People’s relationship with technology is changing as people adapt to the “new normal” presented by COVID-19 and technology itself evolves.
In 2020, Gartner predicted a decade-long shift in how people interact with technology, shifting from devices we use separately to a multi-device experience that engages the senses.
This shift is towards what Gartner describes as the multiexperience: Multiple devices and technologies working together to engage multiple senses and transport users to multiple locations to deliver information (full research available to clients).
With the disruptions and changes presented by the pandemic, many businesses have had to quickly adopt a digital-first mindset and are turning toward emerging technologies to fill in the gaps including reality technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.
For 2021, Gartner predicts that people centricity, location independence, and resilient delivery will be the top three strategic technology trends for businesses (full research available to clients). VR is one of the technologies that will contribute to these trends, especially in relation to people centricity and location independence.
As it advances, VR has the potential to bolster businesses’ push for a people-first business model (people centricity) and the ability to operate from anywhere (location independence), and it starts with applying VR to the employee experience.
As the VR experience becomes more affordable, more businesses are using it to train their employees on company procedures as well as developing the soft skills necessary for roles such as customer service and public speaking.
For example, according to Harvard Business Review, Walmart uses VR-training to teach more than a million employees how to use “The Pickup Tower,” an automated vending machine customers use to pick up orders. During the training, employees receive immediate feedback if they make a mistake. Not only does every employee get hands-on experience, but using virtual reality technology also cuts down training time from eight hours to just 15 minutes.
Using VR in this way has saved the company money while still providing employees with the training they need to serve customers.
As more companies turn to remote work, VR and immersive technology might be the solution they need to give employees hands-on experience, but virtually.
The pandemic taught some businesses that offices might be optional in the future. According to GetApp’s Productivity in the Remote Workplace survey, employees typically enjoy working remotely. While productivity remains a top concern for business leaders, 59% of employees report performing just as well as before or even better when working from home.
As people get used to working remotely, offices might become a relic of pre-COVID times. This will require businesses to think about how they will keep their teams working together cohesively when not physically in the same space.
According to Oculus for Business in HBR, VR can offer a more holistic immersive experience for remote workers than web conferencing software. For example, a virtual environment can reduce travel time for employees and put employees in the same “room,” even if they’re in different geographic locations.
VR technology is continuously advancing. The visuals are getting more realistic, eye tracking and motion tracking are improving, and the VR headset is becoming both more accessible and sophisticated.
As it continues to advance, VR will be one of the many technologies that businesses adopt to provide an immersive experience for both customers and employees adapting remotely.
Check out a list of top VR software platforms to get started.
*This survey was conducted in July 2020 among 384 individual contributors in small U.S. businesses (two to 500 employees) who are now working at least part-time because of the pandemic.