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# Quantifying the Effects of Working in VR for One Week

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## Abstract and Figures

Virtual Reality (VR) provides new possibilities for modern knowledge work. However, the potential advantages of virtual work environments can only be used if it is feasible to work in them for an extended period of time. Until now, there are limited studies of long-term effects when working in VR. This paper addresses the need for understanding such long-term effects. Specifically, we report on a comparative study ( n = 16), in which participants were working in VR for an entire week—for five days, eight hours each day—as well as in a baseline physical desktop environment. This study aims to quantify the effects of exchanging a desktop-based work environment with a VR-based environment. Hence, during this study, we do not present the participants with the best possible VR system but rather a setup delivering a comparable experience to working in the physical desktop environment. The study reveals that, as expected, VR results in significantly worse ratings across most measures. Among other results, we found concerning levels of simulator sickness, below average usability ratings and two participants dropped out on the first day using VR, due to migraine, nausea and anxiety. Nevertheless, there is some indication that participants gradually overcame negative first impressions and initial discomfort. Overall, this study helps lay the groundwork for subsequent research, by clearly highlighting current shortcomings and identifying opportunities for improving the experience of working in VR.
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Quantifying the Effects of Working in VR for One Week
Verena Biener*
, Snehanjali Kalamkar*
, Negar Nouri*
, Eyal Ofek
, Michel Pahud
, John J. Dudley
, Jinghui Hu
,
Per Ola Kristensson
, Maheshya Weerasinghe§
, Klen ˇ
Copiˇ
c Pucihar§
, Matjaˇ
z Kljun§
, Stephan Streuber*
, Jens Grubert*
Fig. 1. a) Participant working in a physical desktop setup in one of three physical locations (Germany), including a curved display and a
keyboard with integrated touchpad. b) Participant working in the VR setup wearing an Oculus Quest 2, using the same keyboard but a
virtual curved display. c) Participant’s view within VR where the streamed content from a remote machine is visible. d) Participant’s
view of the keyboard and hands within VR.
Abstract
—Virtual Reality (VR) provides new possibilities for modern knowledge work. However, the potential advantages of virtual
work environments can only be used if it is feasible to work in them for an extended period of time. Until now, there are limited studies
of long-term effects when working in VR. This paper addresses the need for understanding such long-term effects. Speciﬁcally, we
report on a comparative study (
n
=16), in which participants were working in VR for an entire week—for ﬁve days, eight hours each
day—as well as in a baseline physical desktop environment. This study aims to quantify the effects of exchanging a desktop-based
work environment with a VR-based environment. Hence, during this study, we do not present the participants with the best possible
VR system but rather a setup delivering a comparable experience to working in the physical desktop environment. The study reveals
that, as expected, VR results in signiﬁcantly worse ratings across most measures. Among other results, we found concerning levels
of simulator sickness, below average usability ratings and two participants dropped out on the ﬁrst day using VR, due to migraine,
nausea and anxiety. Nevertheless, there is some indication that participants gradually overcame negative ﬁrst impressions and initial
discomfort. Overall, this study helps lay the groundwork for subsequent research, by clearly highlighting current shortcomings and
identifying opportunities for improving the experience of working in VR.
Index Terms—virtual reality, long-term, knowledge work, user study
1 INTRODUCTION
Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to enhance physical working
environments, for instance, by providing repeatable, location indepen-
dent user experiences, or relieving physical world limitations such as
screen sizes of physical screens [19]. For example, prior work studied
transplanting or extending tasks performed by knowledge workers (as
deﬁned by [11]) from physical 2D displays to head-mounted displays
(HMDs) (e.g. [6, 15, 45]). The use of a large display space around
the user provided by the HMD, not limited by the size of physical
monitors, supports visualization of information in multiple depth layers.
The direct manipulation of data using natural hand motions, and the
ability to map small physical motions to larger actions in such virtual
environments can reduce fatigue and may open up the workspace for
people with special needs. Remote collaboration in such environments
brings people to the same virtual space, and, with a varying level of
representation needed for a particular task at hand, can increase their
*Coburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany
Microsoft Research
University of Cambridge
§University of Primorska, Slovenia
Authors version.
Contact authors: verena.biener@hs-coburg.de and jens.grubert@hs-coburg.de
sense of presence [46]. In addition, an ofﬁce in VR can dynamically
adapt to a user’s work situation—it could transform into a calming
beach when reading a paper or a formal ofﬁce when writing an email.
Virtual environments also provide privacy from the outside world and
the removal of real environment disruptions may help users focus their
attention on work. Further, collaborative work in virtual environments
can save users the travel hassle, associated costs and reduce carbon
footprint [26].
However, VR substitutes users’ visual, audio and sometimes haptic
sensations provided by the physical world with artiﬁcial inputs. With
current VR technologies many of these inputs provide an inferior expe-
rience compared to the real world. For example, HMDs typically have a
smaller ﬁeld of view (FoV) compared to humans’ visual ﬁeld, and their
resolution, while increasing over the years, is still lower than the retinal
resolution. Most HMDs render the entire virtual world at a ﬁxed focal
distance and their dynamic range is smaller than what we can perceive
as humans. Additionally, with their substantial weight and by blocking
the air ﬂow on the face, HMDs can reduce users’ comfort. While many
of these limitations are likely to be addressed and improved in the fu-
ture, visions of virtual knowledge work are not limited to research labs
anymore. Startups such as Spatial or large corporations such as Meta
and Microsoft are advancing products to facilitate virtual knowledge
work.
Hence, we see it as beneﬁcial to understand how VR technology
available to end-users today inﬂuences knowledge work. In particular,
we strive to quantify the effects of VR experiences that users can have
arXiv:2206.03189v2 [cs.HC] 8 Jun 2022
today using commercial of-the-shelf hardware. Hence, we decided
against designing an as good as possible virtual environment. Instead,
we intentionally decided to study a speciﬁc operating point of VR hard-
ware and software—the commercially available Oculus Quest 2 HMD
and Logitech K830 physical keyboard with integrated touchpad. This
speciﬁc combination enables integrated hand and keyboard tracking
and allows virtual work for a large user group today.
To this end, we report on a study with users working for an entire
workweek (ﬁve days, eight hours each day) in VR with the aforemen-
tioned setup (Fig. 1, b). To quantify the costs of this setup compared
to physical workplaces, participants also worked another workweek
in a corresponding physical work environment (Fig. 1, a). To be able
to compare the two conditions, we made both the virtual and physical
work environments as similar as possible: the same display size, shape,
resolution and input device. At the same time, and in contrast to prior
studies (e.g. [22, 50]), we decided against prescribing artiﬁcial tasks
to participants but instead allowed participants to determine their own
actual work. While this choice potentially impacts repeatability and
replicability it also increases the ecological validity of the ﬁndings.
We are well aware that with the current state of VR technology,
working in VR will be demanding on the user: the size, weight and
quality of the HMD, its limited FoV, latency, and the authenticity of
the representation of the world around users (drinks, keyboard, mouse,
etc.) can affect the workﬂow. As a result, one can expect that the
user experience in VR might be inferior to the one in the physical
environment. Still, we see it as a worthwhile endeavor to quantify the
effects of working in VR over ve consecutive working days with eight
hours in each day. This can serve as baseline for future optimized VR
experiences that do not necessarily replicate a physical environment.
Further, running a study over ve consecutive days allows us to study
The main ﬁndings of the study are as follows: 1) self-rated task load
was signiﬁcantly higher in VR (approximately 35%), as was frustration
(42%), negative affect (11%), anxiety (19%) and eye strain (48%);
2) VR resulted in signiﬁcantly lower system usability scale scores
(36%) with below average ratings, self-rated ﬂow (14%), perceived
productivity (16%) and wellbeing (20%); 3) VR resulted in (according
to Stanney et al. [54]) poor ratings of simulator sickness. The values of
some measures improved over the ve days for both VR and PHYSICAL.
However, we only found that the rate of change was signiﬁcantly higher
for VR regarding visual fatigue ratings compared to PHYSICAL which
means it decreased signiﬁcantly faster in VR.
In order to facilitate future work, we release an anonymized
dataset along with this paper which can be found at
https://gitlab.com/mixedrealitylab/quantifying-the-
effects-of- working-in- vr-for-one- week
. In summary, this
paper presents the following contributions: 1) a study on the effects
of working in VR for ﬁve working days, eight hours per day, 2)
quantiﬁcation of effects that occur between VR and a baseline physical
work environment and 3) an accompanying dataset to aid replication
and further analysis by the community.
2 RE LATE D WORK
There are several potential beneﬁts of using VR as a working environ-
ment. Besides theoretical advantages of virtual ofﬁces (e.g., [19,31,
32, 44] further work has empirically investigated speciﬁc beneﬁts of
VR for knowledge work, which are discussed in Sect. 2.1. Yet, the
prolonged usage of VR can affect the usage and workﬂow, and the
following (Sect. 2.2) discusses previous work investigating long-term
VR use. The potential beneﬁts and understanding long-term usage
motivated our work, which builds upon and extends the existing body
of literature.
2.1 Beneﬁts of VR for Knowledge Work
Prior research has examined the use of VR as an environment for
knowledge work, showing a variety of effects of VR on the quality of
work, the ﬂexibility of the VR display, the direct interaction which can
be used to increase productivity and the control of the environment
around the worker which can be used to reduce stress. Ruvimova et
al. [50] found that a VR ofﬁce on a virtual beach successfully reduced
distraction and simulated the workﬂow of a closed physical ofﬁce. This
indicates that VR can help users stay focused in open ofﬁce environ-
ments. This capability is not restricted to VR. By displaying virtual
separators in a physical ofﬁce, augmented reality (AR) has also been
shown to be useful against visual distractions [33]. In addition, users
were allowed to personalize their work environment, which helped to
increase their satisfaction and improved their experience of a shared
workspace. Personalization of workspace has been shown beneﬁcial
in several studies and the literature emphasizes the importance of per-
sonalized design concepts for the so called non-territorial ofﬁces or
shared ofﬁce space [9, 29]. In such contexts, both VR and AR have
the capability to allow users to design and decorate their virtual ofﬁce
space according to their preferences.
Prior research [2, 56] has demonstrated how virtual nature environ-
ments can reduce stress and improve mood during work. It is well
known that spaces ﬁlled with greenery or even a view on greenery pro-
vide an opportunity for recovery from mental fatigue and are generally
beneﬁcial to human health [4, 27]. Further work indicates that VR
can reduce stress more effectively than simply streaming a video of
relaxing content [48] and that interactive VR environments are more
effective than passively consuming VR content [57]. Also, Mostajeran
et al. [41] found that showing a forest environment had positive effects
on cognition. Despite these beneﬁts, Li et al. [34] found that while
users preferred nature environments, they were more productive when
working in an ofﬁce-like environment.
VR also provides new possibilities for interacting with and visual-
izing work-related content. Biener et al. [6] showed how multimodal
interaction techniques, including eye tracking, can be used to efﬁciently
navigate between a large number of virtual displays and how a three-
dimensional visualization with depth-perception makes tasks involving
multiple layers much easier. Pavanatto et al. [45] compared physical
and virtual monitors in AR and concluded that while virtual monitors
can be beneﬁcial, they are still technically inferior. Therefore, they sug-
gested to combine both physical and virtual monitors in the workﬂow,
which is already put to practice in commercial products such as the
Lenovo ThinkReality A3 Smart Glasses.
VR can also increase the usability and performance of knowledge
applications [5] can signiﬁcantly beneﬁt from depth perception, poten-
tially large virtual display space, and new interaction possibilities such
as a spatially tracked pen and eye-tracking, all provided by VR as well.
The beneﬁts of extended virtual display spaces have been investi-
gated in both stationary [12, 39] and mobile [40, 42] environments. For
example, new interaction techniques for navigating large display spaces
have been proposed using non-linear mapping of head-gaze [39] or
above-surface interaction [40]. Personalized layouts of multiple virtual
displays have also been studied [12,42]. For example, Ens et al. [12] in-
dicated that application switching times can be decreased by up to 40%
using optimized layouts. Ng et al. [42] found that layout preferences
depend on the perception of other passengers’ physical presence, e.g.,
when sitting in an airplane seat next to another person. Using VR for
knowledge work can also address privacy issues [19, 51] and enhance
capabilities of existing devices, such as changing the keyboard on the
ﬂy to support other languages, symbols, and layouts [51].
However, these prior works have been studied in short term ex-
periments. Also, while the proposed interaction techniques show the
potential for supporting knowledge work in VR they often are restricted
to speciﬁc lab-based setups. Instead, in our study, we focused on expe-
riences that are accessible to potentially millions of users today, relying
on commercially off-the-shelf hardware and software.
2.2 Working in VR for an Extended Period of Time
While several possibilities of using VR for knowledge work have been
explored in recent years, showing advantages, the effects of long-term
usage of such environments are still not sufﬁciently understood. Be-
sides anecdotal reports (for example [10, 30]), researchers began to
investigate long-term effects of AR and VR interfaces. Long-term
usage of AR has been explored in manufacturing. In a study by Grubert
et al. [18] participants used AR for four hours in an order picking
task. The results showed a higher work efﬁciency in the AR condition
without an increase in overall objective and subjective strain. However,
some participants felt a higher eye discomfort compared to a non-AR
baseline. Wille et al. [59] compared four hours of work on a monocular
HMD, tablet and computer monitor, and did not ﬁnd any objective
physiological effect on participants’ visual system. However, subjec-
tive ratings of strain were signiﬁcantly higher for the HMD, which
authors attributed to the unfamiliarity with the technology. In Funk et
al.’s study [13], participants used a projector-based AR system for at
least three full working days to perform an assembly task. The system
was shown to be useful for untrained workers, yet it slowed down the
performance and increased cognitive load for expert workers.
Lu et al. [37] conducted an in-the-wild study of glanceable AR for
everyday use where participants used the prototype for three days. The
authors concluded that participants liked the prototype and would use
it daily if the HMD had a form factor of regular prescription glasses. In
a 24-hour self-experiment [55] one participant worked, ate, slept and
entertained himself in VR. In another case study [43], two participants
used VR HMDs for 12 hours straight and reported only mild simulator
sickness symptoms.
The prior work most similar to this paper has been conducted by
Guo et al. [21
23] and Shen et al. [53]. They looked at prolonged
use of VR for ofﬁce work in a virtual environment. Their long-term
study [21,22,53] had 27 participants working in a virtual and a physical
ofﬁce for eight hours, performing tasks such as document correction,
keyword searching, text input and image classiﬁcation. In the context of
the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the researchers found that emotional
needs must be met in short and long-term use, while physiological,
belongingness needs, temporal- and self-presence are only important
for long-term use [22]. Evaluating the effects on visual discomfort, Guo
et al. [21] found that signs of visual fatigue (subjective rating, pupil
size, accommodation response) change with time in both physical and
virtual conditions. They also indicated that female participants suffered
more from visual fatigue and they speculated that this could be due
to less experience with VR. They did not ﬁnd signiﬁcant differences
in nausea and eye strain between the virtual and physical condition,
but larger difﬁculty in focusing and physical discomfort (due to weight
and form factor of HMD) were present in VR. In addition, Shen et
(PVT) six times during the day and found signiﬁcantly less PVT lapses
and higher reaction times in the physical environment, which indicates
a higher mental fatigue in VR. They propose two explanations: either
VR occupies more attentional resources or VR can increase attention of
participants more effectively so that participants use more attentional
resources. However, all these ﬁndings are based on artiﬁcial tasks
designed by researchers, which might inﬂuence the results compared
to real in-the-wild tasks. Also, prolonged use studies seem necessary
to ensure participants obtain sufﬁcient familiarity with the VR setup so
that it is comparable with working in the physical environment. Hence,
we here conduct a study that is ﬁve times as long in duration (ﬁve
days, eight hours per day in each condition) compared to the prior
studies [21, 22, 53]. Further, in our study we ask participants to work
on their own everyday work tasks.
3 ST UDY
Our goal was to quantify the effects of working in a virtual reality
environment for extended periods of time. Speciﬁcally, we compared
working in VR to working in a physical environment by analyzing their
respective effects on a variety of measures as explained in the following
sections. The study was approved by the ethics committee of Coburg
University of Applied Sciences and Arts.
3.1 Study Design
The experiment was designed as a within-subjects study. Each partic-
ipant completed a full week of work (5 days, 8 hours per day) in a
virtual and in a physical environment. The ﬁrst independent variable is
EN VI RON MEN T, which is either V R or PHYSICAL. We counterbalanced
ENVIRONMENT, with half the participants starting with the VR week
Table 1. Overview of measures taken during the study: before starting
the daily work (STAR T), and after two (2), four (4), six (6) and eight (8)
hours of work. For the signiﬁcance tests the average of each of the two
values from the morning and afternoon are used.
Measure Start 2h 4h 6h 8h
System Usability X X X X
Flow X X X X
Perceived
Productivity
X X X X
Frustration X X X X
Presence VR only VR only V R only VR only
Pos. / Neg. Affect X X
Wellbeing XXXXX
Anxiety XXXXX
Simulator Sickness XXXXX
Visual Fatigue XXXXX
Heart Rate continuous
Break Times continuous
Typing Speed ﬁrst day last day
and half of them with PHYSICAL. The second independent variable is
DAY with ﬁve levels, namely DAY1, DAY2, DAY 3, DAY4 and DAY 5.
To get a better idea of how the measures evolve during the week,
participants answered various questionnaires ﬁve times a day at ﬁxed
times: before starting the daily work, two before lunch break (after 2
and 4 hours of work) and two after a 45 minute lunch break after 6
and 8 hours of work. We subsequently merged these data-points into
three values for each day, resulting in a third independent variable TI ME
with the three levels START,MORNING (mean of two data points before
lunch break) and AFTERNOON (mean of two data points after lunch
break).We merged the two data points from morning and afternoon to
make measures more robust against the inﬂuence of different work tasks
and to account for possible logging errors, as one missing value would
eliminate all measures from this participant for ANOVA analysis.
Dependent variables included self-rated subjective as well as objec-
tive measures as explained in the next section. The number of data
points, and, therefore, also the number of levels of the independent
variables DAY and TIME varies between these measures, because de-
pending on their purpose, some of them were recorded at different
frequencies. The measures and the number of data-points obtained for
each are summarized in Table 1.
3.2 Measures
In the course of the study we collected a range of subjective as well as
objective measures which are presented in Table 1. Some of the subjec-
tive measures were assessed with questionnaires at four speciﬁed time
intervals: after two, four, six and eight hours of work. These measures
usability measured by the system usability scale [8], ﬂow [49], presence
using the IPQ questionnaire
1
[52], and two separate questions asking
the participants to rate their perceived productivity and frustration on
a 7-point-Likert-scale (from 1 to 7) (“I was very productive in the last
two hours.”; “I was very frustrated in the last two hours.”). These
measures where not taken at the START of the day, because they are not
meaningful without referring to a prior period of work.
Further subjective measures were assessed ﬁve times a day. Speciﬁ-
cally, data was collected before starting the daily work as well as every
two hours as with the aforementioned questionnaires. These measures
assessed different aspects of participants’ general physical and mental
wellbeing: anxiety using the short version of STAI [61] to examine if
VR has an effect on anxiety, the simulator sickness questionnaire [28],
visual fatigue using six questions from [25] as was done by [3], and
a separate question asking participants to rate their wellbeing on a
7-point-Likert-scale (“I was very comfortable in the last two hours.”).
Even though the simulator sickness questionnaire already includes one
question about visual fatigue, we chose to use an additional set of
1http://www.igroup.org/pq/ipq
the PANAS-SF questionnaire [58] to record a positive/negative affect
of each condition on emotional state of users. This questionnaire was
answered solely before starting the daily work and at the end of the
working day to measure a change in emotional state induced by a the
whole day of work. Sometimes, participants could not complete a par-
ticular questionnaire at the exact time because they had to participate
in a meeting or lecture. Still the average duration of time blocks was
very close to two hours (m=122 min,sd =55.88)
At the end of each week, further qualitative data was collected in a
or disliked during the week, how they felt, what problems occurred and
what they would improve in the particular condition used that week.
preferences and if they could imagine using VR for work in the future.
Additionally, we also collected a set of objective measures. These
included heart rate, which can be used as an indication for stress. It
was continuously recorded using a Polar H10 chest strap. Using a
webcam, we also recorded users’ heads and we used these videos to
track participants’ break behaviors, that is, how much time participants
spent away from the screen. Longer breaks were also recorded by
ManicTime [1] software, which we used to additionally detect and
conﬁrm inactivity of more than 10 minutes as a break. At the beginning
and end of each week the typing speed of each participant was assessed
using a web-based typing speed test [16] to see if they were adapting
to the unknown keyboard during the week. Note that we did not focus
on text entry performance as a primary measure, as prior work already
indicated that users can adapt well to physical keyboards in VR [20,47].
3.3 Apparatus
The experimental setup was designed to make the work environment
in both conditions (VR and PHYSICAL) comparable, while still relying
on commercial off-the-shelf hardware and standard system software.
We used an Oculus Quest 2 HMD (Quest-Build 37.0) as it provides
integrated tracking of user’s hands and a physical keyboard, which
was, at the time of the experiment, the Logitech K830. This keyboard
has an integrated touchpad and was used as the main input device.
Hence, we restrained from using an external mouse, which would also
inhibit the repeatability of the experiment (as custom solutions would
be needed for mouse tracking). In both conditions participants used a
work-computer to work on during the whole experiment. Participants
could either bring their own computer, or use the computer provided by
us. In both conditions, a browser and Chrome Remote Desktop [35]
were used to connect to the work-computer. This allowed participants
to see the desktop environment through the Oculus Browser in VR
HMD. To make the PHYSICAL condition as similar as possible to
VR and to reduce confounding variables, we used a second computer
(display-computer) in the non-VR condition as well and connected it
to the work-computer via Chrome Remote Desktop. Therefore, using
a personal laptop did not affect the study as users were accessing it
remotely, solely using the curved monitor or the VR HMD and the
keyboard. The language settings of the work-computer were set to
English regardless of the geographical location of the participants,
because at the time of the study, the Oculus Quest 2 only supported
visualization of the English keyboard layout. A 24-inch curved display
(AOC Gaming C24G1) was used as the display-computer, which was
placed 60 cm from the participants, to resemble the ﬁeld of view of the
virtual browser window in VR (ca. 47
°
horizontally, 27.5
°
vertically)
as closely as possible. The resolution of the work-computer was set to
1366
×
768 at 125% display scaling. This resolution allowed common
user interface elements to still be legible in the virtual display. For
example, the capital letter Arendered in the typeface Calibri at size 12
pt would result in a vertical FoV of 17.19 arcminutes at 60 cm viewing
distance.
The physical curved display was present in both conditions, because
a webcam was mounted on top of it to detect the participants’ head
movements. For the VR condition, an ArUco marker [14] was attached
to the headset to allow analysis of break times. For the non-VR con-
dition, we used the face-mesh algorithm of mediapipe [36]. In both
Fig. 2. a) VR condition in the UK, b) PHYSICAL condition in the UK, c) VR
condition in Slovenia, d) PHYSICAL condition in Slovenia.
conditions, the keyboard was connected directly to the work-computer
via the Bluetooth, as otherwise the remote connection causes some keys
to function incorrectly. This necessitated the use of a second keyboard
in the VR condition which was connected to the Oculus Quest 2 via
Bluetooth. When the Quest 2 has a Bluetooth connection to a K830
keyboard, it will detect and display any K830 in view. This allowed the
keyboard connected to the work-computer and used by the participant
to be displayed in VR. The keyboard actually connected to the Quest 2
was hidden out of sight.
In conjunction with the keyboard tracking in the Oculus Quest 2,
the hand tracking was also enabled. We added a virtual desk using the
‘Bring Your Desk Into VR’ option of the Oculus Quest 2. To mitigate
distractions in the virtual environment, we selected the ‘Bubbles’ home
environment. We did not replicate the rest of the physical environment
(e.g., walls surrounding the user). While this might create a potential
ecological validity of the experiment (i.e. experiences that actual users
can have outside of lab environments without the need to install custom
hardware or software). Also, while we did not quantify the illuminance
at the user’s eye in the physical workplace we ensured that the perceived
lighting conditions were comparable.
In addition, participants could double-tap the side of the HMD to
toggle the pass-through-mode, so that they could more easily drink, eat
or pick up their phone. We also reduced distractions in the physical
environment as much as possible, however, the setup slightly differed
between the three physical locations in which the experiment was
carried out (Germany, UK, Slovenia). In Germany the participants
(ten in total) were partially shielded from the rest of the room using
mobile walls, as can be seen in Fig. 1, a and Fig. 1, b. In the UK,
participants (2) were sitting on their own in the corner of a vacant open
ofﬁce, as displayed in Fig. 2, a and Fig. 2, b. In Slovenia, participants
(4) were sitting in a corner of a small ofﬁce, as shown in Fig. 2, c and
Fig. 2, d. In general, participants were sitting on their own, but due
to the length of the experiment we could not completely control the
occasional presence of other people. In these situations, other people
present were asked to be as quiet as possible.
In both conditions participants were wearing a Polar H10 chest strap,
which was used for collecting heart rate data. The strap sent data to an
Android Phone with the Polar App installed via Bluetooth.
3.4 Participants
In total, 16 participants (
mean age =29.31
,
sd =5.52
, 10 male, 6
female) participated in the study and completed both weeks. All partic-
ipants were employees or researchers at a university. Two additional
participants (age 32 and 33, one male, one female) dropped out on the
ﬁrst day of the VR condition due to a migraine, nausea and anxiety.
Eight participants started the study with the VR week and the other
eight with the PHYSICAL week. Three participants were left handed,
but all participants used their right hand to operate a mouse which was
consistent with the touch pad of the K830 being on the right-hand side
of the keyboard. All participants had normal, or corrected to normal
eyesight and they saw everything clearly in the virtual environment.
Two (2) participant had no previous experience with VR, six (6) only
slight experience, two (2) had moderate experience, four (4) substantial
experience, and two (2) extensive experience. Participants were also
asked to indicate how often they usually look at the keyboard while
typing on a scale from 1 (never) to 7 (all the time), which resulted in a
mean rating of
3.19
(
sd =1.38
a touchpad the mean rating (on the same scale) was 2.88 (sd =1.67).
3.5 Procedure
All participants were informed about the procedure and the content of
the study, signed a consent form and ﬁlled out a demographic question-
naire. Next, the participant attached the Polar H10 heart rate sensor. On
the ﬁrst day of VR, participants received a short introduction using the
HMD, how to activate the pass-through mode, and how to reconnect
via Chrome Remote Desktop.
Next, the camera recording of the participant’s face and ManicTime
software were started and the participant ﬁlled out the ﬁrst set of ques-
tionnaires (the further ones followed after 2, 4, 6 and 8 hours according
to Table 1). The questionnaires were ﬁlled out on the same screens that
the participants worked on (a physical screen in PHYSICAL and virtual
one in VR ). Each participant conducted a typing speed test before the
ﬁrst day and following the last day of each condition as explained in
Sect. 3.2 and visible in Table 1. All participants were required to take a
45 minute break after four hours. All together, the duration of the whole
workday was 8 hours 45 minutes. At the end of each week participants
were interviewed and all data collected during the week was secured.
3.6 Results
We used a three-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA)
to analyze the collected data. Non-normal data was log-transformed
(heart rate, break time, typing speed) and for the subjective feedback
from questionnaires we used the Aligned Rank Transform [60] be-
productivity, frustration, presence, positive/negative affect, wellbeing,
anxiety, simulator sickness, visual fatigue). For multiple comparisons
in post hoc tests, we used Wilcoxon signed-rank test for ART data
and t-test otherwise, both with Bonferroni adjustments at an initial
signiﬁcance level of
α=0.05
. As already mentioned, the number of
independent variables and the number of levels of each independent
variable differ between the measures. The results for the measures are
presented in the following sections. We only display main effects of
the ENVIRONMENT and interaction effects involving the ENVIRON-
ME NT, as our focus was on exploring the differences between VR and
PHYSICAL and not general variances over time. Therefore, no main
effects of DAY or TIME are reported in the paper. We provide a more
extensive analysis of other main and interaction effects in the supple-
mentary material. In addition to examining interaction effects of DAY
and EN VI RON MEN T, we compared the slopes of a ﬁtted line through all
days between VR and PHYSICAL by using a one-sided t-test. We chose
a one-sided t-test, because we wanted to know if the slopes for VR are
signiﬁcantly higher, as we hypothesize that VR changes are greater,
as participants are getting used to a relatively new system while the
PHYSICAL environment is familiar from the start. We only report this,
for the measures with interaction effects between ENVIRONMENT and
DAY (negative affect, anxiety, simulator sickness, visual fatigue). Due
to data logging errors, we had to remove some participants from the
analysis of several measures (as indicated below). Data logging errors
occurred due to the following reasons: 1) the website providing the
questionnaires was once not reachable; 2) participants answered the
wrong questionnaire-set four times (after 8 hours they did the question-
naire meant for after 6 hours, which did not include positive/negative
affect); 3) one participant skipped the ﬁrst questionnaire once; 4) Po-
lar’s heart rate logging application failed to properly sync data for 6
participants on at least one day. As data logging errors rarely occurred
for questionnaires (5 times), we do not believe it affected the results.
m=46.48
,
sd =2.64
) compared to PHYSICAL (
m=
34.37
,
sd =1.55
). The mean task load for each DAY and TIME in both
weeks is displayed in Fig. 3. The ANOVA results are displayed in
Table 2. Due to logging errors, one participant had missing data and
was therefore excluded from the analysis. There were no interaction
effects between DAY and ENVIRONMENT. This result indicates that
participants experienced a signiﬁcantly higher perceived workload
when working in VR than in the comparable physical setup.
System Usability: Over the whole week, PHYSICAL resulted in a
signiﬁcantly higher system usability (
m=73.88
,
sd =1.49
) compared
to VR (
m=54.71
,
sd =1.32
). The mean system usability for each DAY
and TIME in both weeks is displayed in ﬁgure Fig. 3. The ANOVA
results are displayed in Table 2. There were no interaction effects
between DAY and ENVIRONMENT. We can conclude from this result
that participants found the VR working arrangement far less usable
than the comparable physical setup.
Flow: Over the whole week, PHYSICAL resulted in a signiﬁcantly
higher ﬂow (
m=4.76
,
sd =0.15
) compared to VR (
m=4.11
,
sd =
0.18
). The mean ﬂow score for each D AY and TIM E in both weeks is
displayed in Fig. 3. The ANOVA results are displayed in Table 2. Due
to logging errors, we lost the data of three participants for this measure.
There were no interaction effects between DAY and ENVIRONMENT.
This result suggests that working in VR did not support participants’
focus and sense of active engagement in their work activity in a better
way compared to PHYSICAL.
Perceived Productivity: Over the whole week, PHYSICAL in-
duced a higher level of perceived productivity (
m=4.89
,
sd =0.23
)
compared to VR (
m=4.11
,
sd =0.28
). The mean productivity scores
for each DAY and TIME in both weeks are displayed in Fig. 3. The
ANOVA results are displayed in Table 2. In addition, an interaction
effect between TIME and ENVIRONMENT was detected, but post hoc
tests, comparing VR with PHYSICAL indicated that VR resulted in lower
perceived productivity for both times (MORNING,AFTERNOON). This
result suggests that working in VR did lead to a signiﬁcant decrease in
perceived productivity compared to PHYSICAL.
Frustration: Over the whole week, VR resulted in a signiﬁcantly
higher score for frustration (
m=3.49
,
sd =0.34
) compared to PH YS I-
CA L (
m=2.45
,
sd =0.26
). The mean frustration scores for each DAY
and TI ME in both weeks are displayed in Fig. 3. The ANOVA results
are displayed in Table 2. There were no interaction effects between
DAY and ENV IRON ME NT . This result suggests that working in V R did
lead to a signiﬁcant increase in frustration compared to PHYSICAL.
Presence: Questions about presence only make sense in the VR
condition. Therefore, this measure is merely descriptive. The mean
presence scores for each DAY and TI ME are displayed in Fig. 3. The
presence score ranges from 0 to 6, with 6 being the maximal amount
of presence perceived by participants. Among all participants over the
whole week the mean total presence score was
3.06 (sd =1.15)
. The
sub-scores for spatial presence was
3.66 (sd =1.4)
, for involvement
2.39 (sd =1.01)and for experienced realism 2.49 (sd =1.21).
Positive/Negative Affect: Over the whole week, VR resulted in a
signiﬁcantly higher negative affect (
m=11.97
,
sd =1.04
) compared
to PHYSICAL (
m=11.11
,
sd =0.52
). No such effect could be detected
for positive affect. The analysis also indicated a signiﬁcant interaction
effect between ENVIRONMENT and DAY on negative affect, which was
not conﬁrmed in post hoc tests. The mean scores for positive and
negative affect for each DAY and TIME for both weeks are displayed
in Fig. 3. Due to data collection errors 4 data points of 3 different
participants are missing, so these participants had to be removed to
conduct the ANOVA. The ANOVA results are displayed in Table 2.
There were no signiﬁcant differences in the trendline slopes for negative
affect over days (
p=0.082
). These ﬁndings indicate that working in
VR was more detrimental to participants’ moods than working in the
physical setup.
Fig. 3. Average values and standard error for subjective measures in the morning (m) and afternoon (a).
Table 2. RM-ANOVA results for subjective measures. d f1= d fe f f ect and d f2= d fer ror.
df1df2F p η2
pdf1df2F p η2
pdf1df2F p η2
p
Environment 1 14 12.03 .003 .46 1 15 21.14 < .001 .58 1 12 7.72 .02 .39
Environment*Day 4 56 2.04 .10 .13 4 60 .75 .57 .05 4 48 1.37 .26 .10
Environment*Time 1 14 .08 .78 .01 1 15 .01 .91 < .001 1 12 .33 .57 .03
Perceived Productivity Frustration Positive Affect Negative Affect
df1df2F p η2
pdf1df2F p η2
pdf1df2F p η2
pdf1df2F p η2
p
Environment 1 15 1.01 .01 .46 1 15 11.70 .003 .44 1 12 2.14 .17 .15 1 12 14.44 .003 .55
Environment*Day 4 60 1.16 .34 .07 4 60 .19 .94 .01 4 48 .83 .52 .06 4 48 4.11 .006 .25
Environment*Time 1 15 6.96 .02 .32 1 15 .02 .88 .001 1 12 .05 .82 .004 1 12 3.15 .10 .21
Wellbeing: Over the whole week, PHYSICAL resulted in a sig-
niﬁcantly higher wellbeing (
m=5.31
,
sd =0.34
) compared to VR
(
m=4.25
,
sd =0.59
). The mean scores for wellbeing for each DAY
and TI ME in both weeks are displayed in Fig. 4. The ANOVA re-
sults are displayed in Table 3. Due to logging errors, data of one
participant is missing. There were no interaction effects between
DAY and ENVIRONMENT. However, an interaction effect between
the ENVIRONMENT and TIME was detected. Post hoc tests, com-
paring the VR to PHYSICAL condition for each of the three times
(START ,MORNING,AFTERNOON) indicated that the VR condition
results in a signiﬁcantly lower wellbeing in the MORNING (
V=10
,
p=0.015
,
r=0.71
,
meanVR =4.07
,
sdVR =1.4
,
meanPhysical =5.26
,
sdPhysical =1.42
) and AFTERNOON (
V=11
,
p=0.01
,
r=0.74
,
meanVR =3.91
,
sdVR =1.2
,
meanPhysical =5.15
,
sdPhysical =1.27
),
but not at START .
Anxiety: Over the whole week, VR resulted in a signiﬁcantly higher
anxiety (
m=5.3
,
sd =5.84
) compared to PHYSICAL (
m=2.42
,
sd =
5.34
). The mean scores for anxiety for each DAY and TIM E in both
weeks are displayed in Fig. 4. The ANOVA results are displayed in
Table 3. There were also interaction effects between ENVIRONMENT
and both DAY and TIME, which were not conﬁrmed in post-hoc tests.
Also, there were no signiﬁcant differences in the trendline slopes over
days (
p=0.21
). The ﬁndings suggest that working in VR elevated
participants’ feelings of anxiety.
Simulator Sickness: Over the whole week, simulator sickness
scores were signiﬁcantly higher in VR (
m=34.3
,
sd =10.16
) compared
to PHYSICAL (
m=9.21
,
sd =4.47
). According to Stanney et al. [54]
these symptoms in VR can be considered bad. The mean scores for
each DAY and TIM E for both weeks are displayed in Fig. 4. The
ANOVA results are displayed in Table 3. Interaction effects between the
ENVIRONMENT and both DAY and TIME were detected. Post hoc tests
revealed a signiﬁcant difference between VR and PHYSICAL condition
on all days and for all three time periods. Also, there were no signiﬁcant
differences in the trendline slopes over days (
p=0.078
). These ﬁndings
suggest that VR leads to substantial simulator sickness symptoms over
the course of the week.
Visual Fatigue: Over the whole week, V R (
m=1.61
,
sd =0.22
)
resulted in a signiﬁcantly higher visual fatigue than PHYSICAL (
m=
1.09
,
sd =0.05
). The mean visual fatigue scores for each D AY and
TI ME in both weeks are displayed in Fig. 4. The ANOVA results are
displayed in Table 3. Additionally, interaction effects between all
variables were found. Post hoc tests revealed a signiﬁcant difference
between VR and PHYSICAL on every day and for all time periods
(START ,MORNING and AFTERNOON). Comparing the slopes of lines
ﬁtted through the mean ratings for each day, we found that in VR
(
m=0.069
,
sd =0.13
) visual fatigue decreased at a signiﬁcantly
higher rate than in PHYSICAL (
m=0.01
,
sd =0.03
) during the
course of the week (
p=0.04
,
Cohen0s d =0.47
). This suggests that
while visual fatigue was substantially higher in VR, it also decreased
signiﬁcantly faster that PHYSICAL.
Heart Rate: Statistical tests showed no signiﬁcant inﬂuence of
ENVIRONMENT on heart rate. The mean heart rate among all partici-
pants for each DAY and TI ME for both weeks are displayed in Fig. 5.
The ANOVA results are displayed in Table 4. There was a signiﬁcant
interaction effect between DAY and ENVIRONMENT. It can be seen
in Fig. 5 that on DAY4 and DAY 5 the average heart rate is higher in
PHYSICAL condition while it is higher in VR for the ﬁrst three days.
Post hoc tests, however, could not identify signiﬁcant differences. Due
to logging errors we lost the data of 6 participants.
Break Times: No signiﬁcant effect of ENVIRONMENT could be
detected on the number of breaks. However, the average duration of
a break was signiﬁcantly higher in VR (
m=617.05s
,
sd =137.42
)
compared to PHYSICAL (
m=442.121s
,
sd =98.1
). The mean number
Fig. 4. Average values and standard error for subjective measures at the start of the day (s), in the morning (m) and afternoon (a).
Table 3. RM-ANOVA results for Wellbeing, Anxiety, Simulator Sickness and Visual Fatigue. d f1= d fef f ect and d f2= d fer ror.
Wellbeing Anxiety Simulator Sickness Visual Fatigue
d
f1df2F p η2
p
d
f1df2F p η2
p
d
f1df2F p η2
p
d
f1df2F p η2
p
Environment 1 14 13.34 .002 .49 1 15 20.35 < .001 .58 1 15 24.34 < .001 .62 1 15 26.30 < .001 .64
Environment*Day
4 56 .70 .59 .05 4 60 5.98 < .001 .28 4 60 10.32 < .001 .41 4 60 12.98 < .001 .46
Environment*Time
2 28 5.70 .008 .29 2 30 4.07 .03 .21 2 30 19.06 < .001 .56 2 30 27.10 < .001 .64
of breaks and the average duration are displayed in Fig. 5. The ANOVA
results are displayed in Table 4.
For acquiring break times, we used the videos and head-/marker-
tracking algorithms, and considered it a break if no head/marker could
be detected. We were interested only in actual breaks that participants
used to rest. Hence, in this analysis, we only consider a break if in
VR the participant took off the headset for more than 30 seconds and
in PHYSICAL if the participant turned away from the screen for more
than 30 seconds. We do not consider shorter breaks, since the videos
indicated, that these are mainly due to participants quickly turning
way that results in tracking being lost. For all break times generated by
the tracking algorithms, we manually veriﬁed them. Additionally, we
compared the resulting break times with the ManicTime data, which
logged all time frames where the user was inactive for more than 10
minutes, so we do not miss any major breaks, which might have not
been detected by the tracking algorithms (e.g., a user facing the camera
while using a smartphone instead of the work PC).
Typing Speed: Both ENVIRONMENT and DAY had an inﬂuence
on typing speed such that PHYSICAL condition resulted in a signiﬁ-
cantly faster typing speed (
m=46.88
,
sd =20.92
) than VR (
m=43.09
,
sd =23.98
). On DAY5 (
m=46.97
,
sd =21.42
) participants were typ-
ing signiﬁcantly faster than on DAY1 (
m=43.0
,
sd =23.52
) in both
conditions. The RM-ANOVA results are displayed in Table 4 and the
means among all participants are displayed in Fig. 5. There were no
interaction effects between DAY and ENVIRONMENT. These results
are in line with prior work suggesting a mild performance drop when
typing with physical keyboards in VR [20].
Interviews: At the end of each week, we gained additional infor-
mation from the participants through an interview in which we asked
them about how they felt during the week, what they liked or disliked,
which problems occurred, and what they would improve. At the end
of the second week, they were also asked which ENVIRONMENT they
preferred and if they could imagine using VR for work in the future.
For the VR condition, 11 participants disliked the comfort or pro-
posed to increase it (P01-P03, P05, P07-P11, P13, P15). Major issues
mentioned include the weight of the HMD and its pressure against
the face. P03 and P05 mentioned that the peripheral view was not
satisfactory, so they had to move their heads more often. P03 and P05
also pointed out that they needed to take off their headsets for drinking
or eating because they were afraid to spill something, and P04 said
that such tasks were harder with the HMD on. P05 and P13 missed the
ability to write something down on paper. Participants also mentioned
technical details that could be improved. For example, removing the
headset sometimes made it necessary to reset the position of the virtual
screen (using a menu in the Oculus system software) or the remote
connection (P03, P04, P13). In addition, hand gestures were sometimes
falsely recognized while typing (P06, P02, P12), resulting in an invol-
untary selection action. Also, four participants mentioned the tracking
of the keyboard could be improved (P06, P09, P13, P11).
Three participants mentioned that the study was too long (P07, P09,
P10). Seven participant said they felt tired during VR condition (P07,
P09, P10, P13 - P16) and only two (P09, P13) during PHYSICAL condi-
tion. However, the main reason for this seemed to be deviation from
their normal schedules. For example, P13 said “Maybe I was more
tired than usual, because I usually do not work for that much time con-
tinuously”. Five participants (P04, P06, P12, P13, P16) mentioned that
they got used to wearing the HMD during the VR condition; however,
P06 and P09 also mentioned that the second half of the day was usually
harder. P13 mentioned “I did more work than I usually do,” while P12
felt that he “was not as productive, because of the low resolution and
keyboard”. P03 revealed that he “had a blurry vision when driving
home on the ﬁrst day”. Seven participants (P03, P04, P06 - P08, P13,
P16) mentioned that they felt “alright” during the PHYSICAL condition,
while only P08 explicitly stated that she felt alright in the VR condition.
Nine participants (P01, P03, P05, P06, P09, P12 - P15) liked that
the isolation in the VR condition allowed them to concentrate more
on the tasks at hand, because they were not distracted, especially in
combination with music from their private headphones. However, this
could also have drawbacks, and as P01, P06 and P08 mentioned, the
VR condition was “a bit scary, because they could not see the presence
P12 also mentioned that “without [private] music turned on, I was
trying to guess what was happening around me”. P01 and P13 said that
they even forgot that they were wearing HMDs when concentrating hard
on their work and P11 mentioned that the experience and movement
in VR felt natural. Four participants (P04, P07, P08, P12) speciﬁcally
mentioned that they liked to try out and experience VR in a work
context. P09 liked the privacy that VR offered, as “nobody can see
what you are doing”. While P10 and P13 liked to relax in the virtual
environment, P13 also “liked to look around when taking a break and
just looking at empty space”. On the other hand, P06, P08 and P12
mentioned that they felt more comfortable seeing the real surrounding
and P09 liked to look somewhere else and not on a display when resting.
Only three participants (P01, P11, P13) preferred the VR condition.
P01 felt more relaxed in VR, P13 liked the isolation and was able to do
more work, while P11 liked it because he already knew the system/study
from the PHYSICAL condition week. P02, P05 and P12 preferred the
PHYSICAL condition because it was the same as the VR, but without
downsides such as the heavy HMD. Others preferred the PHYSICAL
condition because it was more familiar (P04, P08, P09), it felt less
Fig. 5. Average values and standard error for objective measures in the morning (m) and afternoon (a).
Table 4. RM-ANOVA results for breaks. d f1= d fe f f ect and d f2= d ferror .
Number of Breaks Break Duration Heart Rate Typing Speed
df1df2F p η2
pdf1df2F p η2
pdf1df2F p η2
pdf1df2F p η2
p
Environment 1 13 0.87 0.37 0.06 1 13 12.27 .004 .49 1 9 .08 .78 .009 1 15 8.46 .01 .36
Environment*Day 4 52 1.57 0.20 0.11 4 52 2.01 0.11 0.13 4 36 1.77 .16 .17 1 15 .31 .59 .02
Environment*Time 1 13 0.71 0.41 0.05 1 13 <0.001 0.98 .0
limiting (P03), it did not require wearing the HMD (P07), it was easier
(P10, P16) and it allowed to focus more on work as she “did not have
to tackle problems with the system” (P15). Nevertheless, P06 and P05
added that VR was more exciting.
All participants could imagine using VR for work in the future if
some conditions are met, such as having lighter HMDs with higher res-
olution and being able to have multiple displays. Also, all participants
mentioned that they could imagine using VR for a limited amount of
time (on train rides or for certain tasks). Regarding time, P12 mentioned
that “in VR I had 45 minutes of high performance and then 3 hours of
headache”. P06 suggested that using VR could improve ergonomics,
because displays are adjustable, as well as that VR would be good for
working at home to separate work from personal life. P03 and P07 men-
tioned that they prefer not to sit in one place all day and they usually
like to walk around and talk to coworkers. P04 would also like to have
the possibility to play games with other users in VR during breaks and
to have their phone integrated in VR. P16 mentioned that the isolation
in VR could hinder collaboration with colleagues. For both conditions,
resolution and delay induced by the remote desktop. Please note that
this is expected and a result of making the two interfaces comparable
with available hardware.
A week after the experiment, participants were also asked if they
observed any effects after completing the VR week. P04 mentioned that
sometimes during the weekend, she felt as if she was still wearing the
HMD. P16 and P15 still had a feeling of dry eyes after ﬁnishing the
use of VR and P15 felt sleepy and dizzy for about 2 hours afterwards.
Also, P01 mentioned she felt a swelling of the face around the eyes
and her neck and shoulders were stiff. P16 and P06 were “amazed by
how detailed the real world is after removing HMD”. P02 and P06 felt
their skin suffered after wearing the headset for one week. All other
participants did not report major effects.
3.7 Dropout
In total, two participants decided to drop out. The ﬁrst participant
who dropped out experienced regular migraines and mentioned that
the weight of the headset triggered them. Therefore, this participant
dropped out after two blocks of work (four hours). The second partici-
pant who dropped out explained that due to the weight of the headset it
was not possible to sit in a relaxed position. In addition, this participant
tion and productivity. After approximately two hours this participant
experienced anxiety and felt nauseated and disoriented, resulting in the
participant dropping out from the study.
4 DISCUSSION
In the presented study, we have examined the experience of users
working for one work week in VR and a comparable physical setup. To
control for various factors, such as screen size, input device and working
conditions, our experimental protocol enforced as similar conﬁgurations
in both conditions as possible, while considering work experiences that
are accessible to a wide number of users using today’s commercial off-
the-shelf VR solutions (an Oculus Quest2 with accompanying Logitech
keyboard). Given the limitations of current technology and the fact that
VR provides a virtual approximation of the real environment, we did not
expect the VR condition to outperform the PHYSICAL condition which
is also conﬁrmed by the results. However, the quantiﬁed results of the
studied VR experience that is comparable to a physical one, can serve as
a baseline for future optimized VR systems. In fact, the extent to which
some of our measures diverged between VR and PHYSICAL is notable.
For example, VR clearly resulted in below average system usability
scale ratings, while PHYSICAL resulted in above average ratings, even
though both systems used the same input devices and had comparable
screen real estates for carrying out work. Similarly, while it is expected
that a VR system induces higher simulator sickness ratings than a non-
VR system, the absolute values of the SSQ ratings indicate that VR
corresponded to the worst category of simulator sickness [54]
2
. We ﬁnd
this surprising given that we utilized a setup (Oculus Quest2, Logitech
Keyboard), which can be considered widespread among consumers
and professionals alike. These high ratings of simulator sickness could
be observed throughout the week, even though we note that the SSQ
ratings decreased slightly over the week. On the other hand, not all
differences are as concerning. While the self-rated task load in V R was
approximately 35% higher compared to PHYSICAL condition, it is still
within the 50th percentile of ratings of computer activities [17].
We also examined, if there are any differences between touch-typists
and non-touch-typists. We divided the participants into two groups
based on their need to look at the keyboard while typing which they
reported in the demographic questionnaire on a seven-point likert scale.
Six participants answered either 1 (never) or 2 and were therefore
considered touch-typists. An analysis with TOUCHTYPIST as a between-
subjects factor revealed no signiﬁcant main effects of this variable. This
suggests that the need to look at the keyboard while typing does not
have a signiﬁcantly negative inﬂuence on the results.
When ﬁtting a linear model to the data, we observed that any im-
provements across most measures in both conditions are not signiﬁcant.
Still, examining the development of the scores over the week can serve
as an indication of a possible emerging trend in the future. When in-
2
Please note that this categorization is based mostly on military simulators
and that researchers discuss about the associated challenges [7].
specting the graphs, it is possible to observe a rapid adaptation of users
to the VR condition. Within a day or two, many of the scores for VR
improved. At this stage, we do not know if this improvement was a
result of participants’ brains adapting to the new condition or if they
Another effect observable in the results was a gradual accumulation of
some exhaustion across the week. We observed this effect in some of
ness). We also observed such an effect in the PHYSICAL condition,
although with slower growth, which may hint that this factor might be
independent of the environment and instead more related to the duration
of the experiment.
It is clear that there is still a long way to go for the development
of more comfortable hardware. There are already HMDs that offer
higher resolution displays, faster refresh rates, variable focal distance
displays, and wider ﬁeld of view. We anticipate future HMDs will
be available in a form factor similar to conventional glasses, and be
lighter and allow the ﬂow of air around users’ face. We expect that such
hardware will further reduce the gap between VR and the PHYSICAL
conditions. Some of the more mundane issues encountered by the
participants in the VR condition are relatively straightforward to address.
For example, multiple participants complained about the keyboard
periodically vanishing from the VR environment, the relative position
of the home environment shifting, and hand movements on the keyboard
dedicated ‘work’ mode may be appropriate, allowing device tracking
and gesture recognition subsystems to operate in a more persistent
manner when the user is known to be engaged in seated work.
The comments from participants in the interviews highlight the
challenge of implementing an effective and enjoyable VR working
experience given the potential inﬂuence of personal preference. We
note that several participants appreciated how working in VR helped
isolate them from their physical workspace and enabled periods of
greater focus, separation and privacy. Conversely, other participants
had negative experiences due to this isolation, whether due to a feeling
of unease produced by an inability to perceive who is nearby or the
obstacles the setup presents for face-to-face collaboration. Nevertheless,
despite the generally negative experience reported by the majority of
participants, all commented that they could imagine using VR for at
least some work tasks or at least a portion of the day. This hints to the
future when knowledge workers will combine two modes depending
on the needs for the work at hand.
4.1 Limitations and Future Work
Conducting a complex in-situ study carried out across an entire working
week is inherently intertwined with variables that are outside of our
control. Therefore, many of the measures depend on factors that we
cannot fully control. For example, reﬂections on frustration, perceived
productivity or ability to concentrate may be inﬂuenced by the type
of work being performed. There are also a number of other aspects
of the study that should be considered when interpreting the ﬁndings.
First, we discovered that although the overall task load was higher in
VR, task load was at a relatively high level in both conditions (but still
within the bound of comparable computer work [54]). This is likely a
consequence of the limitations of the setup common to both conditions,
such as no use of a mouse, and a display set at a relatively low resolution.
Second, many of our measures are based on participants’ subjective
responses. However, as observed by Wille et al. [59], there can be
a disconnect between objective physiological effects and subjective
user ratings. In terms of eye strain, Wille et al. [59] suggest that this
disconnect may be inﬂuenced by the level of familiarity a user has with
the technology. If true, this may serve to explain some of the reduction
seen in some measures over the ﬁrst few days of the study. Third, our
understanding of other factors related to working in VR, and how they
impact the user experience, is still emerging. Shen et al. [53] suggest
that VR allows for the use of more attention resources. This may help
explain the experience of P12, who commented that he experienced a
high efﬁciency for 45 minutes and then a headache for three hours. If
VR does indeed allow for the use of more attention resources, steps
are still acclimating to working in VR. Finally, we only presented
selected analyses of the collected data. As we release the collected
anonymized data, future work could investigate the data further. Since
we employed a widely available commercially available hardware and
software solution, we would also hope that further researchers could
add to the data set by replicating the study.
This paper has studied the effects of working in VR compared to
a regular working environment at one particular operating point with
experimental parameters set to align as much as possible between both
environments, given the constrains of using a commodity off-the-shelf
VR system. We hope this work will stimulate further work at differ-
ent operating points, investigating how some of the quantiﬁed effects
we observed in this study may possibly change if the VR condition
is allowed to deviate from the operating point of a regular working
environment, for instance, by providing ﬂexible solutions to allow VR
users making maximum use of the available VR space and novel VR
interaction techniques to make VR interaction more comfortable.
Additionally, the duration of the study, the need to exercise con-
trol over the work environment, and the fact that participants were
required to perform their standard work tasks largely restricted feasible
recruitment to individuals already embedded within the three different
university sites. Such individuals may inadvertently be more forgiving
of the deﬁciencies of the setup. Future work is required to look at how
a broader population may experience working in VR.
We also see interesting further work in examining stress and heart
rate more closely when working in different VR environments. There
are also open issues around the social acceptability of working in VR for
a prolonged amount of time, as well as users possibly feeling isolated
or having difﬁculties in collaborating with their colleagues.
5 CONCLUSIONS
In this paper, we have studied the effects of working in VR for an
entire workweek. While VR has been repeatedly pitched as providing
new exciting possibilities for modern knowledge work, in practice the
potential advantages of virtual work environments can only be used if
it is feasible to work in a virtual environment for an extended period of
time. Prior to this work, there were only limited studies of long-term
effects of working in VR. We reported the results from a comparative
study with 16 participants working for an entire workweek in both VR
and in a baseline physical desktop environment. As a ﬁrst study of this
kind and scale, we deliberately opted to design these conditions to be
as similar as possible to allow as many quantitative comparisons as
possible. Therefore, the study did not present the participants with the
best possible VR system but instead a setup that delivered a comparable
experience to working in a physical desktop environment. The study
revealed that, as expected, VR resulted in signiﬁcantly worse ratings
across most measures. For example, VR resulted in below average
system usability scale ratings while the physical environment resulted
in above average ratings. We also found that VR resulted in the worst
category of simulator sickness although the severity decreased slightly
across the week. However two participants even dropped out on the
ﬁrst VR day, due to migraine, nausea and anxiety. Nevertheless, there
was some indication that participants gradually overcame negative ﬁrst
impressions and initial discomfort. Overall, this study helps laying the
groundwork for subsequent research, highlighting current shortcomings
and identifying opportunities for improving the experience of working
in VR. We hope this work will stimulate further research investigating
longer-term productive work in-situ in VR.
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