Would you work in the metaverse? This research says you could be sooner than you think


By 2026, a quarter of people could spend at least an hour per day in the metaverse, Gartner predicts. How will that change our experience of work?

In the 1940s, if you told someone they could place a piece of paper into this thing called a ‘fax machine’ and that whatever was written on the paper would turn up in someone’s office across town, you might have been met with a look of confusion. In the 1960s, if you told someone they could have virtual conversations over email rather than having to pick up the phone, they mightn’t have believed you.

And if you told someone from the 1980s that the huge mobile phone they carried with them would one day be pocket-sized and house everything from their photos, music catalog, social tools and the Yellow Pages, well, they might have thought you were mad.

Now, as we stand on the precipice of yet another massive technological shift, even some of the digital natives amongst us feel trepidation for the next iteration of the internet: the metaverse.

Gartner predicts that by 2026, 25 per cent of people will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse. That could include for shopping, entertainment or education, as well as for work.

Graph displaying all the ways the metaverse can be used, including for work, shopping, gaming, digital currency and more.
Source: Gartner

The metaverse is likely to impact almost every business, says Gartner. And it’s not some far-flung future issue for employers to deal with; it’s here. 

Gartner says the emerging stage of the technology will take place in the early 2020s; advanced versions will emerge in the mid-2020s; and by the late 2020s/early 2030s, the ‘mature phase’ will see “most of the physical world” touched by the metaverse in some way.

“Few, if any, jobs will be left untouched by metaverse technologies, just as few jobs were left unaffected by earlier internet developments,” Gartner wrote in an explainer document supplied to HRM. 

Emile Perrine, Chief Learning Architect at KPMG Transformation Experience Management Consulting, agrees with this.

“[Our] relationship with technology at work is about to take the next step forward, delivering a more meaningful, interactive and connected experience that will have a great ripple effect,” he says.

Before getting caught up in the buzz surrounding the metaverse, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of what work in the metaverse could actually look like.

What even is the metaverse?

Before writing this article, this is a question I asked myself a lot. And I know I’m not alone. Just the other week, at dinner with friends, the conversation turned to the metaverse and questions were flying: “Will we have to wear goggles? Can we access it from our normal computer? Will we actually be able to see each other in our physical form? Is it kind of just like the Matrix?”

While the layman’s answers we landed on felt far-fetched, I’m now learning we weren’t too far off the money. Gartner says the metaverse is an immersive “collective virtual shared space” which brings together “visually enhanced physical and digital reality”.

Importantly, it notes that this technology is “evolutionary, not revolutionary” as it represents the continuing evolution of the internet.

As an emerging technology, it’s not yet clear exactly what work in the metaverse could look like. In a sense, the possibilities are endless.

“We have a current vision of what it could look like, but until we all start to see practical organisational use cases, it will feel difficult to [imagine].”

In a consumer-facing context, it could look something like this. At work, well, anything could go. Below is a video depicting Mark Zuckerberg’s take on work in the metaverse. Despite its Minority Report-like gestures, it very well could be what work in the metaverse looks like at some point. After all, he is the guy pulling a lot of the strings.

 

If you’re like me, then watching that video might have reinforced rather than remedied the panic you feel about the metaverse, but Perrine suggests that while this is feeling normal, we shouldn’t let it overwhelm us.

“I’m quickly finding that there are two kinds of people that arise when the ‘metaverse’ comes into discussion – those who cringe at the idea of yet another technological advancement taking us further away from what we are comfortable with, and those who are excited by the sheer thought of it,” says Perrine.

“Either way, we’re seeing the largest businesses in the world take the lead in preparing for the inevitable, and as a modern business leader you would be crazy not to.” 

What would it actually look like?

When you think of companies that have embraced the metaverse, Facebook –  I guess we should call it Meta now – might be the first company to come to mind. However, as the video above demonstrates, its perspective, while potentially accurate, feels a bit more like a Hollywood film than a near-term reality.

A more realistic example that Perrine points to is professional services firm Accenture. Its employees, he says, are likely already spending more than an hour each day in the metaverse.

“Accenture’s current metaverse, the ‘Nth Floor’, replicates its office within a VR environment… and it has become a huge part of its employee value proposition. 

“Of course there is a novelty aspect to it being so new and shiny, but over time this will refine and become core to ways of working.”

Gartner predicts we will soon see a rise in the use of “digital twins” (avatars) via the spatial web and that:

    • Creative workers will need augmented and virtual reality skills
    • Finance professionals will support Web3 services
    • Security will support biometric identities
    • Sales professionals will sell in virtual spaces
    • Marketing budgets will predominantly be spent on metaverse properties
    • Virtual meeting rooms will be created
    • Learning, procurement, onboarding and live events will be hosted in virtual spaces

Perrine notes it could be hard to sell the metaverse into stakeholders, leaders and perhaps even some customers at first, but he believes employers’ interest will be piqued when case studies emerge demonstrating organisational benefits.

“It will just be a case of whether they’ll be too late or not,” he says. 

“Few, if any, jobs will be left untouched by metaverse technologies, just as few jobs were left unaffected by earlier internet developments.” – Gartner

“The metaverse capability of an organisation will soon be considered when deciding factors/key indicators of ‘best places to work’ rankings, and it will redefine the EVP and to drive talent retention.”

He predicts most organisations will start small – conducting specific meetings in the metaverse, for example, or perhaps hosting a one-off virtual event – but soon it will develop into a key skill set and critical capability, with roles such as ‘Chief Metaverse Officer’ and ‘Metaverse Work Health and Safety Officers’ arising. 

“We’ll also start to see more graduate fairs, onboarding and induction experiences and gamified opportunities within metaverse spaces.

“These all may seem like elusive or unrealistic predictions, but over time they are bound to happen and it’s up to businesses to be on the front foot of this.”

The potential benefits

Employees have loved the flexibility shift that has occurred throughout the pandemic, says Perrine. However, he also notes that something is still missing in our virtual set-ups.

“The metaverse will alleviate the remaining obstacles or missing ‘human touches’ that come with remote work – enabling a truly impactful hybrid working model with the connection that we craved so much when we were all torn apart [in 2020].”

It could be the solution to the potential for proximity bias to take hold (favouring those who you’re physically closer to). Meetings and brainstorming sessions could become more inclusive, Gartner suggests, as everyone will be able to be in the same ‘place’, so to speak.

Perrine is passionate about how the metaverse could empower employees who are often disadvantaged, such as those living with disability, or those whose voices aren’t always heard, such as introverted staff.

“This could mean greater engagement, collaboration and a sense of safety where they will be able to attend a workshop or learning experience and truly focus and engage.”

While the metaverse has the potential to create more inclusive environments, we will need to pay close attention to new diversity issues it could give rise to, says Perrine.

“How do we incorporate all possible features of an avatar design? How do we design our virtual office spaces to consider the lingual and cultural requirements and sensitivities across teams that will be more diverse than ever before?”

Interactive virtual networking and workshop experiences will become more common, Gartner suggests. This could potentially present an opportunity for us to move away from our CBD-centric mindsets, inviting talent for rural and regional areas, or in different countries, to participate. 

More people will have access to the deals, connections and relationships that are often created at an after-work networking event in the city, or will be able to attend educational presentations relatively easily.

Perrine says there are also great opportunities from a learning and development perspective. He predicts that employees’ preferred platform to undergo training will be the metaverse. He also thinks this will allow employees to retain more information.

“When you are in a classroom attending a workshop or behind a device completing digital learning, you still have distractions surrounding you. However, when you equip yourself with a set of VR goggles or other XR equipment – you have one focal point. 

“One piece of feedback I always receive around VR learning is how memorable it is in comparison to other facilitated workshops or digital learning.”

This is in part due to the novelty of it all, he admits – who wouldn’t opt for a cool VR experience over yet another boring PowerPoint presentation? However, it could also be an effective way for employees to focus on both the practical and theoretical sides of learning. Imagine, for example, a group of architects learning about a new sustainable building approach and then being able to see that in real-time by walking through that building virtually and experiencing it through their clients’ eyes.

“Metaverse learning will need to be designed for the skills that are harder to develop through theoretical workshops or digital modules, offering an immersive way to get hands-on, observe the best talent across the world, and replicate the same tasks, workflows and behaviours expected within the real world.”

The potential downsides

It could be easy to become swept up in the potential ways in which employers and teams could benefit from working in the metaverse. However, it would be remiss not to spend time thinking about all the negatives that could arise. 

Other than general fear of the unknown, a lot of what could be driving people’s trepidation towards the metaverse is the thought of adding yet another addictive tech platform to our lives. 

Photo of a man and woman. She is writing on a clipboard and he is wearing VR goggles.
Source: Pexels

Australians are already spending 27.5 hours per week on their devices. And an online game called ‘Second Life’ – an early taste of what the metaverse could be like – was reportedly so addictive that many people chose to abandon their actual lives in favour of their virtual ones. Marriages were torn apart, jobs were ignored and, in one extreme case, a toddler was neglected as its parents lost track of reality.

From this perspective, the metaverse could pose a very real threat to our mental health, wellbeing and ability to connect with people in the real world.

“We have fundamental needs, primal instincts that need to be addressed, or we will disengage and quickly become unhappy in this new world,” says Perrine.

He points to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and suggests organisation’s XR architects think about how to address some of the points towards the top of the pyramid, such as self-actualisation, esteem, love and belonging.

“Businesses who don’t address this will have ‘metaverse fails’ – having spent a lot of money, effort and resources in metaverse architecture that don’t take into consideration the need for connection, meaning, personability and self-fulfillment,” he says. “We need to strike the right balance between human and technology.”

He thinks this could be achieved by putting thought into how the experience itself is designed.

This could mean thinking about what experiences are best placed for the physical versus meta-world – as we’re currently doing with hybrid working. It’s about extending our realities in a meaningful way, he says. Not just doing it for the sake of it.

“Of course, businesses will still need to educate their employees on how to engage within this new frontier technology effectively and safely. This also delves into the art of change management, and how businesses should incorporate the right learning and skilling to prepare their teams for this inevitable but exciting change that’s soon to take place.”

What’s HR’s role in all this?

So what should you actually do with this information? If your company isn’t as big as Accenture, chances are you’re not yet experimenting with XR, so it might not be clear how you’d take your first metaphorical steps into this world – that is, assuming you want to.

Perrine says now is the time to research, learn and educate yourself.

“From a HR/ER policy standpoint, things will change quickly, and HR teams will need to be ahead of this or risk complex employee [challenges] arising,” he says.

“Workplace health and safety especially around VR injuries, ergonomics and [XR] harassment, for example, will need to be established. Employee privacy and data collection will also need to be addressed, as employees will have greater vulnerability in how they are monitored and observed within a virtual world.”

Not only should HR professionals be upskilling themselves, but they should also be incorporating XR technologies into the development plans for employees.

“It shouldn’t just be the employees in IT learning this. It will soon impact everyone’s lives across any job, and those who aren’t familiar with the basics will struggle to keep up with the constant upload of new terminology and concepts.

“Although we’re still in early days, and the road ahead will indeed be bumpy, the leaders who recognise that now is a great opportunity to have a head start will be thanking themselves in the not-so-distant future.”


What are your thoughts about working in the metaverse? Let us know in the comment section, or AHRI members can join the AHRI LinkedIn Lounge to hear their HR peers’ perspectives.


guest
3 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sarah
Sarah
24 days ago

Incredibly exciting but interesting times ahead.

Xav
Xav
23 days ago

There is HUGE emphasis here based on this thinking based on how you approach this shift from a change management perspective . Thanks for the share and definitely has provoked some thinking from a business owner POV .

More on HRM
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Would you work in the metaverse? This research says you could be sooner than you think


By 2026, a quarter of people could spend at least an hour per day in the metaverse, Gartner predicts. How will that change our experience of work?

In the 1940s, if you told someone they could place a piece of paper into this thing called a ‘fax machine’ and that whatever was written on the paper would turn up in someone’s office across town, you might have been met with a look of confusion. In the 1960s, if you told someone they could have virtual conversations over email rather than having to pick up the phone, they mightn’t have believed you.

And if you told someone from the 1980s that the huge mobile phone they carried with them would one day be pocket-sized and house everything from their photos, music catalog, social tools and the Yellow Pages, well, they might have thought you were mad.

Now, as we stand on the precipice of yet another massive technological shift, even some of the digital natives amongst us feel trepidation for the next iteration of the internet: the metaverse.

Gartner predicts that by 2026, 25 per cent of people will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse. That could include for shopping, entertainment or education, as well as for work.

Graph displaying all the ways the metaverse can be used, including for work, shopping, gaming, digital currency and more.
Source: Gartner

The metaverse is likely to impact almost every business, says Gartner. And it’s not some far-flung future issue for employers to deal with; it’s here. 

Gartner says the emerging stage of the technology will take place in the early 2020s; advanced versions will emerge in the mid-2020s; and by the late 2020s/early 2030s, the ‘mature phase’ will see “most of the physical world” touched by the metaverse in some way.

“Few, if any, jobs will be left untouched by metaverse technologies, just as few jobs were left unaffected by earlier internet developments,” Gartner wrote in an explainer document supplied to HRM. 

Emile Perrine, Chief Learning Architect at KPMG Transformation Experience Management Consulting, agrees with this.

“[Our] relationship with technology at work is about to take the next step forward, delivering a more meaningful, interactive and connected experience that will have a great ripple effect,” he says.

Before getting caught up in the buzz surrounding the metaverse, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of what work in the metaverse could actually look like.

What even is the metaverse?

Before writing this article, this is a question I asked myself a lot. And I know I’m not alone. Just the other week, at dinner with friends, the conversation turned to the metaverse and questions were flying: “Will we have to wear goggles? Can we access it from our normal computer? Will we actually be able to see each other in our physical form? Is it kind of just like the Matrix?”

While the layman’s answers we landed on felt far-fetched, I’m now learning we weren’t too far off the money. Gartner says the metaverse is an immersive “collective virtual shared space” which brings together “visually enhanced physical and digital reality”.

Importantly, it notes that this technology is “evolutionary, not revolutionary” as it represents the continuing evolution of the internet.

As an emerging technology, it’s not yet clear exactly what work in the metaverse could look like. In a sense, the possibilities are endless.

“We have a current vision of what it could look like, but until we all start to see practical organisational use cases, it will feel difficult to [imagine].”

In a consumer-facing context, it could look something like this. At work, well, anything could go. Below is a video depicting Mark Zuckerberg’s take on work in the metaverse. Despite its Minority Report-like gestures, it very well could be what work in the metaverse looks like at some point. After all, he is the guy pulling a lot of the strings.

 

If you’re like me, then watching that video might have reinforced rather than remedied the panic you feel about the metaverse, but Perrine suggests that while this is feeling normal, we shouldn’t let it overwhelm us.

“I’m quickly finding that there are two kinds of people that arise when the ‘metaverse’ comes into discussion – those who cringe at the idea of yet another technological advancement taking us further away from what we are comfortable with, and those who are excited by the sheer thought of it,” says Perrine.

“Either way, we’re seeing the largest businesses in the world take the lead in preparing for the inevitable, and as a modern business leader you would be crazy not to.” 

What would it actually look like?

When you think of companies that have embraced the metaverse, Facebook –  I guess we should call it Meta now – might be the first company to come to mind. However, as the video above demonstrates, its perspective, while potentially accurate, feels a bit more like a Hollywood film than a near-term reality.

A more realistic example that Perrine points to is professional services firm Accenture. Its employees, he says, are likely already spending more than an hour each day in the metaverse.

“Accenture’s current metaverse, the ‘Nth Floor’, replicates its office within a VR environment… and it has become a huge part of its employee value proposition. 

“Of course there is a novelty aspect to it being so new and shiny, but over time this will refine and become core to ways of working.”

Gartner predicts we will soon see a rise in the use of “digital twins” (avatars) via the spatial web and that:

    • Creative workers will need augmented and virtual reality skills
    • Finance professionals will support Web3 services
    • Security will support biometric identities
    • Sales professionals will sell in virtual spaces
    • Marketing budgets will predominantly be spent on metaverse properties
    • Virtual meeting rooms will be created
    • Learning, procurement, onboarding and live events will be hosted in virtual spaces

Perrine notes it could be hard to sell the metaverse into stakeholders, leaders and perhaps even some customers at first, but he believes employers’ interest will be piqued when case studies emerge demonstrating organisational benefits.

“It will just be a case of whether they’ll be too late or not,” he says. 

“Few, if any, jobs will be left untouched by metaverse technologies, just as few jobs were left unaffected by earlier internet developments.” – Gartner

“The metaverse capability of an organisation will soon be considered when deciding factors/key indicators of ‘best places to work’ rankings, and it will redefine the EVP and to drive talent retention.”

He predicts most organisations will start small – conducting specific meetings in the metaverse, for example, or perhaps hosting a one-off virtual event – but soon it will develop into a key skill set and critical capability, with roles such as ‘Chief Metaverse Officer’ and ‘Metaverse Work Health and Safety Officers’ arising. 

“We’ll also start to see more graduate fairs, onboarding and induction experiences and gamified opportunities within metaverse spaces.

“These all may seem like elusive or unrealistic predictions, but over time they are bound to happen and it’s up to businesses to be on the front foot of this.”

The potential benefits

Employees have loved the flexibility shift that has occurred throughout the pandemic, says Perrine. However, he also notes that something is still missing in our virtual set-ups.

“The metaverse will alleviate the remaining obstacles or missing ‘human touches’ that come with remote work – enabling a truly impactful hybrid working model with the connection that we craved so much when we were all torn apart [in 2020].”

It could be the solution to the potential for proximity bias to take hold (favouring those who you’re physically closer to). Meetings and brainstorming sessions could become more inclusive, Gartner suggests, as everyone will be able to be in the same ‘place’, so to speak.

Perrine is passionate about how the metaverse could empower employees who are often disadvantaged, such as those living with disability, or those whose voices aren’t always heard, such as introverted staff.

“This could mean greater engagement, collaboration and a sense of safety where they will be able to attend a workshop or learning experience and truly focus and engage.”

While the metaverse has the potential to create more inclusive environments, we will need to pay close attention to new diversity issues it could give rise to, says Perrine.

“How do we incorporate all possible features of an avatar design? How do we design our virtual office spaces to consider the lingual and cultural requirements and sensitivities across teams that will be more diverse than ever before?”

Interactive virtual networking and workshop experiences will become more common, Gartner suggests. This could potentially present an opportunity for us to move away from our CBD-centric mindsets, inviting talent for rural and regional areas, or in different countries, to participate. 

More people will have access to the deals, connections and relationships that are often created at an after-work networking event in the city, or will be able to attend educational presentations relatively easily.

Perrine says there are also great opportunities from a learning and development perspective. He predicts that employees’ preferred platform to undergo training will be the metaverse. He also thinks this will allow employees to retain more information.

“When you are in a classroom attending a workshop or behind a device completing digital learning, you still have distractions surrounding you. However, when you equip yourself with a set of VR goggles or other XR equipment – you have one focal point. 

“One piece of feedback I always receive around VR learning is how memorable it is in comparison to other facilitated workshops or digital learning.”

This is in part due to the novelty of it all, he admits – who wouldn’t opt for a cool VR experience over yet another boring PowerPoint presentation? However, it could also be an effective way for employees to focus on both the practical and theoretical sides of learning. Imagine, for example, a group of architects learning about a new sustainable building approach and then being able to see that in real-time by walking through that building virtually and experiencing it through their clients’ eyes.

“Metaverse learning will need to be designed for the skills that are harder to develop through theoretical workshops or digital modules, offering an immersive way to get hands-on, observe the best talent across the world, and replicate the same tasks, workflows and behaviours expected within the real world.”

The potential downsides

It could be easy to become swept up in the potential ways in which employers and teams could benefit from working in the metaverse. However, it would be remiss not to spend time thinking about all the negatives that could arise. 

Other than general fear of the unknown, a lot of what could be driving people’s trepidation towards the metaverse is the thought of adding yet another addictive tech platform to our lives. 

Photo of a man and woman. She is writing on a clipboard and he is wearing VR goggles.
Source: Pexels

Australians are already spending 27.5 hours per week on their devices. And an online game called ‘Second Life’ – an early taste of what the metaverse could be like – was reportedly so addictive that many people chose to abandon their actual lives in favour of their virtual ones. Marriages were torn apart, jobs were ignored and, in one extreme case, a toddler was neglected as its parents lost track of reality.

From this perspective, the metaverse could pose a very real threat to our mental health, wellbeing and ability to connect with people in the real world.

“We have fundamental needs, primal instincts that need to be addressed, or we will disengage and quickly become unhappy in this new world,” says Perrine.

He points to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and suggests organisation’s XR architects think about how to address some of the points towards the top of the pyramid, such as self-actualisation, esteem, love and belonging.

“Businesses who don’t address this will have ‘metaverse fails’ – having spent a lot of money, effort and resources in metaverse architecture that don’t take into consideration the need for connection, meaning, personability and self-fulfillment,” he says. “We need to strike the right balance between human and technology.”

He thinks this could be achieved by putting thought into how the experience itself is designed.

This could mean thinking about what experiences are best placed for the physical versus meta-world – as we’re currently doing with hybrid working. It’s about extending our realities in a meaningful way, he says. Not just doing it for the sake of it.

“Of course, businesses will still need to educate their employees on how to engage within this new frontier technology effectively and safely. This also delves into the art of change management, and how businesses should incorporate the right learning and skilling to prepare their teams for this inevitable but exciting change that’s soon to take place.”

What’s HR’s role in all this?

So what should you actually do with this information? If your company isn’t as big as Accenture, chances are you’re not yet experimenting with XR, so it might not be clear how you’d take your first metaphorical steps into this world – that is, assuming you want to.

Perrine says now is the time to research, learn and educate yourself.

“From a HR/ER policy standpoint, things will change quickly, and HR teams will need to be ahead of this or risk complex employee [challenges] arising,” he says.

“Workplace health and safety especially around VR injuries, ergonomics and [XR] harassment, for example, will need to be established. Employee privacy and data collection will also need to be addressed, as employees will have greater vulnerability in how they are monitored and observed within a virtual world.”

Not only should HR professionals be upskilling themselves, but they should also be incorporating XR technologies into the development plans for employees.

“It shouldn’t just be the employees in IT learning this. It will soon impact everyone’s lives across any job, and those who aren’t familiar with the basics will struggle to keep up with the constant upload of new terminology and concepts.

“Although we’re still in early days, and the road ahead will indeed be bumpy, the leaders who recognise that now is a great opportunity to have a head start will be thanking themselves in the not-so-distant future.”


What are your thoughts about working in the metaverse? Let us know in the comment section, or AHRI members can join the AHRI LinkedIn Lounge to hear their HR peers’ perspectives.


guest
3 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sarah
Sarah
24 days ago

Incredibly exciting but interesting times ahead.

Xav
Xav
23 days ago

There is HUGE emphasis here based on this thinking based on how you approach this shift from a change management perspective . Thanks for the share and definitely has provoked some thinking from a business owner POV .

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