Is VR the new spot for Friday work drinks?

Our workplace is entirely remote, and I love working remotely and the flexibility it provides.

However, one thing I have really missed from being in the ‘office’ is the social aspect. So for us, the Christmas functions, or for that matter, pretty much all social functions, are remote too.

Sure, we can always catch up over Zoom. We do, and it’s great, but sometimes I feel l want something extra, a chance to make memories with the people I spend so much time with and in some cases, haven’t even met in person.

I have many fond memories of blowing off steam during Friday after-work drinks with colleagues. I also remember a few late nights and awkwardness when some went too far, and things got messy. It would be nice to have the balance of socialising in a meaningful way without running the risk of going overboard, and I think I’ve finally found the solution that works for me.

Using the Oculus Quest 2 headset to access VR.

Enter Virtual Reality

For the last year, we’ve been trialling Virtual Reality (VR) and figuring out its potential as an educational and remote working tool. VR definitely has its ups and downs. However, one thing we’ve agreed on is that it has been surprisingly effective for hosting Friday afternoon socials.

Click here to check out our blog about how we have been integrated VR technology into our remote business.

For the longest time, we’d been socially floundering a bit at the end of the week. Zoom catchups are okay, but they never became a regular thing for whatever reason, so we didn’t really have a meaningful option to wind down as a team. VR has somehow managed to fill that gap.

Now, on most Fridays, we like to play games in VR… more specifically, Walkabout Minigolf at the moment. It’s competitive without being hostile and slow enough paced that anyone can enjoy it without getting whiplash or vertigo like you can in shoot ’em up games. I’ve realised the game we play isn’t important and it’s more about socialising and hanging out in a space that doesn’t feel like a meeting room.

Below is a short video of our team having some fun playing VR minigolf.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the advantages and drawbacks of socialising in VR (most of these apply to VR in general), the brains trust at Epic Learning has put together a few tips or workarounds to make the most of the VR experience.

The benefits

  • Being in the comfort of your own home.
  • It's a great way to connect if you’re geographically dispersed, isolating or housebound.
  • It can be more inclusive for those who don’t like a pub environment.
  • You don’t have to buy a round - which is especially good if you don’t drink or are on a tight budget.
  • The limited amount of headset charge means you have a valid reason to leave early.
  • The freedom of where to go and what to play - so many adventures to be had!

The challenges

  • Trying to drink a beverage with a headset on without spilling.
  • Only a limited number of people can join a ‘party’ in VR, so you might not be able to fit everyone in.
  • The goggles fogging up making it hard to see sometimes.
  • Some people get headaches and feel pretty fatigued after being in VR.
  • Running out of charge after a couple of hours.

Tips for surviving VR

I asked the Epic Learning team how they deal with some of the downsides of VR.

“I plug a portable charging bank into my headset and carry it in my pocket or small backpack to keep the charge topped up.”

“I wear an extension chord over my shoulder for charging the headset, though I find it heats up after being plugged in for a while.”

“I stuff a sock in my headset straps to help with positioning and make it more comfortable.”

“Buy a long fast charging USB-C cable, and as long as it’s not too demanding like Workrooms, then you will gain more charge than you will use, so you can play forever if you can handle it.”

“I invested in BoboVR Headset, 2x batteries, a built-in fan system and a charging station. This is very comfortable. Batteries can be hot swapped and put on the charger so that the session can go on infinitely.”

So, can VR replace Friday night work drinks?

It might not be for everybody, but if you’re in a remote business or part of a remote team, it can definitely add some fun and variety to how you wind down with your workmates.

The epic sharing team hanging out in VR workrooms.
Me and the team hanging out in VR at the end of a long work week.

For me, over the last year or so, I’ve gotten to know my workmates better in VR because it’s removed from the work environment. Therefore, we aren’t talking about whatever project we’ve got going on or how to remove blockers and all the other bits that tend to consume our mental processing power during the workweek.

So if connecting with your remote colleagues away from the ‘office’ is important to you, I’d encourage you to give it a go. Honestly, minigolf is just fun, I play it by myself sometimes too.

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