VR vision: what will workplaces look like in the metaverse?
Businesses should stop viewing the metaverse as a space of fun and start to seriously explore its potential to boost productivity, enhance networking and provide a more inclusive environment
The state of the workplace has already undergone significant change. Remote operations have become a permanent feature beyond the pandemic for many businesses. The Great Resignation continues to highlight widespread poor employee treatment and the urgent need for improvements.
But we can also expect major technological alterations to the work landscape in the near future – with advances in virtual reality (VR) among them. Web 3.0, affordable VR hardware, and the continued development of the metaverse are likely to impact employment relatively soon.
Businesses are already starting to explore the potential for their brand presence in the metaverse even though the idea of virtual employment can still seem like an abstract concept to business leaders and employees alike. So, let’s take a look at what workplaces will look like in the metaverse.
At a bridging point
At present, many employees are used to physical office environments. This may be individual rooms or desk spaces for personal work or the bustle of a collaborative open-plan floor. These are working environments that have been developed over many decades, evolving to suit the needs of workers and businesses. But how do these translate to the metaverse?
In certain ways, we’re already at something of a bridging point. There has been a swift rise in the popularity of remote working operations. This has resulted in the rapid development or adaptation of tools to allow businesses and workers to function flexibly and collaborate at a distance. Metaverse workplaces take this approach to a new level.
‘Metaverse workplaces take collaboration at distance to a new level…’
Businesses can purchase individual spaces in the virtual environment for employees and allocate them as functional offices. There are already companies specialising in helping other businesses build immersive virtual office spaces in the metaverse. This could be positive for both incorporating company branding and worker personalisation in a way not currently present in home offices.
There is also the chance for companies to create virtual meeting rooms in which workers can have an avatar presence. This can be a more interactive collaborative experience than simply appearing on a video call.
Accessible Virtual Workspaces
One of the key issues with the traditional working environment is achieving true inclusivity. Unfortunately, many physical spaces represent hurdles for employees. Workers’ health challenges influence their career paths in more than just their ability to navigate most workspaces. It can put them at greater risk of injury, too. Some neurodivergent workers may also find the stimulus of bustling spaces make it difficult for them to concentrate.
This is where the metaverse can level the playing field, so to speak. Providing virtual workspaces means that businesses can create genuinely accessible environments catering to all workers. Employees are able to work from the physical surroundings most comfortable and supportive for them. At the same time, they don’t miss out on opportunities to interact meaningfully with coworkers, managers and consumers.
Everyone in the metaverse is essentially imbued with the same freedom and many of the same resources as everyone else. However, it’s important to recognise businesses still need to make sure all workers have equal accessibility to equipment that is suitable for their individual needs. This can include headset designs that fit comfortably for long periods and alternative options for employees using adaptive technology.
Virtual productivity advances
There’s a tendency to think of the metaverse as a space of fun. While there is definitely an element of this, it’s not simply an extension of a video game or another social media channel. How businesses utilise the virtual workspace can boost efficiency and greater productivity.
Space usage is a frequently overlooked influencer of productivity. Effective space management can ensure companies offer healthier environments that are more collaborative, sustainable and cost-efficient. Virtual reality is quickly becoming a vital tool in space management. This isn’t just from the perspective of being able to control and tailor the metaverse office to promote a working mindset, either.
‘Virtual reality is quickly becoming a vital tool in space management…’
Rather, there’s also a bridging element between the physical and the virtual. Warehousing is a good example here. While inventory is being held in traditional spaces, management can operate in the metaverse. Companies can build virtual replicas of warehouses and populate them with real-time inventory data by tagging all items with tracking sensors.
Managers can then perform checks and warehouse walkthroughs in virtual space, rather than having to spend time and resources visiting various locations. They can also experiment with designs and layout changes in the metaverse before implementing them in the physical warehouse.
The workplace isn’t just an area to complete daily work tasks. Everyone benefits when there are opportunities to interact with other professionals. Networking with a diverse range of people offers opportunities to discover new business connections, to learn from those with differing perspectives, and for individuals to further their careers.
In this sense, the metaverse workplaces will likely provide greater accessibility to varied networking on a day-to-day basis. There are already structured events being held in the metaverse, such as conferences and seminars. But there is also an in-built mingling aspect to this virtual environment.
In a similar way that people utilise social media for networking, professionals will be able to pop into relevant groups with their avatars and the virtual presence is likely to make this a more meaningful and engaging approach. People will be able to efficiently facilitate face-to-face conversations and develop beneficial intercultural and international relationships.
Businesses are already starting to explore what the metaverse has to offer. We can expect this to enable the further evolution of the workplace. Remote workers will be able to seamlessly utilise private virtual offices and collaborative coworking spaces. There will be greater accessibility in workplaces that aren’t so reliant on physical environments. Improvements in efficiency and effective networking are already emerging features.
While it’s important to treat any new technology with caution, the potentially beneficial changes to the workspace make the metaverse worth exploring.