By the end of 2021, Gartner forecasts that 51% of all knowledge workers worldwide are expected to be working remotely, up from 27% in 2019 (knowledge workers are defined as "those who are involved in knowledge-intensive occupations, such as writers, accountants, or engineers"). Gartner also estimates that remote workers will represent 32% of all employees worldwide by the end of 2021. This is up from 17% of employees in 2019.
And one huge benefit of hiring remote workers? Hiring the best of the best, from a global pool of talent.
For instance, GitLab, one of the world's largest all-remote companies, writes about this: "[Hiring worldwide] gives GitLab a tremendous competitive advantage. We are sourcing talent from places that most companies overlook, and we're creating a more diverse team all the while. We hope that this advantage fades, as more companies embrace all-remote and widen their talent acquisition funnel beyond the usual talent centers."
Obviously, one (very) important facet of remote work is ensuring your distributed team can still communicate effectively.
"The use of tools for online collaboration is increasingly common in teams that want to communicate and work remotely." (Unsurprisingly.) Those separated by ‘a wall or an ocean’ are still able to interact and access a wide range of knowledge and information.
Let's dig in today specifically about the advantages of virtual collaboration — and by that, we mean the use of immersive platforms that go beyond videoconferencing.
4 Advantages of Virtual Collaboration That Transforms Remote Work
First of all, what sort of platforms allow for virtual collaboration? Some examples include:
Breakroom is "an immersive 3D virtual world platform for remote collaboration, networking, and events. Breakroom's fully customizable environment provides limitless creative potential — making it the perfect alternative to traditional 2D platforms."
SpatialWeb has "bespoke digital spaces that encourage collaboration and exploration. Brainstorm, move between breakout rooms, easily share feeds and streams. Empower people to connect and collaborate in rich, 3D worlds with spatial sound that encourage powerful forms of teamwork."
FRAME "makes it easy to come together with your co-workers, students, or audience in an immersive online space, right from the browser. Give your team a persistent, online space for meetings, water-cooler chats, presentations, hangouts, and more."
There are many more, but let's dive in to their advantages...
1. Stronger Relationships With Peers
In an office, all sorts of on-the-fly conversations happen. You can just approach someone and start talking to them. It's possible to naturally join discussions and chime in with updates. But in a remote environment, you don't get these perks. You may feel disconnected at times from your colleagues.
It feels like you're working with someone face-to-face, rather than thousands of miles away.
2. Decreased Communication Lag
When you work remotely, communication lag often gets in the way. It can take a while until someone replies to a Slack message or hops on a call. There are just too many barriers that limit communication on a day-to-day basis.
In a virtual environment, these physical barriers don't exist. You can just approach someone and ask a question. You save time and build rapport with your peers.
3. Feeling Less Drained (Less Zoom Fatigue!)
Using videoconferencing is one of the quickest, most common ways to hold meetings — but it has been confirmed by research that those who keep their cameras on throughout those meetings feel more drained at the end of the day. (The study also shows communication fatigue effects are often stronger for women and newer employees, too.) "That fatigue also correlated to less voice and less engagement during meetings. So, in reality, those who had cameras on were potentially participating less than those not using cameras. This counters the conventional wisdom that cameras are required to be engaged in virtual meetings."
When you're meeting virtually, the entire environment is different. You're 'face-to-face'. You're plugged in and present. You can jump right in and everyone can focus on the conversation at hand.
4. More Context From Tone
One of the biggest disadvantages of working remotely is missing out on body language. When you're in an office and having a conversation, you can zero in on critical cues in tone and language. During in-person conversations, you can easily detect discomfort, unhappiness, or confusion.
However, when you’re sending a message over Slack or Microsoft Teams, innocent comments and feedback can be taken out of content. It's easy to misunderstand what someone is trying to convey to you.
Although you can't see someone's actual body language in virtual collaborative environments, you can hear tone, and focus on their voice (remember, it's actually easier to comprehend emotion with audio-only) — especially if you're using a platform with spatial audio. There simply aren't the same limiting barriers you experience with messaging apps or on video calls.
Add Spatial Audio to Your Virtual Collaboration Platform
If you're working on a virtual collaboration platform and want to implement spatial audio as mentioned above, this is actually possible now, and both SpatialWeb and Breakroom have done so... from High Fidelity!