Virtual working. A novelty turned necessity. The question is, how is new technology addressing the issue of personability?
While research and experience have repeatedly demonstrated the power of remote working to the business world, the lack of personability of online conferencing tools has been their greatest weakness to date; one that could spell the end of virtual working, as employees are provided more freedom to choose how they work.
However, recent news from the tech industry, suggests personability may not be the crux of virtual working for much longer. Microsoft has recently announced a new online tool due to roll out in 2022: Mesh for Microsoft Teams; a feature that builds upon Teams’ Together and Presenter modes, and promises greater collaboration and immersion in virtual and hybrid meetings. Accessible from a range of devices, from smartphones and laptops to VR headsets, the feature will utilise the mixed reality capabilities of Microsoft Mesh, to allow users to create an avatar of themselves. This avatar can then be used as a digital representation of the user on Teams calls and in the new Microsoft metaverse. Microsoft hopes that this new feature will bring together the best of both virtual and traditional working styles, creating a work environment that better facilitates the hallway moments, kitchen catchups and chance encounters of the office, all from the comfort and safety of our homes.
Needless to say, the potential applications for this new technology are staggering and, if successful, can be expected to dramatically change the means by which businesses function, as well as the way colleagues interact with one another in the workplace. For one, collaboration and communication between physically distant team members are expected to be kicked into overdrive, as interactions become more personable. The metaverse will also make it easier for companies to operate internationally and, if done right, this new vision of the internet has the potential to create truly diverse workplaces, with all the associated benefits that this brings to business.
Of course, it is important to consider that this new technology will also bring new demands to the work environment, with access to digital devices and the internet becoming ever more essential. Companies across all sectors will need to be mindful of this, and ensure that all their employees have adequate access to these resources, if they don’t want to further deepen the so-called “digital divide”.
All in all, announcements like this one, signal that Microsoft and other technology companies are in agreement: virtual working is here to stay. A new age of productivity and co-operation is taking shape before our eyes, and I for one cannot wait to see what the future holds.
Author: Joe Gosney