Last week, Facebook released a free beta for a new virtual reality meeting experience called Horizon Workrooms. Using their Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets, Facebook re-imagines the future of meetings where we’ll all show up as cartoon avatars that will mimic our movements and facial expressions.
Facebook exec Mike LeBeau said:
“In a virtual reality collaborative space you remember conversations better and you remember who said things better, because you’re using more of your brain.”
As slick as the demo looks, the idea of using more of my brain in a meeting makes my head hurt. If you’ve experienced Zoom fatigue from the increased cognitive load, just imagine the level of meeting fatigue from VR.
I think a bigger question than how we’ll meet in the future though, is why — why we’re having this particular meeting at all? No technology can solve boring or unnecessary meetings.
A Korn Ferry report in 2019 found that 67% of workers say that too much time in meetings kept them from making an impact at work. They also found that 35% said they’d go to a meeting even if they knew it wasn’t going to be productive, instead of declining the meeting.
Babson College Professor Rob Cross estimates that pre-pandemic 85% of most people’s work was on phone, email, or meetings. Post-pandemic, he said that went up 5-8 hours a week.
I think we need a better understanding and appreciation of asynchronous versus synchronous work — when we work more productively solo and when we collaborate as a group.
I like Rae Ringel’s perspective in a recent HBR article:
“If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past year, it’s the value of time — and how draining it can be when the vast majority of our time seems to be spent in meetings…
“Let’s think very carefully about whether time spent meeting might be better spent thinking, writing, or engaging in other projects. Less is more: The fewer meetings we have, the more the ones we have will count.
“It all comes down to purpose. Ask yourself: Why are you meeting? Make sure the answer really makes sense. Do you really need to meet? Prioritize asynchronous work and use meetings to be creative and do something together, rather than simply share information.”
Whether in-person, on Zoom, hybrid, or VR, too many meetings could have been an email.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: