Workplace, Interrupted. Episode 4

07 May 2021

In this fourth blog taken from the Workplace Interrupted roundtable, our panelists discuss how Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology will change our everyday working environment. 

“How do you see VR and AR technology supporting employee engagement and workplace behavioural changes going forwards?” asks Heather.

Nicholas shared that, at Swiss Re, something as simple as employees being able to personalize their backdrop on their Microsoft meeting platforms has shown that attendees focus on the individuals rather than where their colleagues are working from, i.e. I could be in the office, but I could also be sat in front of a pile of washing with the kids running around, therefore focus on me and what I have to say – not my environment.

“Going one step further, and within the built environment,” he said, “Covid restrictions dictated that we had no choice other than to build projects remotely utilizing cameras, video and other digital means with increased frequency and depth of dialogue across all our service providers and stakeholders.  Pre Covid, I would have been on the fence whether this could have been done or not but, in a situation where there was no choice, it was done and done successfully.”

Tom shares that, although AR/VR is not fully utilized in Building Information Modelling (BIM) right now there is enormous potential in the market and it could be the go-to tool of the future.  “Designers and Architects have been using these tools effectively for a number of years and CRE are only now starting to realise that AR and VR software could be a valuable tool to them too.”

Paul agreed that there’s no doubt that AR/VR is coming, but how long it takes to get into the general work practice is debatable.  “There won’t be too much of an impact until those who are playing with it now as teenagers hit the workforce in about 8 years time” he said.  “We’re seeing this already with multi-touch technology such as touch white boards in collaboration spaces.  It’s not new technology but they’re still not being widely used.  However, it’s inevitable that the demand for this type of interactive technology will change as the next generation coming into the workplace will have used it extensively within schools and universities.”

Richard quotes a business partner, working at the cutting edge of VR in Australia, who believes that, not until VR is embedded into something like the size of a pair of glasses will it become more widely used.   “It will take a multi-billion-dollar industry such as adult entertainment to drive this major change in making VR and AR accessible and affordable to the masses thereby becoming mainstream technology.”

Nicholas asked if wearables such as ‘AR glasses,’ will mean that AV will become a piece of history but all agreed that there will continue to be a place for AV however, in the future your wearable will become the interface with wireless AV software thereby removing the traditional requirement for cables.

“The moment that you can put on a pair of VR glasses and be transported into a meeting room in a suit of your choice, rather than being in your pajamas at home, is going to be a real game changer, and that’s where we are heading,” said Richard “in the meantime, the more traditional organisations should encourage employees to individualise their AR spaces as a new way of positive employee engagement, rather than discouraging it as not being serious enough.”

“So, if this is the case,” asks Heather, “does the panel think that the traditional version of ‘Office’ will disappear?”

Check out our next blog for some interesting predictions from our panelists.