I recently had the opportunity to spend an entire week working in virtual reality using the new Meta Quest 3, and my experience left me with a mix of both frustration and optimism for the future of VR in the workplace. Despite the challenges I encountered, such as physical discomfort, eye strain, and decreased productivity, I also found several aspects of the experience to be genuinely impressive and promising.
During my week in virtual reality, I met a variety of individuals who have been using VR for work purposes, including Ron from Microsoft, who has been working in the metaverse for over a year, and Heather, a mother who uses VR to work while her kids are at school. I also connected with Miguel, a recruiter at Netflix, who has been an “OG” user of the VR app Immersed for the last two years. These encounters provided me with valuable insights into the potential benefits and drawbacks of working in virtual reality.
One of the most significant challenges I faced while working in VR was the physical discomfort and strain I experienced after extended periods of use. As impressive as the technology is, I consistently suffered from headaches, eye strain, and neck stiffness, which hampered my ability to work at peak efficiency. My experience mirrors the findings of a study conducted by Dr. Jens Grubert at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences, which revealed that participants who worked in VR for a week reported increased levels of frustration, anxiety, and decreased productivity compared to working in the real world.
Despite these challenges, I also found several aspects of the VR experience to be truly compelling. Working alongside virtual colleagues from around the world provided a sense of connection and collaboration that I rarely experience in my remote work environment. The ability to network, interact, and collaborate with like-minded individuals was a significant benefit of working in the metaverse.
Additionally, the potential for conducting meetings and interacting with others in virtual reality was particularly intriguing. The ability to shake hands with someone thousands of miles away and the immersive nature of VR meetings added a level of presence and engagement that traditional video conferencing tools lack. The freedom to customize my virtual workspace, from a space station orbiting Earth to a cozy chalet on a snow-capped mountain, also provided a level of versatility and creativity that is not possible in the physical world.
While there are still significant challenges and limitations associated with working in VR, such as physical discomfort, decreased productivity, and limited user adoption, the potential benefits are undeniable. As technology continues to advance and VR hardware becomes more user-friendly and accessible, the future of VR in the workplace holds promise. With continued innovation and development, virtual reality has the potential to transform the way we work, collaborate, and interact, offering new opportunities for connectivity, engagement, and productivity in the digital age.