Giving Employees VR Headsets- a crazy or smart idea?

Author: Kirsty Mackenzie, iMultiply CEO

Our Founder Kirsty Mackenzie has been pondering recently about VR headsets and how they may be able to revolutionise the recruitment industry:

As far as I’m aware no one has conducted a large sample survey to know whether virtual reality (VR) headsets improve productivity in employees. However, there are claims that in education VR enjoys some measure of success offering immersion, presence and interactivity. Now these claims are being transferred to the business world with reference to supporting a post-COVID-19 world where there is more home-working.

There has been some recent publicity about giving employees VR sets to aid relaxation. Some companies have pool or table tennis tables in their offices, so why not replicate this at home?

I wondered whether is this a bright idea?

VR Headsets for relaxation?

Recently, my fiancé, dad, and brother bought VR headsets. I know my dad has been complaining about the repetitive strain in his shoulder from firing at some artificial intelligence (AI) soldiers. He also makes constant references to my brother being ‘shot’ and having to be rescued. I understand that there is quite a bit of interaction going on between them, despite neither being in the same room. So, there is an argument that VR can provide social interaction, although I’m not sure that improving their virtual shooting skills is something I support.

I have borrowed my partners VR headset to play some escape room games and in between baby nappy changing and emails it has proved an interesting past-time.

However, I have to confess a few problems with the concept.

When to stop

Unlike a quick game of pool in the office, game play can take up many hours, although I’ve not got hooked, in general the immersive nature of VR can mean that you forget time, until the battery runs out, and even then, if you haven’t bought the external battery option you may be scrambling around for a long extension cable to keep up the adrenalin rush. I suppose this can apply to any computer game and at least you can play VR games standing up and on the move; although all my relatives have had some bumps into the furniture when they ignore the warning lights and stray from the designated safe area!

VR is not for everyone. Some people suffer from motion sickness. The new VR sets offer ways to mitigate this feeling and it is claimed that if you are persistent, your body and mind will get used to you running around a field without really moving. However, many people may give up after the first twenty minutes.

Future opportunities 

VR headsets can offer other opportunities than games. You can play Netflix on the ‘big screen’ but from a productivity aspect you can have virtual meetings. The problem with them at the moment is that whilst everyone can be in the ‘same room’ they are avatars. It’s not accurate life-like holograms and not quite the same as the holodeck of Star Trek’s Enterprise. So, your colleagues can look like a self-designed parody of themselves and you may feel you are in a world inhabited from characters from a McDonald’s food box. While this may be an accurate reflection of how some people feel about their organisation, I suspect the novelty may soon wear off.

The equipment is relatively expensive and beyond the means for many companies to ‘give’ it to every employee for ‘relaxation’ purposes. Also currently the equipment is heavy and can become hot after wearing for some time, as well as some people suffering possible eye fatigue.

However, I can foresee a time in the future when VR headsets improve definition, comfort and become lighter.  There is then the possibility that a relaxation toy becomes a business necessity. Compared to video platforms, VR might provide a more immersive interview or appraisal experience, potentially useful with more people working remotely. It may not be long before the introduction of VR desktops, virtual meetings and the flexibility of hand controls over keyboards supersede conventional computers!

I’m interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on this; feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

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