In his recent blog post, Bill Gates made a bold prediction: “Within the next two or three years, I predict most virtual meetings will move from 2D camera image grids… to the metaverse, a 3D space with digital avatars.”
Indeed, while many companies have yet to fully embrace remote work as we know it (dominated mostly by Zoom calls), some (mostly tech) companies are already making leaps to move to the future of work that will be defined by more authentic remote collaboration and potentially the metaverse.
As the metaverse redesigns the way we work, there could be major implications for HR leaders who should be driving this transformation. Not only do HR leaders have access to the necessary tools and know-how to implement this change but they also need to ensure the future of work is designed with people in mind.
The Metaverse: The New Way Of Working Remotely?
The metaverse is an alternate digital or virtual reality (VR). Most of us associate the metaverse with expensive VR sets used for gaming and entertainment purposes. But truth be told, there is much more to the metaverse than that.
For one, although VR sets are often the best-known gateway into the metaverse, there are other and more affordable technologies to access the virtual space, including smartphones and computers. More importantly, the added value of the metaverse goes beyond just video games; it also has the capacity to revolutionize our workplaces.
Big tech companies, such as Meta (previously Facebook), Microsoft, Google and Apple, are investing heavily in metaverse technology—with some of those investments specifically focused on collaboration at work. For instance, Meta’s Horizon Workrooms and Microsoft’s Mesh utilize VR technology to allow teams to work in the same virtual room, regardless of each person’s physical location.
Especially since enterprise VR is forecast to increase from $829 million in 2018 to $4.26 billion by 2023, it is not difficult to understand why Bill Gates is so certain about the likelihood of switching from Zoom calls to their more advanced 3-D version.
Making The Most Of The Metaverse In The Workplace: Three Areas HR Can Focus On
As the metaverse makes inroads into our businesses, HR can take on more leadership and ownership. Here are three ways the metaverse could affect HR and how HR can, in turn, affect the future of our workplaces.
1. Equity In A New, Digital Work Environment
A metaverse-based workspace brings new opportunities to build a more equitable workplace. At the same time, the globalization that the metaverse enables is likely to emphasize existing differences. This will pose several challenges HR professionals will need to address:
• Hierarchy Of Tech-Savviness Versus Technophobia: A metaverse will likely feel native to younger workers while requiring many others to learn to do things in a completely new way.
• Bandwith Requirements That May Emphasize Inequity: A metaverse requires more internet bandwidth, with less developed areas generally offering fewer affordable options.
• Workplace Safety, Well-Being And Inclusivity: Even though people will mostly be using avatars in the metaverse, they will be interacting in what will still constitute a work setting. Companies must remain serious about diversity, inclusion and belonging when it comes to their employees. To that end, HR professionals will need to decide how exactly to oversee this virtual space to avoid problematic behavior such as harassment, abuse or bullying. A good guide would be to determine what constitutes such behavior in the virtual world, integrate the definitions into your workplace policies and educate employees on inappropriate behavior in the metaverse.
2. Creating A Productive, Collaborative Workplace
We all know that the design of a space influences how people use it. A round table invites discussion, while the boss sits at the head of a rectangular table. The metaverse opens the possibility of reimagining a productive, collaborative and creative work environment unconstrained by physical norms.
The new way of working in the metaverse could expand the definition of hybrid work. Thanks to this technology, employees have the potential to collaborate remotely and engage in a more authentic and human way. The gap between the physical office and a virtual space could close.
HR will need to set up the metaverse in their organizations in a way that drives business performance. The virtual design of the metaverse allows us to go beyond the traditional, often uninspiring office environment and create places conducive to collaboration, creativity, decision-making, entertainment or all of these combined.
Likewise, HR plays a crucial role in helping companies, their departments, management and teams figure out how to make the best of the technology. They will need to develop new hybrid working policies to ensure healthy metaverse working practices and teach leaders how to lead in this new environment.
3. With The Metaverse, Hiring Will Likely Change
The metaverse could also positively impact the work of HR professionals. Many companies are already experimenting with using metaverse in hiring talent. For instance, the Korean electronics firm Samsung has hosted a virtual recruitment fair and the car manufacturer Hyundai has used the metaverse for new employee onboarding. The U.K.’s branch of PwC uses the technology in recruitment; it created Virtual Park, a metaverse platform, to interview job candidates. Similarly, HR teams could be able to use the metaverse to onboard remote-working staff in a more authentic way. Such employees could be immersed in 3-D training and simulations.
While the metaverse is not without its challenges—notably with regards to data protection and high costs—it could likely revolutionize our workplaces, not because big tech companies are pushing it but because of its added value. To ensure this new future of work allows even more people to participate remotely and do so in a more authentic way, HR will need to steer this development.