedented new threat.

At VRE we specialise in remote team building services, taking care of the whole process from identifying the right equipment and supplying it to managing the experience and ensuring it all goes smoothly.

Jump in

Although this is an area of technology that is still in development, it is remarkable what can already be achieved with the hardware and software currently available to even small businesses. Headsets have been gradually coming down in price to a point where they can be considered affordable, and there is now a rich plethora of business applications for VR out there – it’s not all aimed at consumers and gamers.

The reason that isn’t common knowledge is because until now there hasn’t been enough of a need for companies to go out and try to find the most effective remote working solution that they can – they had always collaborated in person and why change what was working?

Today though, these firms are waking up to the possibilities that remote working technology presents and seeing what VR can do as a next step is a smart move indeed.