How Can Employees Rapidly, Intuitively and Naturally Collaborate in a Virtual Environment?

The pandemic has prompted some organizations to make reductions in their office space, reflecting a permanent shift to more remote work environments. With the right tools and processes in place, working remotely can deliver long-term positive impact and the following benefits:

    • Enhanced collaboration between peers and leaders.
    • Increased team connectivity and employee trust.
    • Effective formal videoconferencing sessions.
    • More engaging casual and informal interactions.

As a natural progression of learning technologies, disruptive technology solutions are progressing to address the “art of the possible” for learning. Remote unplanned collaboration, conversations and coaching sessions are becoming more effective through the emergence of these fresh and innovative platforms and systems.

These virtual “water cooler” and immersive collaboration tools provide a casual environment for employees to meet virtually. For example, like walking across the room to visit a co-worker, some tools provide employees with the ability to drag their video icon over to a colleague’s icon and start talking. Through the use of spatial audio, employees become immersed in the environment — and less distracted by the technology — so their conversation is more effective and efficient. When needed, employees and supervisors can step into a private “room” to conduct one-on-one conversations while remaining in the same virtual space as their team members.

To create a more interactive atmosphere, much like being in the office, other platforms display video thumbnails of each team member working at his or her desk or engaged in conversations. Team members can determine whether to ask someone a question, to join in on a group dialogue or to converse with others.

To take the “art of the possible” a step further, pilots are continuing to apply immersive collaboration tools in a 3D virtual space. With easily rendered and maneuvered avatars that look like each employee, the space includes powerful, easy-to-use visual tools for sharing ideas, thoughts, concepts and documents. The tools also use spatial audio for realistic interactions through awareness of each team member’s proximity.

How Can Organizations Use Immersive Collaboration to Learn?

You may wonder how much immersive collaboration can improve informal learning. Gamers will tell you that the more immersive the game, the more realistic the experience, the more aware they are of their virtual surroundings, so the more accepting they are of the consequences of their actions. There are subliminal improvements that immersive environments have on remote team members as well.

An illustrative example of employees using immersive technology to interact with each other.

It doesn’t take long for teams to adapt to the environment, to the feeling of being in close proximity to one another, and share the same relative space in which they would normally converse. Just like in-person interactions, they’ll respond to facial expressions and body language, while managing their own remote collaboration techniques. Through the immersive experience, they will have renewed trust in each another; develop greater confidence in the team; and establish a sense of belonging that we previously lost in the remote, videoconferencing-connected world.

What Do Employees Need for Improved Learning?

There will be a subsequent culture shift. First, employees will need to make themselves available to the team, and the platform will need to provide them with respectful and informal access to each other. In this way, team members will be more comfortable approaching each other to brainstorm ideas; discuss a project status; or share thoughts about more informal topics, such as something of interest in the news.

While employees become focused on their own tasks, team members are far more accessible than ever before, particularly in global organizations. To improve the time efficiency of informal interactions — integral with collaborative dialogue — virtual learning can benefit from documented collaborative shortcuts in the form of documented processes, FAQs, and pre-researched URLs that include learning materials and modalities. These shortcuts can be anything that makes the ongoing collaboration more efficient and should entice team members to interact with others more readily when requested. It takes some prep work, but the results are well worth the time spent. Think of every internal collaboration as an opportunity to improve the skills and likelihood of success for the people with whom you work.

Integrated collaboration and learning platforms are where organizations can have the most positive impact on the performance of remote employees. It is invaluable for your workforce to leverage the lessons learned from remote work to integrate the right technologies for successful informal and formal learning through immersive collaboration.