Love it or loathe it, people are entertaining the metaverse. Many have been jumping on the virtual land-grab goldrush and buying plots of ‘land’.
hubb recently became the first metaverse-ready insurance broker, establishing a hybrid working environment defined by time in and out of a shared virtual space. It says this will allow the firm to “literally meet our customers wherever they are, whether that be a sunny beachfront or the summit of Everest”.
But for me, working in the metaverse raises more questions than it answers. If firms follow the hubb model, what impact will that have on workforces? What will the challenges be?
We need to address the metaverse hybrid-work-related questions on everyone’s lips.
Moreover, companies thinking of setting up shop in Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new virtual reality need some practical advice.
First, ask the question
Companies must ask themselves whether a transition into the metaverse would benefit them by assessing their customer bases and assessing how useful this would be in their line of work.
My advice would be to speak regularly with employees and clients; ask them how, where, and when they would like to engage with one another.
Lack of accessibility
As with many new state-of-the-art products or services, it is likely that both accessing and harnessing the metaverse will be expensive. Companies looking to establish virtual operations – particularly smaller organizations with limited funds – could fall behind larger businesses with bigger budgets. The main barrier to entry for an organization’s workforce will be how accessible the metaverse actually is.
Firms must ascertain what hardware they need for employees to access the metaverse, whether that be in the office or from home. They should gain a full understanding of all the costs involved. This should include any follow-on expenses, such as the cost of energy when it comes to powering access to the metaverse.
Only once these costs have been laid out and all the above parameters taken into account, should business leaders designate an appropriate budget to entering the metaverse.
Tackling employee burnout
Working in the metaverse mimics working in real life, meaning that we could see all the worst parts of remote working simply carried over.
Just as in the real world, employers must be aware of any work-related stresses for employees. If they aren’t, this could result in employee burnout, alienation, and issues with employee retention. In fact, over 40% of employees have said they left a role due to burnout. It’s clear that addressing the potential of this happening is a must for employers considering metaverse working.
Working in the metaverse could also result in issues such as virtual presenteeism. Employees may continue to show up to work and power on for long periods of time, even when they’re feeling unwell as this becomes the easy thing to do.
A study during the pandemic found that presenteeism and burnout are intrinsically linked, so employers need to work to proactively mitigate these risks, no matter where employees work from.
Business leaders can do this by recognizing symptoms in their workforce. Obviously, this is harder when interacting with an avatar, so firms should ensure they make time for metaverse ‘downtime’.
From telling employees to log off at appropriate times, to providing regular catch-up sessions, and taking time to ask employees their thoughts and feelings, so they can notice and respond to burnout signals before they cause attrition.
Supercharging employee engagement
As such, it goes without saying that any business, whether operating virtually in the metaverse or in the real world, must make sure their workforce is engaged, so they can succeed. Businesses can ensure employees are committed to the business by driving a sense of belonging amongst the workforce.
A sense of belonging to or detachment from any environment is complex and varies from person to person. However, one thing connects us all, and that is human interaction. Since the metaverse is a more interactive version of the internet, there may be opportunities for organizations for organizations to harness.
But the metaverse is new. It isn’t tried or tested, and it will take time to understand how you can make employees feel at ease engaging with it, so they can be productive.
Employers should start with what they know. To drive engagement in the metaverse, they must continue to ensure their employees remain motivated, aware and committed to the business. By giving workforces appropriate guidance about working in the metaverse, firms can ensure that their employees will feel confident that support is available.
The fidelity of the experience
Working in the metaverse may be too swift a jump from the ‘traditional’ remote working we saw accelerated by COVID-19. Organizations taking the first steps in their metaverse journey will have to tackle trial and error in implementation.
Business leaders can only act on what they know. So they should make working in the metaverse as ‘real’ as possible for employees. Tackling the human issues, such as driving engagement and mitigating burnout remain vital.
Ultimately, if metaverse working becomes a hybrid working environment in which employees can earn value, behaviorally they are much more likely to embrace it.
The more realistic working in the metaverse is, the more likely it is that people will feel that they belong there.