Technologists have been whispering about the metaverse for years. Now, it’s emerging, with Meta launching our vision at Connect 2021. There’s been plenty of talk on how the next iteration of the internet – an internet you can step inside – will change entertainment, gaming, and social connection. The metaverse also means profound changes for the world of work.
What is the role of metaverse in the workplace?
Advances in virtual reality (VR) tech will mean more immersive and useful virtual spaces. New augmented reality and hologram technologies will mean environments that seamlessly blend the digital with the physical world around us. As more organisations adopt these tech, it will make the benefits accessible to millions of workers across various sectors around the world.
The focus on employee experience and equipping employees with the tech they need to do their jobs is a priority for many companies. This is especially important for frontline workers, whether they’re doctors at a hospital or baristas at a coffee shop.
They provide essential services for their clients, making these employees a vital part of firms that want to understand their customers’ needs and receive real-world, real-time feedback.
Empowering employees with new technologies and new ways of working in the metaverse will contribute massively to employees’ experience and an organisation’s overall goals.
How will metaverse transform the workplace?
From team collaboration, to learning and development, to company culture, here are five ways that the metaverse is predicted to transform the future of work and business.
Teleport to a shared space
What will be the first transformational benefit of an internet we step inside? The ability, simply, to be together. To share a room with colleagues or clients in person, from wherever you are. This is a game-changer for meetings, team collaboration and hybrid teams.
The last 18 months have reminded us of all the limitations of remote meetings and collaborations. When meetings happen via a window on a screen, the fatigue is real.
Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab recently published the first peer-reviewed study on video call fatigue; researchers found that reduced mobility and lack of access to body language and other non-verbal cues are both major contributory factors.
We’ll be able to create 3D avatars – virtual representations of ourselves – that mirror our body language as we speak, which we’ll use to enter VR and AR environments.
This will result in remote meetings that feel as though you and your colleagues really are sharing the same room, with all the benefits of communication, trust, and authentic connection that this brings. It also increases the ease of bringing senior leaders and frontline workers together to form the kinds of connections that just don’t happen via a screen.
The ability to share a virtual space unlocks enormous benefits for creativity. An internet of screens allows for collaboration on a shared document: something we are all familiar with.
But an embodied internet will mean the ability to share and collaborate on a far wider range of virtual objects: think automotive engineers sharing a 3D model of a new braking system, or fashion designers working on life-sized virtual representations of this season’s collection.
This ability to share a wide range of virtual objects is transformative for the many kinds of teams whose most important work can’t just happen on a page.
Take your bubble anywhere
When the first lockdowns struck in 2020, millions of people continued to be productive from home. Now, remote work models are here to stay. But there’s a problem. In a hybrid work, many workers are moving constantly between home, the office, cafés and meeting places.
While the flexibility is great, travelling in this way makes it impossible to own a single desk and desktop setup. Instead, workers continually make and remake the optimum setup.
The metaverse offers a powerful solution. VR and AR technologies will allow you to take your perfect desktop setup with you wherever you go. That means multiple virtual screens, arranged just how you like them. A virtual keyboard that you can summon as needed.
Alerts and notifications; on or off. For designers, artists, coders and many others working with multiple screens and a complex dashboard of tools, the benefits here are huge.
It’s already possible inside fully immersive VR environments, such as that offered by the Meta Quest 2. But in time, a new generation of AR glasses – not much larger or heavier than an ordinary pair of spectacles – will allow us to summon digital keyboards, screens, and more into the real world, so that we see them as a layer across our physical environment.
Getting noisy at the kitchen table? No problem, take your desk to the park!
Learn from metaverse mentors
The metaverse will transform learning and development. We all know that the internet has revolutionised the way we learn. But as the metaverse allows instructors of all kinds to move from screens to VR and AR spaces, this will facilitate a shift from telling to truly showing.
Trainee surgeons from across the world will stand with a leading heart surgeon as she operates. Architects will look through AR glasses at a 3D model that floats above their desk, while their teacher – thousands of miles away – talks them through the key design principles.
Customer service representatives will also be able to come together in Virtual Reality to roleplay scenes and take detailed feedback on body language and other emotional cues.
We all know that we often learn best when we not only listen, but when we do. And that in today’s complex world, learning can often end when we leave formal education: it has to continue throughout life. The metaverse will give workers around the world, and in every industry, the chance to observe, stand alongside and learn from the best in their fields.
Get ready for the age of metaverse mentors.
Get the space you need
At work, many of us listen to music to get into the right headspace. In the metaverse, our ability to shape the environment we inhabit around our work will extend far beyond music.
We’ll be able to create and enter new VR and AR spaces that are optimised for various kinds of tasks. Want to focus and go deep on a creative project? There’s a VR room for that.
Want to brainstorm with the team, and need to generate creative energy? Use Augmented Reality to add dynamic digital elements to the conference room you’ve been assigned.
The idea that our physical surroundings are not infinitely malleable is so hard-wired that we never stop to question it. The metaverse blows this limitation away. Creative tools will enable us to shape and refine the surrounding space to suit our needs and preferences. Don’t have time for that? Other creators will compete to serve you the kinds of spaces you need.
And as we learn more about how to optimise rooms for specific kinds of tasks – think size, colours, music and more – these rooms will become ever more effective.
Be in the room where it happens
Today, a hierarchy of spaces often structures working life.
There are the spaces viewed as elite: the global HQ, the top floor, the boardroom. And all too often – especially in large organisations – they often keep senior leaders apart from staff working on the frontline: satellite offices, factory floors, fulfilment centres and more.
But the metaverse allows a new democracy of space and physical presence. That’s not just a practical revolution; it can also mean a revolution for organisational culture, too.
For the first time, we can create spaces that will allow everyone – in even the most globally dispersed organisation – equal access. That means everyone can share the room with senior leaders. In the metaverse, frontline workers can have after-work drinks with the CEO.
In the 2020s, organisational culture is changing. Leaders are aware of the need to break down barriers between staff and listen to different voices. Shared metaverse spaces, and the opportunities they offer to bring people together, will play a crucial role in this shift.
Hybrid and remote work is here to stay and there’s a need for emerging tech that brings people together. The metaverse will change businesses and the world of work for the better.
It will enable people to feel truly present, productive and connected, regardless of physical presence. While some of these experiences are several years into the future, businesses need to make the metaverse a strategic priority today to avoid getting left behind.
Christine Trodella is the Global Director, Workplace from Meta