The benefits of adopting virtual reality within HR departments are widely documented. A quick search on ‘VR in HR’ brings up numerous examples of how VR could be used to train staff, support recruitment, conduct virtual tasks, and much more.

We have seen the use of VR for such HR purposes within our own Immersive Lab. Entrepreneurs are using the VR headsets to host remote meetings with business partners situated elsewhere in the country, avoiding the costs of expensive travel, while others are borrowing the headsets to take part in job interviews.

Yet, despite the increase in examples of how VR can support human resource practices, mainstream adoption still has a long way to go. The need for a VR headset understandably remains one of the biggest barriers to adoption, alongside the perception that VR in HR is a nice to have rather than a need to have.

However, in 2020 we've seen the world change. We’ve seen a shift to remote, virtual working and with that, the HR industry has had to shift more toward a virtual focus.

Trends in virtual HR

Over the recent months, we’ve seen an increase in the adoption of remote working caused by the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. This extends to the space of HR, as is reflected in Google Trends:

These statistics are from the UK and show a peak in searches related to “virtual” within the human resources category, over the past 5 years.

Interestingly unlike virtual, the term “virtual reality” itself has not seen a peak in demand. This isn’t too surprising as companies are focusing on digital adoption and the transition into remote working during the pandemic. Searching for VR simulations and headsets is hardly the first item on the agenda for companies adopting to the “new normal”.

Yet, as we’ve entered the recovery phase, companies are now shifting their focus on developing future working strategies for a post-covid-19 era. At the same time, companies are starting to experience the benefits of remote working. These can include better work-life balances, improvements in team culture, flexible working, and more.

It's not unthinkable that companies are then increasingly considering which elements of remote working to take forward into their ways of working. If anything, Covid-19 has proven that in many sectors, (semi or combined) remote working can be a long-term option and we expect many organisations will be taking on more elements of digitisation going forward. 

With remote working potentially embedded in more longer-term working strategies, an increased demand in virtual reality applications within HR might occur. VR could help companies benefit both from remote working while still delivering immersive and interactive experiences within the workplace. 

Indeed, looking at daily search trends on AnswerthePublic, we can see that in May, VR was one of the top three connected search terms for “virtual HR”: 

However, it is worth noting that AnswerthePublic only shows worldwide traffic, and that traffic searches could change by day. 

Applications of VR in HR

So how could we see VR being used within HR departments going forward?

As we mentioned, there are many examples of the applications of VR in HR (here, and here, and also here) so we don’t want to replicate, but some of the key ones include:

Employee well-being: Mentioned less often within HR trends, but certainly among one of the most important applications of VR is its impact on mental wellbeing. VR can support mental wellbeing in multiple ways:

  • Most commonly, VR can enable staff to undertake therapy in a virtual world, meaning staff don’t have to worry about waiting lists and travel. 
  • VR can also help staff blow off steam. Imagine taking a yoga break on the top of a mountain in VR. This will help staff relax, deal with stress, and resume work with more energy and productivity.
  • VR can also help employees prepare for presentations or other scenarios that might cause anxiety. Very anxious about an upcoming presentation? Practice it in VR with an imaginative audience!

Training: VR can help staff train within an environment that might be difficult, or dangerous, to replicate in the ‘real-world’. This could include assembling something at large heights, learning how to work with vulnerable people, and more. More popularly, VR can be used to train new employees and staff within the company, using it as an “onboarding” process. A unique example we came across is from HR Executive which highlights how HR has previously been used to help developers develop soft skills. 

Recruitment: VR enables HR practitioners to set tasks and simulations in a virtual environment, while interacting with the candidate. Furthermore, companies can host virtual tours in order to help job candidates experience a taste of the work culture. A great example of this is Intuit’s VR experience (source: BetterTeam). 

Over to you

How would you feel about using VR in your department? Do you see its potential, or do you think it's not yet relevant for you? At Digital Catapult NETV, we're looking to talk to HR practitioners to learn more about whether VR might impact future ways of working, and to understand what the current needs or barriers are.

Could you help? Drop us an email or send us a message on social media.