The future of work in the post-pandemic world will increasingly incorporate elements of the metaverse where virtual reality permeates physical workspaces, creating a truly immersive employee experience. This can create exciting opportunities for organizations that embrace this new work environment that goes “beyond universe.” Continuing our coverage of metaverse, let’s take a look at the challenges and four essential elements needed for metaverse to succeed in enterprise workplaces.
As the world debates return to work, hybrid work, public workspace, private workspace, and a myriad of other employee engagement models, the virtual workplace deserves more attention. This emerging workplace goes beyond merely adopting next-gen collaboration platforms to help employees, but fundamentally rethinks building workplaces where real employees, virtual employee personas, and other people work together.
Technology vendors such as Sophya, Cluster, VirBELA, and Teeoh, who have been active in this space, got a shot in the arm when Big Tech players Microsoft introduced Mesh and Facebook launched Horizon Workrooms. Enterprise adoption of Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) into training, employee onboarding, remote diagnostics in industrial sectors, and virtual events are already seeing traction. However, enterprises have struggled with seamlessly blending the virtual world and building a truly immersive workplace. With the pandemic making remote and distributed work more acceptable and workable, enterprises will become more audacious in experimenting with leveraging the building blocks of metaverse.
Four elements needed to make metaverse take off in the workplace
- Technology maturity and cost of ownership: The fundamental building blocks of metaverse that create mixed or augmented reality experiences are primitive in nature and expensive. However, make no mistake, the development happening in this space is more rapid than we can fathom. As the consumer world evolves with better hardware, software, and experience, it will influence the enterprise world as well. Most hardware vendors such as LG and Nvidia are focusing on building more affordable AR/VR headsets. While at some point of time in the future customized hardware (e.g., glasses or headsets) may not be required to function in the enterprise workplace metaverse, that world is very far off. Until that time, vendors need to build affordable technology solutions
- Bold enterprise thinking: Disruption does not bring clarity. Change is difficult, and that scares enterprises. Enterprises will need to think boldly if they have to transform the employee experience, especially in the post-pandemic world. If they keep rethinking their workplace only in terms of deploying different types of collaboration suites, making things like policy more accessible to employees, and giving employees the best technology to work with, they will be missing the point. This is the time to fundamentally rethink the workplace by layering in metaverse. Many enterprises built virtual lounges for leadership during the pandemic and plan to continue with that. However, this needs to be scaled for everyone in the organization. Build a workplace that provides a common platform for all employees regardless of where they are based
- CEO-driven change: If left to IT or HR teams, metaverse will not see the day of light in the enterprise workplace largely because CIOs do not have the incentive or vision to be so bold when their average tenure is only three years. CIOs can push for better laptops, phones, collaboration suites, etc., but rarely rethink an employee experience that needs metaverse adoption. The HR team generally views employee engagement from a policy rather than a technology adoption perspective. If the CEO believes talent strategy, seamless collaboration, and brand value are all important, they need to lead the enterprise metaverse charge within the workplace
- User education: In addition to the typical user education needed with any change, virtual offices will need specialized attention to avatar definitions. Given the focus is having the virtual and real-world fuse seamlessly, an effective avatar is a key requirement to succeed. Therefore, enterprises may need to hire avatar builders rather than burden users with creating them. Policy guidelines around acceptable avatars also may be needed. By partnering with retail vendors to sell offerings for these avatars, enterprises can improve the employee experience and also potentially gain share with the provider to improve the return on these investments
Next steps in enterprise metaverse for the workplace
Enterprises need to understand the vendor landscape in this area, which includes suppliers offering meetings, training, onboarding, virtual events, remote support, and avatar-based workplaces. Providers are approaching this space from different angles and philosophies. Some require headsets and customized hardware to enter the metaverse, while others do not. As this space evolves, the vendor offerings will expand, and other new segments are rapidly emerging. Given the dynamic nature, enterprises will need dedicated teams to track this landscape and keep up with the developments.
To drive adoption, enterprises need to bet on simpler use cases such as attending virtual forums, meetings, and fun events. Once users are comfortable in engaging on these metaverse forums, the use cases can be expanded to day-to-day work with specific personas. Technically advanced users can be the first users, followed by other enterprise functions.
Eventually, enterprises will need to realize and appreciate that metaverses will not be a replacement of their real workplace environment but used to enhance employee engagement and experience. As the world moves towards a mix of on-premise and remote models, fancy collaboration platforms will not suffice. Enterprises will have to bite the metaverse bullet, if not now, in the coming years.
Has your organization adopted any metaverse concepts in the workplace? Please let me know your experience at [email protected].