There is now intense debate about the role of the traditional office and its future. The last months have proven that remote working at scale is not only possible but also efficient, cost-effective, good for business, good for the employee and good for the environment. Companies are embracing remote working as part of their future business strategy. The physical office is not gone or obsolete, but it will have a new role in the future.

At the same time, the conventional conferencing IT tools and platforms have experienced a boom. It is now necessary to at least have two or three systems to manage and access the multiple video conferencing platforms. As much as they are cost-effective, very accessible, and help us keep in touch, on many occasions, they are not always the best solution for genuinely collaborative ideation and training as we lose the people engagement that is often needed.

When we started Circle4x and Human4x, we did not want to follow the old rules and habits. We had the desire to help others to change, to see things from a different perspective and take up new ways of thinking and acting. We also wanted to contribute to leave something to the next generation. As consultants, we see how much CO2 we waste in travel, which, on many occasions, is not always necessary.

So how could our business goals, such as reducing our travel time, costs and CO2 impact, while being a human-centric, innovative and agile organisation, be achieved? The reality was that we needed to move from physical to virtual, understanding that the conventional video-conferencing system was not the solution.

Working with our partner; Arthur Technologies, we have a virtual reality platform enabling us to form immersive and collaborative experiences. It creates a place where we meet colleagues and our clients to discuss, work and share ideas and projects. Importantly, it is uniquely immersive, which is a significant advantage for training people. It can mirror real-life in-person experiences.

From a business perspective, there are significant benefits. Travel costs are the obvious one, but we can see an increase in employee satisfaction, better information retention, faster learning, alongside scalability and flexibility. In a virtual world, there is an endless amount of meeting space without the cost of the rental, furniture and equipment.

The global pandemic is restricting how companies carry out employee engagement tasks that would typically be in person. Social distancing rules also restrict the number of people within a space, making office environments less efficient as far more space is needed. In VR, there is no social distancing. Training for example, can be conducted as it would in real life with the active interaction of the participants. Documents can be shared and developed as well as working in small groups. Furthermore, unlike video conferencing, every participant is actively involved and can participate as in real life.

Training and workshop sessions range from 30 to 90 minutes, depending upon the content and completed without the need for physical travelling. Studies prove that VR participants are up to 4 times less distracted which makes it more efficient, faster and immersive while allowing other daily activities to continue either side of the training session.

It is not the magic answer to all forms of co-working. Video conferencing, desk-sharing and other collaboration tools all form part of the future remote-office communications tool kit. The growth in VR technology will make it another essential part of the remote office. The technology is only at the start of its journey, and we will see a rapid acceleration. As technologies improve, it will fundamentally change the way we interact with each other, teleporting us to different spaces without physically moving and connecting us in ways that traditional methods cannot.

Watch this space – get prepared, it is going to be virtual.