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This company gave its staff VR headsets for remote hangout sessions

Employees use them to play games together, meet up for virtual walks, or just stroll around the virtual office

This company gave its staff VR headsets for remote hangout sessions
Photograph by Damir Kahabirov/iStock

In early 2020, the biomedical AI company BenchSci had just raised $22 million in Series B financing and was ready to go on a hiring spree when everything suddenly went remote. So instead of greeting new hires with coffee and lunch, the company sent them an onboarding box, which included a laptop, apparel and reading materials reflecting BenchSci’s voice and values (like a copy of Zero to One, by Silicon Valley honcho Peter Thiel).

Making sure employees felt connected to each other, despite the absence of a physical office, was the bigger challenge. The beyond-the-box solution? BenchSci bought everyone Oculus Quest VR headsets. “We were trying to think of a way for staff to blow off steam together,” says chief people officer Vanessa Ribreau.

The company is still navigating privacy concerns when it comes to hosting work meetings within the Oculus network. So, for now, employees use the headsets socially—to play games together, meet up for virtual walks, or even stroll around BenchSci’s virtual office, where their avatars often bump into each other.

Other perks of the job include BenchSci’s “work anywhere for 90 days” policy (allowing staff to relocate to any time zone for three months), a two-week winter break (instead of one), and every second Friday off during the summer. “With Covid, we’ve recognized that flexibility is vital. It’s been an opportunity to meet our team members where they are,” says Ribreau—even if that means doing it in the metaverse.

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