Tech Meets Tradition: Reimagining the Experience of Work

CCS Insight recently conducted a study with Meta to explore the use of virtual reality (VR) at work, polling 500 people from across the UK and the US who use it in their job. The survey looked to better understand VR’s applications in the workplace, and uncover perceptions and impact on the employee experience. Let’s look at the most significant findings through the lens of the employee experience, and some of the challenges that organizations eyeing VR adoption should consider.

Modern Workplace Technology: The Focus of a Hybrid Era

Covid-19 put the workplace through a significant transformation. With businesses forced to rapidly digitize processes and reconsider long-established working models, the prolonged period of remote work led organizations to adopt more-flexible practices for where and how employees worked. After the pandemic restrictions were lifted, the subsequent operational changes became firmly entrenched in the fabric of the modern workplace and hybrid working practices became commonplace.

Since then, conversations have focused heavily on the technology itself, as organizations raced to implement workplace collaboration and productivity apps from the likes of Zoom, Microsoft, Google and Slack. Workplace technology has undeniably become the backbone of productivity and collaboration, with the proliferation of launches and updates of the software vying for market share equipping us with much-improved technology.

Workplaces are more digitized than ever and with employee experience now so inextricably linked to the technology itself, the tools we use to collaborate, learn and complete work have become a vital consideration for retaining talent and maximizing productivity.

A Shift to Employee-Centric Tech

The digital workplace ushers in a host of benefits for employees and organizations taking advantage of technology to work more flexibly. Freed from the constraints of daily commutes and rigid office hours, the inherent flexibility of hybrid working saw employees in our survey claiming improvements in work–life balance and productivity.

But more than half of respondents also feel a loss of community, missing colleagues and feeling more isolated and stressed. With employees rating effective collaboration, social interaction and a sense of community as the top advantages of in-office working, it’s clear that communication and collaboration apps fall short of effectively replicating the benefits of relationships traditionally cultivated in the office. Although online tools facilitate communication, they often lack the personal touch that human interactions bring to the table, resulting in a workforce that’s digitally connected but emotionally distant.

The focus on delivering technology during the pandemic was vital to enable swift moves to remote working, but amid these strides, a critical aspect was overlooked: the human element. The need for meaningful connections and genuine interactions between colleagues has come to the fore as technology becomes an important part of work culture.

For organizations to continue to offer flexible operational practices and provide a positive working environment, they need to shift their focus to employee-centric technology strategies that not only improve communication but also prioritize the well-being and interpersonal dynamics of the workforce. There are several solutions in which technology acts as a facilitator for genuine connections, but I want to focus on VR here.

The Need for Human Connection

Our study shows VR’s potential to enable employees to make more meaningful connections, which can also lead to improved collaboration, increased productivity and better learning outcomes.

A notable 68% of respondents say that when compared with online video apps, meetings conducted in VR helped them to feel more connected to colleagues. The wearing of a headset ensures fewer distractions than with video meetings, encouraging users to be more active and involved in the conversations. The immersive nature of VR can also allow for spontaneous conversations and lets users convey and pick up on non-verbal cues, anticipate what a person might say and recognize subtleties that are more difficult to identify when speaking over a screen. Enriching communication in this way makes the connection more meaningful, as it more closely replicates face-to-face conversations.

Reinforcing the importance of meaningful connections at work for building trust, understanding and engagement, 65% of respondents claim that VR improves collaboration with colleagues. This is further cemented by the striking number of respondents who agree that VR improves the overall sense of community (77%) and helps them to feel less isolated (72%).

Popular work collaboration apps like those of Google, Microsoft and Zoom also facilitate online communication and teamwork with features such as video conferencing, instant messaging and collaboration on shared documents. However, the nature of these apps means they’re unlikely to replicate the benefits brought about by an immersive environment.

Reshaping Productivity

Meaningful communication is not only about conveying information but also fostering engagement, which is known to be an integral factor for work productivity. When employees feel heard, valued and more connected to the larger purpose of their work, they’re more likely to be motivated and dedicated, and therefore more productive — which in turn can improve operational efficiencies and enable faster innovation.

The integration of novel technologies is helping to reshape the way employees work, and productivity-boosting solutions are a must for organizations striving to remain competitive. Generative artificial intelligence solutions such as Microsoft Copilot, ChatGPT and Google Duet have dominated conversations in the past year with promises of increased productivity and creativity (see, for example, Insight Report: The Business Value and Product Potential of AI). It’s still early days, but adoption is beginning to yield substantial enhancements in employee productivity and the quality of work.

Our survey also reveals promising signs of productivity gains in the workplace. Two-thirds of respondents affirm that VR helps them complete work tasks faster, and 74% report a positive impact on the quality of their work. The time taken to complete tasks is a common measure of productivity, with quality as a supporting, yet critical factor. These results present VR as a time-saving application that enables an increase in quality, and suggest that it has the potential to help increase productivity for workers and organizations.

Better Learning Outcomes

Meaningful connections in a learning environment contribute significantly to better learning outcomes. Whether through fostering a collaborative atmosphere, providing personalized support or enhancing motivation, these connections create a positive and supportive framework that enhances the overall learning experience, as evidenced by our study results.

Hard- and Soft-Skills Training

Training in hard skills — for example, learning specific tasks or technical skills — has been a major driver of interest in VR for training, although our survey shows this levelling out, with soft skills accounting for 58% of all VR training.

Two-thirds of employees say they experience significant improvements in five key learning factors when compared with traditional online and video training methods: time taken to complete training, ability to absorb information, confidence in applying acquired skills, user engagement and participation, and ability to remain focused throughout the training process.

The immersive platform offered by VR can lead to improved learning outcomes for employees, supporting a culture of continuous improvement, adaptability and forward-thinking — these are conditions that could translate to an improved organizational performance that will support competitiveness and help sustain success.

Formal Education Programmes

VR has gained popularity in educational environments in recent years with its presence and immersive characteristics enabling new learning possibilities. The results of our survey portray a positive picture of VR use, but importantly, they reflect similar results found during other independent studies, conducted to assess the impact of VR on learning outcomes.

More than half of employees in our survey report improvements in speed of completion (58%), ability to absorb information (62%), confidence in applying skills (59%), engagement and participation (61%) and ability to remain focused (58%), compared with online or video methods. I believe that at the heart of these results lies the immersive and interactive nature of VR. Unlike traditional training methods, VR offers students a dynamic and engaging environment that resonates with learners, creating a more effective educational experience.

Considerations Aplenty

Although the results from our study show that integration of VR in the workplace can bring transformative benefits, organizations need to carefully evaluate the technology. The journey toward widespread adoption of VR in workplace settings must navigate several complexities and challenges.

Almost half of our respondents say that the top challenges of working in VR are having to wear a headset (46%) and set up a space to work (45%). Headset development has definitely improved, but design isn’t yet at the level where a device can be comfortably worn for long periods. Problems such as motion sickness, discomfort and the potential isolation of remote workers need to be addressed to ensure the well-being and satisfaction of employees. Striking a balance between the advantages and challenges of VR is paramount.

With organizations constrained more than ever by budgets, cost-effectiveness and return on investment have a significant influence on decision-making, and the financial investment needed to implement VR systems demands careful evaluation. From the costs of acquiring hardware and software to the expenses incurred in staff training, organizations need to weigh the potential returns against the initial spending. Clearly, the VR industry has some work to do: ensuring VR technology is more accessible to a broader range of businesses and allowing organizations of varying sizes and financial capacities to implement VR solutions could help promote wider adoption and inclusivity across more industries.

Having a wider range of work-related VR applications and functionalities in different market sectors will be equally important in promoting the immediate benefits and long-term value of the technology. Businesses will be more willing to invest when uses for the technology can strengthen key performance indicators and deliver returns on investments.

Moreover, the technological infrastructure required to support VR must align seamlessly with existing systems. Ensuring compatibility and scalability is essential to avoid disruptions in workflow and to make VR solutions viable. Organizations embracing VR must remain agile in the face of evolving technologies, ensuring that their systems stay current and aligned with the ever-changing landscape of VR.

As VR often involves the creation and storage of sensitive data, organizations must have robust measures to protect against breaches, respecting the privacy and confidentiality of users. Striking a balance between security measures and regulatory compliance is critical, as is establishing strong technical support and maintenance systems.


At a time when hybrid work practices have diminished the sense of workplace community for many, VR technology presents a promising avenue to foster meaningful connections between colleagues and address many of the challenges facing workforces. From nurturing relationships to enhancing productivity and learning outcomes, VR appears to be emerging as a powerful tool that can bridge gaps between the existing digital and physical realms of work.

But although VR has the potential to recreate the collaborative and social aspects of the office environment in a virtual space, it also introduces many challenges that haven’t been seen in other workplace collaboration and productivity solutions.

This reimagining of the workplace experience, propelled by VR, calls for a nuanced and measured approach, recognizing its transformative potential and being mindful of the practicalities and diverse perspectives of today’s workforce.