What is the metaverse?
The metaverse- a word making frequent rounds in the news these days- came into existence even before Mark Zuckerberg and Satya Nadella popularized it. Decades of human intelligence and innovation have contributed to laying the foundation for a parallel virtual world. Although the word’s definition is still a work in progress, it essentially refers to a simulated world that exists and persists even when we are not online (Ravenscraft, 2021).
Similar to the idea of “Second Life,” a virtual world created in 2003 that allows its users to create an online avatar and build its life, the metaverse will be a collaborative effort by companies, start- ups, brands, etc. to create a safe virtual space for users (Cohen, 2021). As quoted by Philip Rosedale, founder of Linden Lab, Second Life is still active and is roughly the size of Los Angeles (Hill, 2021). Despite being a futuristic concept, stepping stones for turning the metaverse into reality have already been established through today’s online classrooms, digital marketplaces, remote meetings, video calls, social networking sites, and so on.
What does this mean for the business world?
In the past, brands have shown an interest in creating and promoting their virtual identity. Despite these interests fizzling out in the Second Life (Hill, 2021), the platform sees a footfall of around a million users even today. Just like in the physical world, people are likely to dress up avatars with clothing brands of their choice, buy properties, assets, etc. for them. Decentraland Marketplace has already come forward to sell digital land to prepare people for the metaverse (Mathur, 2021). This points towards a myriad of sponsorship opportunities. Marr (2021) believes that the future of digital businesses lies in the metaverse.
As human beings are obligated to look at technology from a new perspective, a virtual existence does not seem like a far-off reality. This need of the hour demands companies and brands to build a parallel presence. With remote work turning into the new norm, a simulated space for holding meetings and carrying out the assigned group or non-group tasks is a futuristic investment for companies.
Concerts and live shows have gradually started shifting to online or hybrid models. Fortnite and Minecraft’s virtual concerts have set the stage for many such event opportunities in the coming future. Virtual reality spaces have scope for music festivals, museum tours, live theater viewings,stand-up comedy shows, etc.
VR games that already have a fanbase might see a rise in users, leading to a higher demand for gaming programmers. In the metaverse, organizations will increasingly turn towards gamification for training and development, upskilling, customer engagement, etc.
Electronic manufacturing and production sectors might see the biggest boon. VR headsets might become a thing of the past, given their severe health risks like nausea, anxiety, eye strain, and radiation exposure. To replace these headsets, a rise in demand for VR spectacles or contact lenses would be more suitable, user-friendly, and compatible. Evan Spiegel of Snap has already taken a step in this direction by introducing “Spectacles.” “Spectacles” aims to wow its users by immersing them in an augmented reality experience (Health, 2021), opening avenues for tech creators and competitors to come up with new, frictionless VR appliances.
Genuine efforts towards creating a parallel online existence will require virtual money. To promote social distancing and paperless money transfer, net banking and UPI came into the picture. Soon enough, digital currencies, cryptocurrencies, NFTs will become much more habitual and accessible for the layman to exist in the metaverse.
The metaverse creates opportunities for companies to advance and opens up a wide variety of job roles for the public.
How will the metaverse affect work culture?
COVID-19 has effectively prepared people to navigate their ways through unpredictable circumstances. Work culture is one of the plethoras of organizational variables that has seen ups and downs in the recent past. Switching back and forth between work and home settings has become a routine for office goers. Microsoft aims to build on the existing concept of virtual team meetings in the metaverse by adding personal elements like holograms for better collaboration (Roach, 2021). Without a doubt, these idiosyncrasies will be matched and leveled up by competitors. Now the real question is- how will this affect work culture?
One of the common workplace elements that people are still missing out on is bonding and socializing with their colleagues. Remote working can create an unhealthy pattern of hiding behind the screen and avoiding associations, leading to a lack of trust and cohesion between employees (Banning-Lover, 2021). Another factor that can get overlooked in the augmented world is an employee’s mental health (Banning-Lover, 2021).
There is no way of actually knowing what an employee might be going through just by looking at their hologram. Remote work has also promoted an unhealthy culture of overworking and being available all the time. Suppose organizational stressors like anoverload of responsibilities, exhaustion, role confusion, or conflict are not tackled in time. In that case, it could lead to lowered motivation and an increased error rate at the job.
Assuming that VR headsets and gear will infiltrate inside offices, it might reduce live interaction amongst workers. People might lose themselves in the virtual world, detached from reality (Banning-Lover, 2021).
Adapting to change is always a slow process, but the metaverse shows a promising and optimistic future for many jobs, activities, and opportunities. We have been preparing for the advent of this parallel world since the inception of the internet itself. A substantial and reliable framework for the metaverse has already been put in motion. It can potentially be synonymous with the internet in the coming future, and businesses need to be prepared for this future.
Banning-Lover, R. (2021, November 5).
Financial Times. From Financial Times Web site: https://www.ft.com/content/9dac90d6-f3b5-483d-b7c4-10378d5b8be7 Cohen, D. (2021, November 22). Adweek. From Adweek Web Site: https://www.adweek.com/social-marketing/meta-looks-to-prep-businesses-for-the metaverse/ Health, A. (2021, May 20).
The Verge. From The Verge Web site: https://www.theverge.com/2021/5/20/22445481/snap-spectacles-ar-augmented-reality announced Hill, A. (2021, November 8).
Financial Times. From Financial Times Web site: https://www.ft.com/content/61ce8588-5233-44d0-aa12-ce9ed60fb314 Marr, B. (2021, October 22).
Bernard Marr & Co. From Bernard Marr & Co. Web site: https://bernardmarr.com/the-enterprise-metaverse-what-it-means-for-businesses/ Mathur, V. (2021, November 29).
Metaverse universe: Realty and luxury brands wait for you to splash crypto cash.
New Delhi, India. From https://www.hindustantimes.com/business/metaverse-universe-realty-and-luxury-brands wait-for-you-to-splash-crypto-cash-101638172946437.html
Ravenscraft, E. (2021, November 25).
Wired. From Wired Web Site: https://www.wired.com/story/what-is-the-metaverse/ Roach, J. (2021, November 2).
Microsoft Innovation Stories. From Microsoft Innovation Stories: https://news.microsoft.com/innovation-stories/mesh-for-microsoft-teams/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
M.A. in Business and Organizational Psychology (Steinbeis Hochschule, Berlin).
First-year M.Sc. Psychology – HRDM (Christ University, Bangalore)
Currently pursuing a dual master's in I/O psychology, my interest lies in research. Keeping mental health at the forefront, I wish to create healthy and safe workplaces for employees.