Forget hybrid – ‘tribrid’ working is the future

Many organisations find that current hybrid working solutions lack the inclusion and personalisation needed to make them suitable for all. Could the rise of mixed reality (MR) be the solution?

Picture the scene. On your first day with a new company, you’re given a virtual reality (VR) headset along with your laptop and mobile phone. Having created your professional avatar, you’re onboarded using VR with others in physically disparate, but digitally united cohorts, accepting cultural terms of engagement and shaking digital hands with new colleagues. You whiteboard with colleagues in augmented reality (AR), attend live events side-by-side with your global colleagues, and design product blueprints in real-time with no limitations beyond your imagination.

This may seem far-fetched, but it's a possibility within reach – and fast approaching reality. The rise of mixed reality (MR), the blending of VR and AR, has opened up tremendous possibilities. MR, also known as 'polyplexity' or as Meta’s ‘Metaverse’ brand, is the merging of virtual and real worlds.

The technology provides new environments, visualised overlays, and digital objects that can be interacted with in real time. From gaming, education, and art, through to engineering, military use, and even medicine, it’s already having a profound impact on our lives.

In particular, MR presents a potential answer to the challenges that hybrid working brings, making work work for everyone. Around 30 percent of the UK workforce is working remotely at least once a week. Yet there are significant differences among certain demographics – with age, gender, location, and education all impacting whether you’re likely to work remotely or not. In addition, many organisations find that current hybrid solutions lack the inclusion and personalisation needed to make them suitable for all.

Powered by MR, leaders now have an opportunity to explore the possibilities offered by mixing real-life, remote, and MR. This mix – tribrid working – has the potential to create new, more bespoke, inclusive, modern, and purposeful ways of working.

1. Learning and Development

The challenge with Learning & Development (L&D) in hybrid working is that you are either in the office with your learning group, at home trying to keep up with what’s happening in the office, or listening to a recording. In response, MR brings some exciting potential solutions.

Take interactive training, for example. MR can be used to create immersive and interactive training experiences that simulate real-world scenarios, allowing employees to practice and develop new skills in a safe and controlled environment. Some surgeons, for example, are already exploring using MR for their work.

When it comes to collaborative learning, MR can enable remote teams to work together in a shared virtual space in a new way. This allows colleagues to learn together in new styles – using MR for visualisation and experiential learning. With MR, product design teams could rapidly learn how to prototype ideas from anywhere in the world, without the need for physical materials. This would increase inclusion (known to improve innovation), reduce costs and the collective carbon footprint, all while accelerating the learning curve.

Combining MR with on-the-job assistance also provides workers with hands-free access to information and guidance while they perform tasks. For example, through visually displayed step-by-step instructions in the corner of users’ goggles when changing a car tyre. Opportunities like these vastly improve efficiency and reduce errors.

Overall, MR has the potential to revolutionise the way we learn and develop new skills in the workplace, making training and development more engaging, effective, and efficient for all involved.

For organisations thinking about introducing MR into their L&D strategies, it’s important to consider the following:

  • What are the learning needs and, importantly best learning styles for your workforce?
  • How do those learning needs correlate to certain learning styles, and where can you prioritise MR in your learning curriculum?
  • In which parts of your business can you embed learning in your everyday business outcomes?

2. Employee value propositions (EVPs) and people experience (PEX)

As organisations continue to navigate changing workforce dynamic shifts, EVPs and PEX have risen in importance as a way of combatting those challenges – and making the experience for employees more productive, engaging, and fulfilling.

Jumping from almost compete isolation when working from home to the hectic buzz of an office can be a sensory overload and cultural shock. Bringing MR into the fold creates a softer transition, appealing to different emotional and personal preferences. MR workspaces also help break down physical barriers to communication and facilitate more inclusive work environments. By allowing people from different backgrounds to work together more effectively, it offers the chance to build true diversity in the workplace.

As well as MR facilitating remote work while being able to visualise and manipulate data and objects, it can also automate routine and repetitive tasks. This frees up employees to focus on higher-value tasks, increasing job satisfaction.

For those more hesitant in the adoption or the impact to culture, organisations should leverage design ideation to identify pain points that MR can resolve. Using design thinking for example, you can bring in ‘non-believers’, then gain their buy-in by using their defined problem statements to empathise, ideate, and prototype ideas using MR.

To implement MR into your EVP and PEX strategies, consider:

  • How could MR enhance positive experiences and reduce negative experiences – and what impact will this have on your culture?
  • Crowdsource, co-design, and test ideas with the workforce for accurate validation and best change adoption.
  • What does this do for our strategy and brand? For example, does this change the way we innovate? Does it expand our global talent footprint opportunities?

3. Managing data privacy

Data privacy is a significant consideration for organisations thinking about adopting MR. There are several best practices that ensure personal data is protected, and employee privacy rights are respected:

Develop a clear privacy policy

Clearly define what data will be collected, how it will be used, and who will have access to it. Ensure this policy is deeply embedded into the culture of MR use.

Obtain employee consent

Before collecting or using any personal data, obtain the employee's informed consent.

Ensure data security

Adopt appropriate technical and organisational measures to protect personal data from unauthorised access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction.

Limit data collection and retention

Only collect the personal data that is necessary for the intended purpose and retain it only for as long as it is needed in line with local legislation.

Regularly assess and update policies

Regularly review and update the privacy policy and data protection measures to ensure they remain relevant and effective.

With many organisations and their employees still wrestling with how hybrid best works, the possibilities are exciting for MR and tribrid working. Now is the time to explore it and finesse it to get ahead of the game.

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