The Metaverse Impacts The Future Of Work More Than You Think

Sometimes the best gifts are the most unexpected ones. Last year, my wife and I happened to win an Oculus Quest at a Christmas party. Not knowing much about VR, we wrapped it up as an extra gift for our kids.

My kids loved it. It turned out to be the most popular gift, more popular than any of the other things under the Christmas tree. Needless to say, I was really surprised—and I wished I hadn’t spent the time wrapping all of those other gifts!

Could startups be in for a similar surprise with VR? I think so. While my kids liked the Oculus for games, I immediately saw its potential for remote companies. Since launching Convesio in 2018, we’ve hired over 26 people from 11 countries around the world. As I’m sure, any remote CEO knows, managing dozens of people across eight different time zones is no small feat.

A driving benefit of the metaverse is that you no longer have to get a remote team together in person. This is extremely expensive and time-consuming. Flying in employees, paying for hotel rooms and finding a comfortable meeting spot can easily top $10,000 for a few days together. But VR technology for a team costs a fraction of that— and it can be used repeatedly.

While tools like Slack and Zoom are helpful, they still have their limitations. VR and the metaverse might be able to make up for their shortcomings. In particular, VR seems useful for building more team camaraderie, whiteboarding new ideas and even having a “company headquarters” space that serves as a digital analog to the office watercooler. Remote work is here to stay, and any tool that can help a distributed team seem more connected is one worth investigating.

As the working world becomes more invested in the metaverse, people will want to express their individuality online, too. They won’t want to just have the same boring avatar as everyone else but will look for ways to customize their character’s appearance. In fact, when I talked to a coworker about using VR at our company, her first question was, “How do I get a Gucci bag and make my character look more fashionable?” Even online, people want to stand out.

This is a great opportunity for fashion and apparel companies to offer digital tie-ins with their physical products. For example, if you buy a pair of Nikes in the real world, your metaverse character can wear them, too.

The metaverse won’t just be for internal company use, either. It will also be a place where brands can interact directly with customers, akin to a retail store in the physical world—but online and accessible from anywhere on Earth. Best of all, brands won’t be limited by the physical laws of the real world like time, space or gravity when crafting their metaverse locations. The most creative companies can transform online shopping from scrolling on a web page to an immersive audiovisual experience.

This might seem unrealistic or outlandish, and I’ll admit that we have only just started experimenting with VR as a business tool. But a decade ago, it seemed absurd that people would spend eight to 10 hours per day using their smartphones…and yet here we are. I think it’s very likely that a decade from now, we will all be logging into the metaverse for at least a few hours a day—and not just to play games.

Other emerging technologies, such as blockchain or voice search, pair nicely with the metaverse. Blockchain will allow for more secure transactions and identity verification, while voice search will remove the need for typing and hand controls.

As a final note, I think it’s important to realize that VR doesn’t necessarily mean bulky headsets or floating cartoon characters. This is the image many people have of the metaverse, but in actuality, the technology is being implemented in a variety of interesting ways. For example, Google’s Starline project and other telepresence and augmented reality (AR) technologies are blurring the line between digital space and reality. In all likelihood, the metaverse will not be a separate digital-only space but one that melds seamlessly with physical working spaces. And that is a serious game-changer for remote companies.

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