Gamification of the workspace - Virtual Reality work meetings tools and their impact on work/life balance, employee wellbeing and power relations at work

Project Details

Description

Recently emerging virtual reality (VR) work meeting tools, such as Spatial; MeetinVR; Glue, and others, increasingly enable recreating physical work environment in virtual space. Such tools have undeniable advantages, especially (but not only) in times of Coronavirus pandemics, as they enable (to some degree) simulating workplace interactivity without a need to commute to the office. Avatars created by the employees can interact with one another and – in some measure – with the objects around them, thus re-creating a semblance of e.g. business meeting across time zones and from different geographical locations.

At the same time, such solutions prompt important questions from individual and organizational perspectives. Firstly, we already know that virtual/dispersed work is likely to have negative impacts on employee wellbeing and organizational elements in the long run, due to its bearing on employee sense of isolation and belonging to the workplace. If VR is adopted as a mainstream solution for remote work, it is imperative to examine whether and how VR tool and spaces can help address the above issues by recreating relational frameworks needed for the generation of proximity between colleagues geographically far apart (see Wilson et al., 2009). We look at how participation in VR influence processes, such as communication, identification and memorialisation in the workplace, which can recreate workplace proximity.

Secondly, how virtualisation of office space affects behavioural, temporal and spatial boundary work? We know already that work-life balance may be an issue for permanent home-workers and other flexible workers and that whether they can manage it effectively depends on a number of criteria, such as externally imposed intensity of work itself, the degree to which they can decide on time and pace of its execution, the perception of what constitutes work and what doesn’t, and boundary management strategies specific to each flexible worker. How does then transferring work to virtual space affect these criteria? How does it affect the management of spacio-temporal and behavioural boundaries? Does it affect the perception of what constitutes work?

Thirdly and on a related note, we know little about how tools and spaces available in VR (e.g. avatars) might impact the reproduction of inequalities (status, class, .... ) in the workplace. How do organizational practices designed to encourage inclusivity are translated in the VR space and how tools and practices in VR encourage or hinder the inclusivity agenda in organizations? More specifically, what does gamification of the workspace – complete with customizable avatars, virtual rewards, etc. – mean for the power relations inherent in working arrangements in such virtual(ized) organizations? For example, how is status difference translated into VR spaces, is this translation consistent, and does VR enhance or hinder opportunities for reproducing unequal relations of organizational power? How does it do it?

Key findings

TBC
Short titleGamification of the workspace
StatusActive
Effective start/end date1/12/221/12/24