Half of businesses look to metaverse to facilitate hybrid working

10 August 2022 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read
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Employers across the UK are leveraging the metaverse to help bring the office to workers’ living rooms, as they respond to the demand for hybrid working. A new study suggests that half of all organisations are now exploring the possibility of launching an online office space for their staff.

During the Covid-19 lockdowns, many managers feared a fall in productivity, as they would be unable to impose themselves on staff as closely as they might have in the office. The lockdown period consistently proved this assumption wrong, however, with many workers actually improving their productivity thanks to improved work-life balances, and healthier working routines.

While bosses had hoped that the end of restrictions would see a return to business as usual, after lockdown measures were rolled back, many employees are determined to maintain a level of their newly found freedom. As a result, in a tightening labour market, some many employers have been forced to give ground on allowing remote work where possible – or risk losing talent to those who will.

The leading benefits bosses expect from a metaverse office

This has not been without some level of hostility, however. Traditional employers regularly gripe publicly about allowing staff to conduct duties beyond the panopticon of the modern office – while long-time micromanagers sweat as their staff execute tasks beyond their line of sight. In response to this, some are turning to technology for a solution.

When people think of a ‘remote work day’, the images conjured up might include typing a report up at the kitchen table, sending emails from the garden, or having Zoom meetings occasionally disrupted by their attention-seeking cat. But soon, with the implementation of a ‘digital workplace’ via the metaverse, they could be enduring all the familiar joys of office life even when they are sitting outside of it. One day, workers in different locations may even be able to sit in digital cubicles, and interact via 3D avatars. What a time to be alive.

According to a study by workspace group Regus, two-thirds of business leaders view the metaverse as the natural progression for hybrid working, with half now exploring office space within the online world. A poll of 2,000 office workers and 250 senior executives showed that 66% of business leaders are weighing this up as a serious possibility, while 48% are already making their first experimental forays into the metaverse.

When asked what benefits the metaverse might bring, bosses told Regus it offered a level of flexibility that simply working remotely without the need for a digitally simulated office somehow did not. On top of this, 62% of bosses suggested it could boost diversity of workplaces – something which again is generally just noted about regular remote work – while similarly, 57% suggested it would lead to improved mental health and 54% suggested it would lead to reduced presenteeism.

How quickly do you expect your company will adopt the metaverse

Mark Dixon, Regus Founder and CEO, said, “Change in the world of work is almost always driven by technology. In the 90s email transformed the way we did business, while during the pandemic we turned to video conferencing to enable more effective working. This data shows that business leaders expect the metaverse to have a similarly transformative effect on hybrid working. It will enable better collaboration for people working all over the world, reducing the need to commute and allowing greater flexibility in people’s day to day working schedules.”

In the last year or so, the metaverse has become the latest technological trend to excite investors around the world. Metaverse technology seeks to build a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection, and is forecast by some as the next iteration of the internet – with the global network finally manifesting a single, universal virtual world. Not everyone is as optimistic about it as British bosses, however.

Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen previously told The Associated Press that she fears the metaverse will be addictive and rob people of yet more personal information. She added that immersive environments metaverse environments could be used to “put many, many more sensors in our homes and our workplaces,” while employees of companies that used the metaverse would have little option but to participate in the system or leave their jobs.

As it stands now, though, all this remains a matter of science-fiction. The technology remains in a nascent, highly volatile form – and if the development of perpetually ‘nascent’ decade-old cryptocurrency is anything to go by, it may well stay that way. As a result, despite the enthusiasm among leaders, Regus found that only 6% of workers think that the technology will be adopted within a year, while the majority added they doubted their company would be an early adopter of the metaverse.