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Prepare to say goodbye to boring Teams and Zoom meetings!

Accelerated by the pandemic, businesses have increasingly embraced remote work, with a sharp rise in the use of alternative meeting formats such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Fueled by tech giants like Meta and Microsoft, companies are now increasingly also looking into the prospects of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

There seems to be a consensus that in comparison with the existing 2D videoconferencing tools, VR offers users more engagement, feeling of presence, and delivers better interaction capabilities.

But are we ready to adopt these technologies? And are they worth the investment?

Barriers for VR in business meetings

To gain a deeper understanding of these questions, we recently conducted a study with 194 Scandinavian participants, mostly full-time employees and/or business students. We focused on understanding adoption barriers and factors for adopting VR technology in business meetings.

More than half of our participants were aware of VR technology but had never used it (54,1%). These were named “non-active” users. Respondents that used VR sometimes (40,7%) and on a regular basis (4,1%) were named “active” users.

When asked about barriers for implementing VR meetings, broadly speaking, all respondents found price, personal interest, set-up time, and comfort of the device as the key main barriers.

What did we learn?

Interestingly, we found statistically significant differences between the active and non-active users. On average, non-active users find the time it takes to set up the VR device less problematic than active users, and the same goes for the comfort of the device.

Active users find the price to be a more significant barrier than non-active users, and active users naturally find personal interest to be a less significant hurdle for them using VR than non-active users.

We also found that active users find nausea from wearing the headset, so-called “VR sickness”, to be a bigger problem than non-active users.

Five significant differences

Further analysis demonstrated five other significant differences between respondents. Companies interested in implementing VR technology for business meetings should be aware of the following findings:

  1. Non-active users believe VR is more reliable.
  2. Non-active users are more optimistic about how successful VR meetings are.
  3. Active users believe that more people have started using VR than non-active users do.
  4. Non-active users generally think it is easier to adapt from other meeting formats to VR.
  5. Non-active users highlight the importance of a trial period before starting to use VR for business meetings.

However, our study also implies that VR is not yet mature for mass adoption in Scandinavia, and that more stories from successful applications are needed before it can “cross the chasm” in a business context. With that said, the seemingly high level of optimism in the market indicates that it is only a question of time before more businesses take the leap into the metaverse.

Preventing employees from “zooming out”

Our study also shows that VR is perceived as a more engaging and immersive communication tool than more traditional options like Zoom or Teams. According to Michel Buchner, some of the key advantages of VR include the feeling of presence and togetherness, a true spatial experience using 3D sound, interactivity through the use of body language, the freedom to move around, and no visual distractions.

People also feel more emotionally present in VR and they find the format as more compatible with performing successful meetings. A recent study also found that VR is a better communication mode than videoconferencing meetings for actions or for small group conversations. VR makes it easier for people to read nonverbal cues, like leaning in or making eye contact.

For managers, this indicates that VR technology could be the potential solution to avoid that employees get “zoomed out” during virtual meetings.

Preparing for a metaverse future

Although several criteria may be relevant for managers to assess adoption of VR in their business, we propose the “9Cs model” as a tool to help managers make the right decision for their company and how VR might benefit them (see Figure 1 below).

Velasco_9C_ENG.jpg

According to a recent McKinsey report, the average internet user will spend up to six hours a day in the metaverse by 2030, and the market is expected to generate up to $5 trillion in value by 2030.

The highly significant upside of VR compared to traditional videoconferencing tools makes it critical for leaders to prepare their businesses for the metaverse future and to determine what role their firms want to play.

Nevertheless, we also believe that business adopting VR should asked themselves: What are the positive and negative implications of increasingly using VR for employees, customers, and business? This is a question that is yet to be answered.

References:

Basu, T. (2021, September 8). Meetings suck. Can we make them more fun? MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/09/08/1035081/facebook-horizons-oculus-zoom-fatigue/

Bove, T. (2022, June 21). One week working in the metaverse led to 19% more anxiety and 16% less productivity, new study finds. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2022/06/21/study-working-in-metaverse-low-productivity-high-anxiety/

Buchner, M. (2020, May 19). Virtual collaboration vs video conferencing: Why being an Aspiring Avatar is better than being a Zoom Zombie | LinkedIn. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/virtual-collaboration-vs-video-conferencing-why-being-michel-buchner/

McKinsey. (2022). Value creation in the metaverse: The real business of the virtual world (p. 77). McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/value-creation-in-the-metaverse

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