How To Keep Your Workforce Connected


Pieter Van Leugenhagen

Jan 25th, 2021

We are now almost a year since our lives were thoroughly shaken at home, but also at work. Maybe this was the professional wake-up call the world needed. Going back & forth from Brussels to London just for a meeting or being unnecessarily stuck in traffic for hours can no longer be justified. We have now seen that it can be done differently.

How To Keep Your Workforce Connected


Pieter Van Leugenhagen

We are now almost a year since our lives were thoroughly shaken at home, but also at work. Maybe this was the professional wake-up call the world needed. Going back & forth from Brussels to London just for a meeting or being unnecessarily stuck in traffic for hours can no longer be justified. We have now seen that it can be done differently.

Last year with yondr we had our best year ever and I met face-to-face, maybe, with five people since March. So why should we go back to the old normal? With climate issues and work-life balance in mind, companies can operate perfectly with remote work while keeping the roads unclogged for those who need to travel.

Of course, this does not mean that we should never physically see colleagues, but we could limit our once mandatory get-togethers and turn face-to-face presence into more quality interactions. Many companies will let their employees decide about how much time in the office they will spend. Axa Bank Belgium, for example, is letting employees choose whether they want to work from home or go to the office. How we will approach this at yondr is not yet certain, but we are sure that we will not be returning to a 9-to-5 office like we used to.

Keeping in touch with colleagues or coming together informally is challenging without the so-called “water-cooler” moments. Coffee breaks might be a thing of the pre-Covid past, but personal contact is so important to keep the spirit and company culture alive.

Thankfully, Microsoft Teams & Zoom are available, but they seem to work best for digital meetings in limited circles. These are great platforms for for one-on-one communication or one-to-many, but as soon as you want to organize a many-to-many video call, it creates chaos and anxiety. Zoom and Teams are simply unable to facilitate group discussions or meetups, even with the breakout features. So, if companies see working from home as a keeper, they need to figure out how they can facilitate engagement and connection between colleagues. Some have luckily come up with a few great ideas.

As we have been preaching virtual reality now for more than six years now, we are thrilled when companies discover VR and see firsthand the added value and efficiency this medium brings. Take Air France-KLM. The executives of this airlines group have been using the Helsinki-based Glue VR collaboration platform to reduce the need for corporate travel. Quite a contradiction, if you know that airlines (!) realize most of their turnover from business travel. But they, too, find it neither efficient nor a demonstration of corporate responsibility to fly back and forth for an internal meeting. You would be surprised how amazingly well a platform like Glue works for meetings, presentations and workshops. An increasing number of large companies are starting to look for better ways to collaborate, especially as they continue to move towards a decentralized workforce.

Microsoft already made a nice entry into virtual reality in 2017 by taking over the nearly defunct AltspaceVR, one of the pioneers in social VR. You create an avatar on the platform and hang out in worlds with people around the globe to connect or play mini-games. Events are also organized by the community on a daily basis.

In recent months, yondr has organized multiple events on Altspace. We particularly saw increased demand in the US, where several companies bought headsets in the hundreds for their staff. Since they are no longer going back to the office per se, they are looking for a way to bring the whole team together. It’s the perfect use case! We build worlds in VR with the company’s desired look & feel, or even the corporate identity, integrated into team events. A bull’s eye and the feedback from those people is unlikely. Many eventgoers have already had a VR experience before, but not experienced the power of social VR.

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Altspace has fast become an eye-opener and led many of our customers to lay out a long-term VR/AR strategy. There is a no better way–outside of real-life–to network and socialize than in a VR experience. Mark Zuckerberg raised eyebrows when he once said during his 2016 keynote at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that virtual reality could become the most social platform ever. But five years later, the platforms for random meetups or collaboration are alive and kicking. The catalyst of course being the corona crisis.

Speaking of Zuckerberg, and his very own Oculus: the virtual version of Facebook will probably be the biggest challenger to Altspace (among others) and is currently in beta. Called Horizon, the platform has high expectations and is causing a lot of curiosity about the release date. Facebook still has more to offer, though. They announced their strategy for “The Future of Work” in May 2020. That was during the eye of the storm of the pandemic’s first wave. They timed their announcement with good reason: from now on, everyone can live where he or she wants, with only an official domicile for tax reasons. People no longer have to come to the office every day, which also opens up recruitment possibilities: you no longer have to keep fishing from the same talent pool. That’s why Facebook is taking a different approach. If you then look at their product strategy, it is clear where they want to go. With the launch of the Oculus Quest 2, Infinite Office was announced. Your VR headset is your computer and offers several screens at the same time. In addition, Oculus is partnering with Logitech for a connected keyboard. For the digital nomads, you can travel with a headset and a keyboard in the future and have two or even five extra screens.

Like it or not, the future will be immersive. Remote work, driven by the Covid-19 and climate change, will be accompanied by an increase in digitization and accelerated adoption of immersive technology such as virtual & augmented reality.

As a reminder, yondr can help you adapt to this coming reality. We can help bring your team together, hold workshops and presentations remotely, or set up a customer event with a focus on networking, connecting and knowledge transfer. Let us know and we’ll be happy to guide you.

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