Hologram of employee

Holograms to boost workplace attendance

Improving workplace interactivity while reducing the stress of commuting

4 minute read
Hologram of employee

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, evolving methods of communication are becoming more vital as businesses experience a dynamic shift towards technology to keep workers connected and engaged.

With common technology including chat and video applications utilised through computers and webcams, holograms could be the next step to advancing engagement in real time across workplaces and industries.

The impact of COVID-19

According to Cirrena Director Greg Mitchell, workplace communication and engagement begins with simple interaction involving in-person contact, as well as phone and internet technology.

It has since changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with state and federal government health mandates reducing workers’ interaction with their colleagues.

“You used to drive to work, congregate in the office and have conversations around the water cooler, as well as coffee chats and lunch meetings,” Mr Mitchell said.

“A lot of people are now working from home, while there are some people in the office.

“We have different schedules and we hardly see people now. So, face-to-face interactivity has definitely dropped off.”

Mr Mitchell said technology had maintained workplace engagement in the absence of physical interaction, with interactive applications featuring real-time chat and video functions.

“Microsoft Teams, Zoom chats and so on are extremely important to collaborate in real time with the workforce,” he said.

Heading towards holograms

With chat applications already a typical method to communicate, augmented reality is gradually creating a niche as a communications tool with holograms as a viable option.

Edith Cowan University School of Medical and Health Sciences Senior Lecturer and Simulation and Immersive Digital Technology Group Lead Brennen Mills said it was achieved by overlaying digital information in the real-world space.

“The virtual content that’s being depicted to the users is done through a series of projectors,” he said.

“These transmit the virtual content up into the real world for you to then view.”

Improving real-time engagement

Dr Mills said the attraction of holograms was the ability to engage with anyone in any location without leaving your workspace.

“For example, meetings could be hosted in a physical location where half the people are there for real while the other half are there via a hologram,” he said.

Mr Mitchell agreed, saying the appeal is that you can go to work as if you are at work, but not physically be in the office.

“Imagine offering interactivity with the employees in a holographic world and you now speak to them across the desk from you as if they’re sitting in front of you.” 

“The actual interactivity is very healthy for employees’ productivity – you can’t beat productivity and collaboration," he said.

“You also don’t have to worry about travel, transit zones and the associated costs.

“If we get to the point where holographic technology is accessible and affordable for the workforce, you can have a workforce anywhere in the world and collaborate in real time with them in the same room for long periods.”

Dr Mills said along with encouraging a more efficient and connected workplace, the use of holograms would enhance applications in several industries.

“The digital twin is a high-fidelity or hierarchical-fidelity virtual representation of a physical system or asset, and it has real-time communication between the virtual replica and the actual physical asset,” he said.

“This is already having a lot of traction in manufacturing and resources in particular, but other sectors – such as healthcare, defence and education – are starting to understand the value digital twin capability.”

Pushing past hesitancy

While displaying potential, the development and use of holographic technology has so far been limited.

According to Dr Mills, one reason why people are hesitant to use holograms is because they are yet to become a fully realised, widespread solution.

“People are waiting for it to get to the point where it’s a silver bullet,” he said.

“They don’t want to start investing until it’s going to solve every problem to the extent it will replace the need for an existing system or way of doing things.

“This hesitancy is a shame because it’s slowing down the adoption of a lot of such technologies.

“If people are willing to start engaging with them to understand what the benefits are, it will make the adoption of future potential a lot quicker.”

Dr Mills said while there were possible negative impacts resulting from utilising holographic technology, it should not hold workplace and industry development back.

“There is a theory we could become more robotic in our interactions, and stop seeing friends in person and just rely on holograms,” he said.

“This is a consideration we need to be cognisant of, but with any kind of disruptive technology, there’s always going to be things that change in the workplace – we as a society then need to weigh up the pros and cons.

“Holographic technology has several benefits relating to remote work. Empowering people to engage with a workplace or a community and not be limited by distance or access is a powerful thing.”

Physical interaction will remain irreplaceable

While holographic technology may become a popular method to increase engagement, Dr Mills said it was unlikely to completely replace human interaction.

“While it could occur in the future, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime,” he said.

“It would be an enormous cultural shift.

“From a technology perspective, exclusively working virtually could probably happen but from an acceptability or willingness perspective, whether it would occur is a whole different thing.”

Mr Mitchell said physical engagement remained important to people.

“We still crave physical interactions and being together in person,” he said.

“However, I think in the workplace, it’s going to replace a lot of things we dislike.”