Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Business

Using VR to Unlock the Power of Remote Collaboration

Using VR to Unlock the Power of Remote Collaboration
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One of your organization’s biggest challenges in a global marketplace is how to create a seamless employee experience across cities, countries, and continents. Your teams often need to communicate with colleagues and partners who can’t meet in the same room, whether they’re an ocean apart or just across town.

As more organizations develop remote-work policies, virtual reality is emerging as a tool whose collaborative capabilities extend far beyond the offerings of video chat-rooms and onscreen meetings.

VR isn’t all fun and games. PwC projects enterprise VR growing exponentially over the next decade as organizations adopt it for brainstorming, 3D product design, data visualization, and other joint efforts that once seemed impossible to coordinate without face-to-face meetings. And organizations that adopt VR often see more engaged employees, greater productivity, and lower travel and other expenses.

While all businesses depend on human transaction and interaction, two sectors in particular vividly illustrate VR’s collaborative power: architecture, engineering & construction (AEC) and healthcare.

Human-Scale Projects

AEC projects are complex, and coordination and communication across teams and partner companies is vital at every stage, from ground-breaking to ribbon-cutting. VR can help make this coordination highly time- and cost-effective.

To launch work on a $100 million Florida high school, one construction company introduced VR to enable meetings among four design, field, and virtual design & construction (VDC) staff, based locally as well as in Chicago and San Diego.

During three VR-assisted meetings, the teams minimized requests for information (RFIs), each of which can cost more than $1,000 and take up eight hours of review on average. They uncovered 32 issues—as many as four were rated “critical”—including hard-to-detect constructability conflicts and oversights they could only find at a human scale.

Another company , leading a laboratory-modernization project for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, used VR to assemble teams from offices in Denver, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Merritt Island, Fla., into a seamless working group. VR helped these team members tour their full-scale 3D model of the project from their own offices and make adjustments before construction began.

The tool helped prevent late-stage design changes and reduce RFIs. In three hours of collaborative meetings, participants identified and resolved an average of seven potential RFIs per hour.

Maintaining Momentum

The costs of training personnel can be high, as it can sideline both professionals and machinery. The Johnson & Johnson Institute introduced VR training in 2017 to reduce the stress on orthopedic surgeons and residents as they learned to perfect their skills in virtual operating rooms.

And when the staff had to stay remote during shelter-in-place orders, the Institute’s Education Technology & Innovation team used VR to keep their work moving without disruption, brainstorming and sharing insights on virtual whiteboards.

Just as importantly, VR helped them maintain the human connection that keeps coworkers engaged with the work and one another. “I can high-five team members in virtual reality,” said Tim Mauri, the team’s director. “After having had limited human contact for weeks, this is a convincing experience of being with other people and getting work done.”

Less Travel, More Time

VR-powered organizations may see benefits beyond the collaboration that immersive, 3D experiences can unlock. When geographically disparate teams can be in the same “room,” organizations save on travel expenses as well as environmental costs. Meetings can have far smaller carbon footprints. Some VR-equipped teams report that they now require 90% less travel.

Less travel can also mean less stress, greater productivity, and lower rates of burnout and turnover. Best of all, VR can give its users more time and energy to collaborate with those most important to them: their friends and family.

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