As a company based in LA, several of our team members have significant commutes to work. To help make work more bearable to those with long drives, we have adopted flexible commute-friendly hours along with the ability to work from home multiple days a week. Although this has helped us in recruiting some exceptional talent, the extra time away from teammates makes it challenging to build a unified culture. Then COVID-19 forced us all to work from home indefinitely which is enabling us to rethink how we approach work, connect as co-workers and build meaningful cultures.
We are a global company with many of our client partners spread across the US. As a result, collaboration platforms like Zoom, InVision, and Google docs have long been a part of our toolset.
Relying on these tools as the newly-essential way to connect and work together is fundamentally lacking a real sense of humanity.
In internal meetings you practically have to force participants to turn on their cameras, then staring back at you are mostly expressionless faces, seen in poor lighting with bland bedrooms in the background. This is hardly engaging. Plus where do you look when there are 10 video heads on the screen?
So what exactly is missing?
In fact, it was surprisingly much more effective than we ever imagined. After testing all available collaboration platforms and tools, we honed in on a few solutions that really delivered. Much to our delight, we found that VR was a place that some of us preferred to work for several hours a day. Part of this is due to the joy that creatives experience when working in a cartoon cave surrounded by waterfalls.
Considering how poorly Zoom and Google Hangouts handled rich content in presentations, this is seen as a huge benefit in and of itself. The nonverbal communication of hand, head and body movements, combined with lip movement and eye contact in three-dimensional space makes communicating feel much more real than looking at washed-out talking head videos on Zoom.
The craziest part is this: the communication occurring between 3D avatars that are far from realistic and are missing arms and legs! Somehow your brain believes it though. Doing one on ones while playing a quick game of mini golf is fundamentally better than having coffee or taking a walk around the block IRL. Compared to a Zoom call wherein we inevitably have the video turned off, this is not even in the same ballpark. Brainstorm meetings are easily facilitated using shared computer screens and collaboration tools that we were already familiar with. The most surprising thing discovered was that the impact of sitting in the same space with co-workers working, laughing, listening to Spotify together was shockingly satisfying. Perhaps it was the past year of separation making us emotionally desperate for these subtleties that make up the traditional work experience.