The Metaverse And Working in the Virtual World
You are most likely to know the metaverse in the context of gaming, but how might this change the way workplaces are run remotely? Since the pandemic many workplaces have become remote and reliant on virtual means to stay in contact such as Zoom and Teams. Is the metaverse the next step in working culture and how will this affect you as an employer?
The metaverse is a 3D reality, you may know it from real people wearing a headset allowing them to play games. The metaverse is expanding and is allowing people to have lifelike personal and business experiences online. Not only is it a digital playground for friends, shopping and working out but in addition it has potential for existing companies and new business models to thrive. There is not one set definition of what a metaverse is or will be in future it’s ever growing and expanding.
Picture a virtual office in which employees have their own avatars who can pass in the hallways as they would in a traditional office, it is thought that this will have the benefit of improving communication between employees who work remotely by providing a space for interaction which is more natural and collaborative than a video chat. Since the pandemic a large number of employers have found that collaboration, creativity and communication levels are not the same over virtual meetings. People do not meet in person and a lot of work is done via email or video calls. Yet going back to the office full time isn’t the desired outcome for many employees and employers who have found substantial benefits to being able to work from home which they don’t want to lose.
It’s suggested that the metaverse will help bridge the gap between wanting a traditional office culture and wanting to work from home. The benefits include:
- Saving money. Employers can use this for reinvestment into salaries, benefits and further building of the business.
- Making the cost of training up to 11 times cheaper and more effective to roll out. Employees can schedule a time which works for them to watch and learn. This makes the session much more engaging, and employees are more likely to focus.
- Increased productivity, employees can manage their own time at home and not have to commute to reach the office. You might find without the stress of a commute employees are happier and more productive in their work.
The metaverse will change the way employees interact with each other but also their employer, it will not change the rules which employees and employers are to follow, however it is likely we’ll see an adaptation of current employment law to accommodate the virtual world. Adopting a virtual working world as many employers have found from using online platforms already in place, can be problematic in ensuring that employees are following rules and policies they would ordinarily follow in person. It is also a problem that managers cannot keep an eye on situations and have to rely on individuals coming straight to them. One big concern is an increase in harassment incidents. In the gaming world it has been found that users’ inhibitions and standards are lower than in the physical world, yet those who have suffered harassment in the virtual world feel the same, as if they had been harassed physically in the real world. As employers it is imperative that the technology you use and policies and training you put in place ensures that a virtual office space does not give rise for employees to enter into harassing or negative behaviour. It is imperative that the virtual workspace resembles as far as possible a physical office and its expectations.
What steps should employers be taking to ensure their virtual workspaces, no matter what level, are safe working environments:
- Updating policies and procedures, especially their harassment policy to ensure it takes into consideration the way in which the company now runs whether this be office-based, hybrid or completely virtual.
- Ensuring all employees receive up to date training on the company’s standards including their policies.
- Can refresher training be arranged to remind employees of what is expected of them in the virtual world?
- Invest into virtual workings to ensure you do not fall short of being left behind. The world of work is still an employee market and employees are interviewing the company as much as you are them.
Although some companies are fully adopting a virtual working world where avatars roam the virtual building, jumping from meeting room to meeting room and stopping in the hallway to chat, this is unlikely to be the right way of working for many companies. It is up to individual companies to review and invest in how they can work virtually, if they so wish, in a way which works well for them and their employees.
For further information on how we can help you in ensuring your business policies and procedures are up to date and how the virtual working world might impact your business, or if you have a query on another area of employment law, please contact our Employment Team on 01246 555 111 or contact:
Amy Hallam, Head of Employment 01246 564 012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ellie Leatherday, Associate 01246 564 002 or email email@example.com
Georgia Jeonney, Trainee Solicitor 01246 564 035 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jade Taylor, Specialist Employment Paralegal 01246 564 058 or email email@example.com