Working in VR is more stressful and decreases productivity. Big surprise

Companies like Meta have given much weight to the idea of ​​a digital exodus. there is a lot of talk that working in distraction-free virtual environments (opens in new tab) could be the future. But as it stands today, the researchers say, working in VR is not only more overwhelming and frustrating, it also doesn’t rank as high in usability or productivity as we might have believed.

The paper, ‘Quantifying the effects of working in VR for a week (opens in new tab)‘ (PDF notice) takes a deep dive into the feasibility of working long-term in a virtual environment (via new scientist (opens in new tab)). The participants, all university employees or researchers, were invited to work in VR for an entire week.

The results were less than positive.

Participants were asked to work using Chrome Remote Desktop, which, if my personal experience is valid, was probably half the usability issue. Jokes aside, the researchers opted for a Oculus (Meta) Quest 2 (opens in new tab) VR headset, so attendees can use hand tracking with a physical keyboard – a Logitech K830 with built-in trackpad, if you’re wondering, nothing fancy.

Part of the reasoning behind not using the highest spec headset on the market was to opt for “a configuration that offers an experience comparable to working in the physical desktop environment”.

Most people don’t happen to have $2,399 to spend on a 12K Pimax VR headset (opens in new tab)not to mention the PC specification to run it.

Before they even enter most of the tests, the study notes “simulator disease levels” and “below average usability ratings.” Two subjects even dropped out on the first day because they were experiencing nausea, migraine and anxiety. It’s not a great start.

Those who remained worked eight hours a day, with 45 minutes to recover and eat lunch. They each rated their VR work experience relative to working in a physical environment, and many felt that their workload increased by an average of 35%. Frustration also increased by 42%, the ‘negative affect’ statistic increased by 11% and anxiety increased by 19%.

Altogether, mental well-being was reported to have declined by 20%. Putting a number on this sort of thing is difficult, but that doesn’t sound like a particularly healthy score. And the physical side of things wasn’t much better. Eyestrain increased by 48% and VR was 36% lower in usability. On top of all this, participants’ self-assessment workflow dropped by 14% and their perceived productivity dropped by 16%.

The survey will help the process as we move towards a more VR-laden world, “clearly highlighting current shortcomings and identifying opportunities to improve the experience of working in VR.”

Last year we put it to record six things VR is really good at right now (opens in new tab). The list included fitness and wellness and even virtual travel – work, unsurprisingly, was not on the list. We now have research to support our decision to omit it, although we are planning to punish some PC players with the metaverse, just to be thorough.

Maybe not for a whole week, as we have real jobs that need to be done.

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