The way we work is an evolving challenge for businesses and HR leaders.
Many businesses are figuring out how to anticipate and cater for the different ways their people will work in the future, all while they tailor policies and build culture around the mix of remote, hybrid, in-office and frontline work we see today.
But if one thing is clear: the way we work has changed and there’s no going back.
Technology will play a key role in helping companies not just manage but embrace this new way of working. And the metaverse will open up even more opportunities for businesses and workers everywhere.
While the metaverse won’t appear overnight, there are changes organizations can make today – from creating flexible policies to investing in work tech – to ensure they’re ready to make the most of this shift.
But as businesses begin this journey and get comfortable with new ways of working, one key thing that HR leaders must keep in mind is how they bring every worker on the journey and cater to different worker needs and requirements.
Work has changed, but the frontline are still disconnected
All too often, frontline workers have been forgotten or come secondary to those in their company that work at a desk.
And while the way we work is evolving, frontline workers are still feeling left behind.
They were some of the most exposed and least protected during the pandemic, but their new place in the spotlight as ‘essential workers’ was still not enough to level the playing field with their ‘knowledge worker’ counterparts.
Indeed, office employees have remained the focus of discussions around working practices since we first entered lockdown over two years ago. So while the pandemic has transformed the way we work, the frontline still feels overlooked.
According to research conducted last year, 45% of UK frontline workers were considering leaving the frontline altogether, with only half (54%) saying they felt connected to their organization’s HQ.
This disconnect is what leads to internal confusion, a lack of communication from top to bottom and a disjointed culture.
HR leaders need to make the investment in both time and technology to support the frontline workforce. Because when companies invest in tech for office workers only, the inequity only gets greater.
Business leaders need to open the conversation to everyone and look to the “feet on the street” for valuable insight that comes from doing what they do all day – getting stuck into the work, interacting with customers and furthering their company’s mission.
Tech to level the playing field at work
The playing field is still not level for the frontline.
But the return to work is also teaching us that it’s not just the frontline getting left behind: the phenomenon of ‘office bias’ is creating inequity between the experiences of remote workers and those in the office, too.
Technology can play a huge role in democratizing access to knowledge, leadership and peers.
The metaverse has the potential to take this to new levels – ensuring that it’s no longer the case that you have to work in head office to be exposed to leadership, opportunities and information.
The definition of what it means to be ‘present’ is already shifting. It’s no longer about being somewhere in person, it’s creating a sense of togetherness through alternative means. Today that generally means resorting to video calling, which is not fit for every purpose.
In the future, the metaverse will create a true sense of presence that will help us feel like we’re genuinely there in person with our colleagues, even when we’re thousands of miles away. Ultimately, that will help ensure that location does not limit access to work opportunities.
What’s important to remember is that to deliver on this promise the metaverse can’t just work in fancy conference rooms, or for workers who are equipped with headsets. And even then, the future of work isn’t about wearing a headset for the duration of our working days.
Instead, we see a future where metaverse experiences can be accessed on any device and in 2D as well as 3D so that employees can participate whether they are wearing a headset in their home office, or are out on the field on the go.
It is only when we build for – and prioritize – inclusion in this way that we can reap the true benefits of the metaverse.
Actions to take today
While the road to the metaverse will be a multi-year journey, there are things that HR leaders must do today to make sure that they’re shutting down ‘office bias’ and creating a culture ready to embrace the metaverse.
First of all, leaders must ensure they have the right culture in place and that everyone is connected and has a voice. Only then will companies be in a position to build a future of work that works for everyone.
Secondly, companies need flexible policies that enable employees to embrace new ways of working. While many are on this journey already, it’s vital that policies and working practices work for the many, not the few.
Lastly, businesses need to start investing in work tech that creates a community for all employees, not just those that sit at desks. To do this successfully, it’s up to HR, internal comms, and IT to come together to find solutions that can make a difference for everybody today.
Ultimately, the metaverse has the potential to create a more equitable job market and widen the talent pool by leveling the playing field for every worker.
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