A Business Perspective on VR: The Cost
Updated: Nov 1, 2022
So how much does it cost to have VR meetings? And is it less expensive than an in-person meeting? The short answer is, "Yes!" by a long shot, or to be more precise, it's 70% less expensive to have VR meetings.
In this analysis I look at the cost of holding VR meetings for one week compared with the cost of traveling to an international location and holding in-person meetings over that same one week. And to keep it simple, this analysis is the cost incurred by just one person: the person traveling (virtually or in actuality) to the meetings. If you want to get right to the cost comparison you can skip down to the table below and make your own assessment, although you'll miss out on my (fascinating) commentary.
As a former leader of a global team at a Fortune 50 IT company, I did quite a bit of in-person traveling during my business career, both domestic and international. I consider myself fortunate to have been to many of the most interesting cities in the world and to have met some truly amazing people.
But as I look at that travel now, I realize there was a significant cost to it. There were hard dollars my company had to spend for me to go and hold meetings, and there were also "soft" dollars I personally had to spend in terms of lost time with my family and physical recovery from all the crazy timezone changes.
Let me start with the hard dollars and btw, all of these numbers are in US dollars. You can make the adjustment for whatever currency you use.
I generally planned $2000 for economy airfare from the US to an international destination. Sometimes it was less, like a trip from the US East Coast to Western Europe, and sometimes it was more, like a trip to Asia or Australia. Airfare is usually the single largest cost of an International trip.
Meals and hotel are the other main hard costs of an international trip. I've included a little extra for modest entertaining but I often found meal costs to be significantly higher when traveling to meet with customers and partners. Hotel cost is $250/night and I've included 5 nights for this analysis. That would be for a long trip - to Asia as an example. I would leave sometime on Saturday and arrive sometime on Sunday in order to be ready for Monday morning meetings. Side note: no matter how you plan it, one of your nights away from home on an international trip is spent on an airplane. Let me say that again. You sleep on an airplane. That's a little known fact that never appears in the "travel brochure" about the glamour of business travel. And that's also why you really need to be able to sleep on an airplane. So if you add all this up you come to the realization that it costs $4000 real dollars to spend the better part of a week traveling for international meetings.
Now there are "soft" costs to travel too, and those costs were generally just ignored by most of us who did a lot of traveling. But I came to believe these soft costs were perhaps even more costly than having to find budget money to pay for plane tickets and hotels. Key among these soft costs are: missing important life events with your family and social circle, and the physical toll rapid timezone jumps takes on your body. Let me break these down.
It's a little bit complicated to describe but no matter how you travel to an international destination, you miss at least one full day of work in transit when you're on an airplane, in an airport, or in a car enroute to your hotel. That's a whole day you are out of touch when everyone else is working. And there is at least a half day of recovering from jet lag during which it's a challenge to concentrate or stay awake. I've put a cost of $200/hr for the work hours lost. That represents a moderately high level leader but you put in the hourly value of your time for a more accurate calculation of cost.
The really expensive soft costs are the important life events you miss because you are gone. How much did it cost me to be gone on my daughter's birthday? Or when my son had a Cub Scout meeting? Or when the key user conference I needed to attend was being held Mother's Day weekend in Las Vegas? How do you put a price on things like that? It's impossible, really. My family has forgiven me for missing all those important events, but I still remember them and wonder if I did right.
At any rate, the cost I've put on these life events is this: one life event equals two hours at the hourly rate of $200/hr. Seems low but it is hard to value soft costs.
That brings me to the cost of having VR meetings. Essentially it's just the cost of acquiring a VR headset. VR headsets today vary wildly in cost but I believe as the business side of VR matures, the cost of a headset will likely settle to somewhere around the price of a laptop. I've put that cost at $2000 which may be a little on the high side. As for other costs, really the only other cost is you still probably miss out on some important family or social activities. The ability to meet in VR at any time means you will be having meetings outside traditional 8am-5pm work hours in order to accomodate people in other timezones. Also, the ease with which you can meet people in VR scattered around the globe means you may be working more hours.
One of the amazing benefits of VR is you can hold VR meetings from any physical location where you have a good network connection. My preferred location is my home since I live in a secluded area and have a nice home office.
But any quiet spot will do. I suggest you pick one of your favorite locations. That way when you're done with your VR meetings and leave the world of virtual reality, you get a great surprise when you take off your VR headset and remember you're at one of your favorite places in "real reality". It always puts a smile on my face.
The table below summarizes all the commentary in a nice, succinct format.
The cost of one week of meetings in VR vs the cost of one week of in-person meetings
Cost of 1 work week
1 day lost
1/2 day lost
Family & social cost
1 event missed
2 events missed
VR meetings cost $2600
In-person cost $8800
VR meetings savings $6200