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The next-tech metaverse workplaces of tomorrow

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Are you ready for the next-tech workplace revolution of tomorrow?

Maybe? Yes? Heck no?

You aren’t alone. Many people are still reeling from previous COVID-19 workplace transformations. Regardless of how you feel about it, the fact is, the next workplace revolution is coming faster than you might think and yes, the metaverse — in some fashion — will support the next medium for our employees to work in.t  

Tomorrow’s metaverse workplace offers an always-on, dynamic and more personalized than ever before “embodied” experience for employees. The lines between digital and physical work and personal lives will continue to blur, and the duality of technology will create new challenges that we haven’t even fathomed. The metaverse will also provide innovative ways to connect people, increase efficiencies and improve knowledge-sharing unlike anything we’ve seen before.

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And it’s already happening. Companies like Accenture are already reimagining how businesses can operate in a metaverse continuum and, because of COVID-19, deployed the technology at scale and even offered on-boarding of new employees in the metaverse. Companies will form new innovative partnerships to envision new business, like the Siemens and NVIDIA venture to build an industrial metaverse.  

Skeptical? Remember the ‘new’ smartphones?

I know some of you may be cringing at the thought of a metaverse-charged workplace ecosystem, viewing it as a fad that will fade, while others are smiling at the new marketplace opportunities that await your industry.

Let’s take a quick journey back in time. Recall when the first smartphones were launched. No keyboard and just a screen to interact with? Many thought that it was a trend that would never take hold.  But in just a few years, that “trend” evolved to more than 6 billion people interacting with information and the internet, transforming business models and how employees work in most industries — and how they live.

Prior to the smartphone disrupting the way people engage, jobs revolved around the time people spent in the office, with no expectation of working when people weren’t physically at the office. The smartphone became an extension, driving new workplace policies for using them — for instance, Ford Motor Company even offered Bring Your Own Device initiatives — and the new always-connected workplace culture emerged. 

These advancements redefined work from “a place you go for a set time in the day” to “cutting the tether to desks and freeing people to leverage innovative productivity tools and new virtual spaces to meet any time, any place, from anywhere.”

This prompted the business digital transformation in the early 2010s and drove a major shift in how companies leverage technology to advance business opportunities, grow and sustain talent and determine where and when people worked.

Why you should prepare now

Examining trends from the last major internet evolution, business leaders most likely have between 5 to 10 years to prepare for the next wave of digital change. This is given the current pace of the development, maturity and confluence of the seven prime technologies that form the metaverse: AI; blockchain; computing technology; augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies; simulation and gaming technologies; next-generation communications networks; and sensing technology.

These technologies will enable the next human-centric internet transformation — the metaverse — and redefine how companies do business and how people work. The metaverse will likely see behavioral shifts comparable to the smartphone transformation in the mid-2010s that altered how people lived and worked, blending their digital and physical worlds in unimaginable ways.

Image via Bundle Benefits

The metaverse will offer a new lucrative marketplace for companies, employees, and consumers. Companies will need to develop new operating models, talent strategies, and infrastructures to support an evolutionary change at scale if they want to maintain a competitive talent and business advantage.

A McKinsey report assesses that by 2030, the metaverse could be worth $5 trillion, potentially offering a major new growth opportunity for many businesses in retail, financial services, technology, manufacturing and healthcare industries.  

As we look to tomorrow, Deloitte experts assess that the metaverse will probably depend on consumer reaction and four key undetermined factors — standardization, market fragmentation, user interface and governance — likely leading to three potential scenarios for the metaverse by the early 2030s. These are:

  1. Low orbit: A specialty market for specific uses that will complement but not replace other technologies;
  2. Double star: A mainstream market for many applications but split among the next generation of leading platforms.
  3. Big bang: The full migration of today’s internet and more into an immersive world in which most businesses and consumers operate.

Taking into consideration prior trends with technology advancements and workplace transformation, we can narrow the future metaverse workplace to at least two plausible outcomes: A specialized or common workplace in the next 3 to 5 years. 

Specialized workplace for some

Companies build specialized metaverse platforms to support specific users for specific tasks that will support other technologies. For example, a company may build a digital replica of its supply chain to better understand vulnerabilities, risks and opportunities.

There is limited adoption to specialized workers and it is not integrated into employees’ daily activities. For example, designers, architects and engineers could work in a metaverse workspace to conceptualize or virtually build cars, cities or infrastructures to better understand efficiencies and vulnerabilities prior to real-world fabrication. 

Common workplace for many

Companies develop dynamic metaverse workspaces to provide their entire workforce with new options to perform many business operations, collaborate and engage in proprietary and partitioned digital-physical ecosystems. This can provide employee efficiencies, offer greater workplace flexibility and create new business opportunities.

The common corporate metaverse will bridge the real and the virtual, with employees straddling both workspaces. For example, the entire workforce could have a shared presence at a town hall or training session by physically being in the space or digitally accessing it from anywhere by leveraging extended reality technology, a mobile device or a PC.

Greater collaboration, engagement

Given that the development of the base technologies of the metaverse is in varying developmental stages, many technological factors, as well as social and business norms, could shift how the future unfolds.

However metaverse workplaces of tomorrow materialize, they will offer more blended digital and physical spaces that provide a shared and connected experience for people, regardless of when, how, or what device they use to engage with in their work. Some companies will shift to results-based work models where employee compensation focuses on results and performance, not the number of hours they work in the day. 

The metaverse workplace will afford greater collaboration and engagement and more opportunities to gain insights for growth and development. It will also afford added support for well-being and belonging.

Companies will also see new workforce friction points and challenges arise that are akin to those seen with the adoption of the smartphone and the move to remote work during the pandemic. As with anything, there will be growing pains — as well as vast opportunities.

Kayla Lebovits is CEO and founder of Bundle Benefits.

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