Work in the Metaverse: The New Normal Like You’ve Never Seen it

Work in the Metaverse: The New Normal Like You’ve Never Seen it

The metaverse offers an immersive VR space. Would you work in a fully virtual world?
24 Enero 2022

Now that the metaverse is almost here, this is no longer a hypothetical question. The metaverse offers an immersive VR space where you can perform virtually any activity you would do in the office. From multi-participant meetings to watercooler chats, from yoga day to impromptu brainstorming sessions, the metaverse has it all. 

Yet, reactions to the possibility of work in the metaverse are mixed. A recent US poll found that 27% of employees are excited about the idea of AR/VR in the workplace; 29% said that they are not looking forward to it at all. Meanwhile, 31% are neutral, even as 83% of senior business executives believe that immersive tech investments will increase. 

In other words, a metaverse-ian work reality may not be far away, but adoption could be patchy and problematic. Let us explore this further.  

What Does Work in the Metaverse Look Like?

The metaverse refers to an immersive 3D space where users can perform interactions similar to the real world

In a way, the metaverse already exists through platforms like Decentraland and AltspaceVR, which allow users to create multiple VR rooms or spaces for different purposes. But this is different from the vision for the metaverse as put forward by Facebook and academic theorists. A true metaverse wouldn’t be just another virtual environment among many – it would be a single, converged platform built on interoperability across existing worlds. 

This has major implications for professional use cases. The metaverse could have entire office campuses and cityscapes where employees can congregate or even complete independent tasks. The VR environment would allow things like 3D simulation, infinite whiteboarding, teleportation, 3D data modelling, and much more. 

Particularly, in the wake of the recent rise of remote work, the metaverse takes on a different dimension. 

Unified Communications and Remote Working Get High Touch

Most remote work practices are low touch in nature. We focus on making the most of asynchronous communication, and video calls are a far cry from the intimacy of real-world meetings. In fact, they can have counterintuitive effects. Studies show that employees feel significant stress when they have to look at themselves on video for extended periods of time. Video calling creates unhealthy levels of cognitive workload popularly known as Zoom fatigue. The metaverse changes all of this by introducing an immersive space that enables interactions almost as organic as in the real world. 

The spatial audio capabilities of VR allow us to hear sound based on where the speaker is sitting. Desktop streaming technology lets us type in VR and have it recorded in our real-life workstations.  Photorealistic avatars help us interact with our diverse workforce more naturally than in-video calls or email. In short, every aspect of unified communications gets a high-touch overhaul when we work in the metaverse. 

Career Opportunities in the Metaverse

Interestingly, the metaverse doesn’t just allow us to do our existing jobs in a new way. It also opens up new career opportunities that exist only inside the metaverse economy. Some examples include: 

  • Stylists and personal shoppers – Eventually, the metaverse will come to have its own retail spaces, arcades, and shopping malls where people shop to dress their 3D avatars. As we spend more time in the metaverse, our appearance in 3D will be as important as our real-world outfits. In this scenario, people can find employment as stylists and personal shoppers to help users and drive sales for companies operating in the metaverse
  • Tour guides – A key use case for media & entertainment in the metaverse are VR theme parks. Disney reportedly has a project in the works that is somewhere along these lines, and VR theme parks will require tour guides to engage users. In fact, complex VR environments of any kind, from museums to historical monuments, could open up job opportunities for tour guides
  • Artifact hunters – Inside the metaverse, an artifact hunter helps users find important assets during gameplay. Metaverse games could drive monetisation for players – this means that artifact hunters could aid in profitability, and claim their own share

The Work-verse Involves More than Only Virtual Reality

Work in the metaverse won’t just rely on VR. It will use the entire gamut of immersive technologies, including augmented reality and mixed reality to blur the lines between real and virtual worlds. For instance, if you see Facebook’s recently launched video on work in the metaverse, it depicts an employee putting on AR glasses so that he can work on his virtual desktop, create 3D designs, and view holograms of his colleagues moving around him. 

This means that the work-verse will provide a rich and complex experience that does not disconnect you from your surroundings. 

Meet Microsoft Mesh, the New Metaverse for Work

Even as Facebook develops its own version of the metaverse following its rebrand as Meta, Microsoft has made significant headway. In a recent interview with HBR, CEO Satya Nadella explained their vision for the future of collaboration and if it will culminate in the metaverse. “I think that this entire idea of metaverse is fundamentally this: increasingly, as we embed computing in the real world, you can even embed the real world in computing,” he said. 

He also pointed out that since acquiring AltspaceVR, Accenture has built a virtual campus using Microsoft technology called the Nth floor to enable work in the metaverse. 

Issues to Iron Out

The work-verse won’t be without its problems. Companies should tread carefully to avoid:

  • An “always-on” culture – Increased convenience could result in the expectation of greater availability
  • Harassment in the workplace – Workplace behaviour training, etiquette, and rules must be reimagined for VR
  • Risk of ageism – Given the low median age of VR users right now, the technology has to be made adoption-ready for all ages

Despite initial resistance, remote work and online collaboration were inevitable. Work in the metaverse marks the next bend in the evolution of UC, and companies must invest in proactive change management to prepare. 

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