6 November 2017 | Vishu Ramanathan
Vishu Ramanathan, CEO of Buildout discusses whether virtual reality (VR) is rendering offices obsolete
In 2014 Facebook bought Oculus Rift with the vision of virtual reality (VR) in every home. Each day, we're closer to VR becoming a staple of our routines.
We work and socialise online with Skype and Google Hangouts, and in the near future, we may do these things exclusively virtually. Instead of going into an office each day, we'll plug into our workplace from home.
We've already seen a trend of 'WeWorkification' as flexibility and mobility have become more valuable for the modern workforce. Business owners don't want to be locked into long leases.
VR could take this trend further, making the market for office spaces in the future centre on short-term rentals versus permanent HQs for companies. And as more team members choose to work remotely from their virtual office, meeting spaces will likely be almost exclusively rented on an hourly basis. This would change the definition of what it means to work remotely: workers could physically be in one place and still convene with colleagues in another.
So what will the office look like in 20 to 30 years' time? To what extent will physical presence still matter in business? Do we need to be in the same place to establish rapport and trust? Many formal business transactions are actually better suited to taking place virtually; when a CFO provides financial analysis to his firm's leadership it may be better understood through VR delivery.
But there will always be the need for personal business interactions. In a virtual world where everything is doable remotely, being together will then be even more special, which means optimising experiences for in-person connections.
We envision office spaces with pods where people can work alone or use VR to plug into meetings in other locations. There will be meeting areas to connect with colleagues and unwind. Offices overall will provide a better experience for those who work there.
Vishu Ramanathan is CEO of Buildout