Could remote work be better?

Virtual reality vs video conferencing

konstantin rubinov

Philipp Sostmann 
Senior Manager, Immersive Technologies
PwC Switzerland

konstantin rubinov

Jeremy Dalton
Head of Immersive Technologies

The numbers show that virtual reality in the workplace can improve communication, togetherness, output satisfaction, and the experience of working together in virtual workshops.  

In today's digital age, the way we conduct workshops and meetings has evolved dramatically. With the rise of remote work, many businesses have turned to video conferencing as a primary method of communication. However, with the advances in virtual reality (VR) technology, there is a rapidly growing interest in exploring its potential to elevate the collaborative employee experience.

To explore this area, the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Lower Saxony, Germany agreed to conduct several of their regular workshops using VR headsets. PwC designed and constructed the virtual environment where the pilot was carried out. The University of Münster monitored this pilot and produced the results, highlights of which are summarized below.

“Following the pandemic, modern workforces must be resilient against the next major disruption and find ways to work more effectively with one another remotely. Immersive technologies unlock new and powerful dimensions of collaboration.”

André HenkeMinistry of Internal Affairs Lower Saxony (Germany)

The study revealed insightful findings on the value of VR as a collaborative tool when compared with traditional video conferencing solutions, showing a marked improvement in the way we can work together remotely.

The most significant impact was a 58% boost in participants feeling a sense of closeness to their colleagues when using VR, underlining its potential to foster team cohesion, especially in remote scenarios. Additionally, there was a 16% improvement in communication, suggesting clearer exchange of ideas and information in VR environments. The results also showed an 11% uptick in satisfaction with the workshop's outcomes, indicating that the immersive nature of VR might lead to more productive sessions.

Interestingly, despite the common perception of VR headsets as cumbersome, there was a 15% increase in comfort levels during VR meetings compared to traditional video conferencing. This suggests that any physical discomfort from the hardware is outweighed by the psychological comfort users feel when representing themselves in a virtual world with a digital avatar. This form of self-presentation can feel less intrusive than the constant exposure of an always-on video call.

“Overall, findings from our studies show that meetings in the enterprise metaverse can benefit from the unique characteristics of VR technology.”

Prof. Dr. Thorsten Hennig-ThurauUniversity of Münster

While the advantages of VR for remote collaboration are evident, it is important to address the cost of these benefits. One contrasting data point we found is a 20% increase in exhaustion among participants using VR compared to traditional video conferencing. This could be attributed to the immersive nature of VR, which demands a different kind of cognitive and sensory engagement.

In a nutshell 

To conclude on the debate of virtual reality and video conferencing, the best technology depends on the scenario. For straightforward presentations or one-way dialogues, video conferencing remains efficient and practical. On the other hand, when running remote workshops where a deeper level of engagement and interaction is needed, VR offers a more immersive, connected, and productive solution. As VR technology advances, we can expect the challenges of incorporating this technology to decrease which suggests a promising future for its adoption in the workplace.

For more information relating to this study, including its methodology and additional data points, please see the University of Munster working paper below. There are further results which are currently being analyzed and the complete set of data with adjacent commentary will be made available through a PwC report shortly. Please contact us below if you’d like to access this report when it releases.

Download the paper

Contact us

Philipp Sostmann

Philipp Sostmann

Senior Manager, Immersive Technologies, PwC Switzerland

Jeremy Dalton

Jeremy Dalton

Head of Immersive Technologies, PwC United States