We reinvented our work culture when the pandemic demanded things to be done remotely. Even though Zoom meetings did their best for most of it, the work-from-home culture had to compromise on liveliness and colleague interactions. However, with the advent of the metaverse, new opportunities are brewing. Now you can have your office in the metaverse, where you punch in with your digital avatars and bump into your colleagues who’ll perhaps be wearing cooler clothes than in real life.
So, would you rather have your office in the metaverse or stick to what you have now? With this article, I hope to help you understand how to restructure the work-from-home scenario for your company with metaverse virtual offices. Feel free to jump to sections that interest you.
What is the fuzz around metaverse?
The truth about the current remote working system
Should you metaverse for virtual offices?
So, what does the metaverse office have for HR?
Finally, here’s how to build a metaverse virtual office
The metaverse is “an interconnected network of 3D virtual worlds, facilitated through technologies like VR, AR, MR, and supporting tech like blockchain, AI, IoT”. Users enter these worlds through a virtual reality headset and use eye movements, feedback controls, or voice instructions for navigation. The hardware devices such as the headgear produce a phenomenon called digital presence, which is achieved by stimulating the genuine physical experience of being present.
Companies like Microsoft and Facebook have pushed the term metaverse from the tech columns of newspapers to dinner table topics. The pandemic, ironically, was good enough for us to realize the power of metaverse that can simulate real-life experiences to bridge the gap of geographical distance.
A lot of companies have already set foot to build metaverse services and platforms. For instance, Microsoft plans to integrate its VR/AR platform Mesh with Teams. The company also hinted at a hopeful future of “immersive spaces” within the messaging app. Facebook’s Meta built Horizon Workrooms to hold meetings with Oculus headsets. But as Protocol has previously noted: It’s the companies we’ve never heard of that are likely to make the work metaverse happen.
Recent studies found that the quality and efficiency of collaborative work suffer significantly when they work remotely. Despite being quick, communication through emails or Slack is forcibly formal and lacks humane interactions.
Google claimed that informal run-in chats at coffee machines and lunch table meetings in its offices were responsible for revolutionary inventions, such as Street View and Gmail. But, with remote working, candid encounters and coincidental meetings all disappear.
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Of course, there are difficulties regarding health and too much technology exposure. Stanford researchers termed the phrase “Zoom fatigue.” It is the drowsiness driven by intense eye contact, self-consciousness about one’s own video feed, lack of mobility of limbs and neck, and the demand to give exaggerated feedback to sign understanding, agreement, or concern. To sum up, remote working poses difficulties such as:
Let’s first look at some stats to answer this question.
Data proves that the metaverse will take over the technology frontier in the immediate future. Moreover, the metaverse contains everything the current virtual workforce misses out on. Imagine a board room meeting where you can show up in your best fit, sit across your peers and interact with gestures using a customizable avatar, all by being in your bedroom! One would put that over a basic video conference any day.
The metaverse solves many remote working issues to provide a better working environment. As mentioned before, virtual platforms are created for optimal remote conditions and add a touch of humanness that employees experience through their avatars. The avatars can freely wander in the digital space, utilize the facilities, and feel the presence of themselves and their colleagues in the office.
The face-to-face interactions with avatars assure the direct participation of the employees. This also helps to conduct events such as conferences, conventions, or summits. Your avatar can walk out of the conference room in the metaverse just like you would in a real office. Moving from one session to the other can happen even without using links. The avatars can jump from room to room and office to office, reducing the tediousness of sign-ups and logging in.
Custom room for leisure and other activities is another interesting feature. Here the users can view exhibitions, posters, or articles or engage in conversation with other users, just like how you would take a break in your office with colleagues. This removes the mundane aspects of remote working. This feature also promotes better interaction between the employees. Besides driving healthy conversations, this also ensures a little fewer lonely people in the company.
Customizability is one of the coolest features of having real estate in the metaverse. This can also come in handy when designing your metaverse office space. The metaverse platform allows users to create their own office and space according to their desires and conveniently work digitally. There is also an option to create customizable rooms for the users to take a break or engage in conversation with other users to avoid work pressure, stress, and the monotony of working remotely. You might be thinking what the importance of a creative workspace is. We must remember that an employee’s environment plays a major role in efficiency and creativity and seriously impacts their contributions.
Metaverse office is not only for day-to-day rote works. for instance, the metaverse platform Gather’s has hosted events ranging from birthday parties and college reunions to major events like Forbes 30 Under 30 conferences. The 2021 AfroTech conference was hosted by Virbela. Metaverse company Teamflow also hosts virtual events while maintaining the best daily work environment. The point is that metaverse covers almost all of work life. Events, big or small, can be conducted with less time in planning, less money on the physical infrastructure, and possibly, a 100% turnout rate because everyone can show up from their homes.
The last but not least, yes, the pandemic was the biggest challenge that stopped us from going to the office. There may be other reasons like the increased cost of transportation that pose a challenge to employees to show up in the office. In such situations, metaverse forms an effective, fashionable, and more gamified solution. Metaverse ensures that the life of employees is not eating, sleeping, Zoom, repeat.
Along these lines, a Korean PropTech company Zigbang opened a 30-storeyed VR office in the metaverse called Metapolis. Employees with digital avatars commute to their desks through elevators and corridors just like in real life but moving using the arrow keys on the keyboard. The avatars of the webcam and mic can also be activated to enable conversation.
Metaverse presents a lot of opportunities for technology product owners. You may not be surprised to know that metaverse can also contribute to the recruitment and management part of a company. Let’s look at some ways the HR department can leave a sigh of relief due to metaverse.
Asking if your business needs to have a metaverse version in 2022 is like asking if a business needed to be on the internet in the 1990s. The wise knew in hindsight that the internet would blow up someday, and those are thriving today. In today’s world, it would be wise to set up a metaverse virtual office despite the dilemma because A) the signs of metaverse becoming a thing in the future are clearly laid out. B) it is only going to be good for your employees. Remember, happy employees, happy company.
Your top priority is to build a virtual office and host it on a server for the coworkers to access the office. Some companies have successfully completed this level. For example, ZOAN partnered with Varjo, a leading VR headset maker, to cater to realistic experiences for its remote-working employees. If you are a retailer or any B2C company, you have an option of setting up your shop in a pre-build virtual office like Mesh or Meta. A third option is to build your office in an existing metaverse such as Sandbox, Robox, or Decentraland.
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Design is perhaps the most important feature of your metaverse office. It decides your employees’ aesthetics and comfort while helping you stand out quirkily from others. Pick your avatars. Do they need legs, or do you want them floating around? Next is to make your designs compatible with metaverse output devices such as VR headsets and remotes. Then set point of view (POV) and peripherals for your spaces and avatars. Designers must build virtual environments ranging from office spaces to restaurants to haunted houses, depending on how cool or fun you want your company to be online.
You have to add interactive elements in instances such as when your avatar meets another avatar. Facebook’s Meta Quest headset and remote manipulate avatars as though they were physical objects. Online Optimism’s metaverse attempt, which is still under construction, lets employees hold a coffee cup or even toss a tennis ball for the metaverse office dogs to fetch.
If you are creating a virtual office on Decentraland, an Ethereum-based virtual world, you must have a crypto wallet. This will serve your bank account as a mode of payment on the platform and act as a passport or ID. For Decentraland, a browser-based wallet like MetaMask would be ideal. Other than that, you have a sea of options to choose from. Some of the wallets even let you have a business or institutional account. You are not required to have an economy for your office if you are building the metaverse from scratch and not using a metaverse hosting platform or a pre-built one. But it is fun to have your own office wallets that the employees can use to unlock some fun.
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Your employees might have to have a positive balance in their crypto wallets. This is especially if you are building your virtual office in a metaverse hosting platform. To buy some crypto, download a crypto exchange that lets you buy crypto in exchange for fiat money. Some popular exchanges to buy crypto include Coinsmart, Coinbase, and Binance. If you are building your entire metaverse from scratch, you may not need any crypto. You can even create your own currency with a little economy in your metaverse.
Once you have designed and set up your office in the metaverse, it is time to make it public. Not all your employees will be tech savvy enough to float through pixel hallways. Thus it is important to train them to use the metaverse for their good. You must also inform them about the benefits it brings over the usual email work life. In short, conduct a metaverse 101. Get them ready with their avatars, and meet in your new conference room inside the computer!
The metaverse is enabling numerous opportunities already when it is still at the beginning of its era. Virtual offices in the metaverse have the potential to revolutionize remote working, aiming at more optimization and productivity. Everyone from the management to the HR department can exploit the metaverse tools for happier and more efficient working. Despite the difficulties that come with any new technology, the value of the metaverse is certain; otherwise, the major tech companies would not have invested millions in this concept. Metaverse is a tangible boon you can leverage today for an entirely new dimension of opportunities and potential.