The Metaverse Economy: The Future of Work
The (on-going) COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reshaped the dynamics of our society. Millions of people not only lost their jobs, but also had to adapt to fundamental changes in the workplace. These changes have led to the decline of inflexible businesses and creation of new economies like the ‘metaverse economy.’ Moving forward within the frame of a metaverse economy, what will the future of work look like?
Current Trends and Changes
According to CEOs and industry leaders, the notion of the workplace is evolving. There are new ideas regarding company culture, manager-employee dynamics, and the convergence of physical and virtual spaces, in addition to the technologies influencing the development of these ideas.
Although some changes have already been present in the workplace before the pandemic, COVID-19 has displayed the necessity for a functional world other than the real world, accelerated the consideration of unorthodox practices, and created avenues for new practices to be implemented. Businesses that want to survive and retain employees are adapting to these changes during the pandemic, and will most likely adopt them permanently in a post-pandemic era.
During COVID, there has been the rise of two major trends in regards to the metaverse and future of work: hybrid work and the ‘Great Reshuffle.’
For companies, hybrid work is a combination of collaborative platforms (e.g. metaverse), Zoom meetings, and occasional visits to the office. On the spectrum of work options, it lies in between the daily commutes to the office and a completely remote working lifestyle. Hybrid work ultimately refers to the culmination of changes in expectations regarding the flexibility of when, where, and how they work.
The emphasis is on the notion of flexibility. Hypothetically speaking, giving people the option to work in the ways that best suit them should lead to optimized productivity. For example, Person A focuses better at home, so he prefers working remotely. Person B focuses better in the office, so she works in the office. Lastly, depending on the tasks, Person C may prefer working remotely some days and going into the office other days.
The Great Reshuffle
A term coined by current CEO of LinkedIn–Ryan Roslanksy–the Great Reshuffle (of people and talent) is an unprecedented moment in history when employees are rethinking their priorities and passions. They are not only thinking about the when, where, and how they work, but also, more importantly, the why. Employee expectations are changing. They want flexibility, are more critical about which company to work for, and may decide to start their passion project. Basically, they want positive reasons to go to work, meaning the company and its values should align with their own.
It will take time for these new norms to settle. For these measures to be successfully implemented, managers and employees must brainstorm new guidelines of expectations for the team. For instance, if an employee has children, the child care situation should be addressed. Additionally, the employee should also have flexible working dynamics that satisfy both the employee and company. Managers will not be able to have the one-size-fits-all approach that was more prevalent before the pandemic.
Lastly, since the Industrial Revolution, physical space has always been the primary environment for productivity. A physical workplace brought people together with a common sense of purpose–to work. However, people–being the social creatures they also want a sense of human connection wherever they are. Traditionally, social interactions would happen at the office, such as serendipitous meetings by the water cooler. Now, in order to adapt to remote work, these connections need a new environment to flourish.
Implications of the Metaverse on the Future of Work
Because of these trends and changes, companies who can afford to are accepting hybrid work options, and even preparing for a completely remote workforce in the near future. This is when virtual collaborative platforms like the metaverse become very important.
Companies like Microsoft have already seen the benefits of the metaverse for their employees. For instance, online meetings have allowed shy employees, who usually wouldn’t speak at in-person meetings, to feel more comfortable sharing their opinion. Additionally, employee profiles can be viewed by anyone in the meeting. This allows managers and other employees to learn more about them and potentially reach out. It is vital to a company’s success that employees feel seen and heard by not only the company, but also their colleagues.
Human connections are necessary for people to thrive. The metaverse can help foster the human connections that people who work remotely seek. Instead of a Zoom meeting, imagine using a VR headset to join an immersive virtual meeting as an embodiment of yourself. As an avatar, you can interact with others present in the meeting via visual and spatial-audio connections. It would be a similar feeling to interacting with a colleague in a physical office.
Now, imagine your next meeting is with clients from Company B. The meeting is happening on their metaverse platform. Interoperability between platforms will allow you to seamlessly crossover to Company B’s platform for the meeting and engage with their employees. The metaverse will allow companies to save time, cut down on travel costs, and encourage connections that may not have been possible before.
New Opportunities in the Metaverse
Not only have the perceptions of the virtual world changed, but also the potential opportunities regarding it. As the metaverse space grows and develops, so will the opportunities. New jobs driven by technological advancements will be created. Demand will be increased for people knowledgeable about the space. Here are a few opportunities to look out for:
GameFi, or play-to-earn gaming opportunities, is allowing people to earn crypto for playing video games. Unemployment and hardships experienced from COVID-19 have changed perceptions of digital earning potential, particularly in the gaming industry. In developing countries like Vietnam, it has become a main source of income for people during the pandemic.
Digital Fashion Designer
The fashion and gaming industries are already diving into the metaverse for further opportunities. There are physical pieces being sold with their NFT counterparts, and video games that need in-game clothing and assets to be designed. This position will be in charge of designing virtual clothing and accessories; therefore, it requires experience in 3D animation and modeling, illustration, and the broader fashion and art industry.
Smart Contract Lawyer
These are essentially lawyers knowledgeable about blockchain, the metaverse, in addition to the operations, laws, and protocols regarding the relevant technology. The position would require a professional well-versed in software code and algorithms because these are the underlying programming languages creating the metaverse. Moreover, these new technologies require a new legal framework that applies to those technologies.
Metaverse Engineer (Hardware and Software)
The metaverse will require the necessary hardware to run the virtual platform, such as cameras, sensors, and other VR/AR accessories. It will also require software engineers to create the code that will construct the environment and overall experience. Furthermore, it will be a plus if they have experience in 3D modeling or graphic design.
Technological Implications on the Metaverse and Future of Work
Technological advancements will be the primary driver of productivity in a workplace within a metaverse economy. New technologies are being developed to support the potential changes in work environments, social dynamics, and overall workplace culture.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence is already being used to complete sentences in emails, lines of programming code, and transcribe/translate different languages. Companies can use AI to collect and analyze data to increase their analytical and predictive capabilities for the development of a virtual workplace. Developments in AI technology will ultimately continue to increase both the importance of data and the efficiency of processes within the metaverse.
Cryptocurrencies and other digital currencies (e.g. Central Bank Digital Currency) have the potential to become the primary method of transactions for a virtual workplace.
Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual reality (VR)
Arguably the most important technology for a metaverse economy, AR and VR fundamentally change how people interact with brands, socialize, and learn and work. For example, Snapchat’s AR filters already allow consumers to try new products–making shopping a more interactive experience.
VR is not only allowing people to stay connected with loved ones, but also expanding the boundaries of distance working and learning. Using VR headsets and software, people can attend lectures in virtual classrooms or collaborate with teammates in virtual meeting rooms. This allows for more hands-on learning and working, despite the distance, and for knowledge to be shared more efficiently. Another example of how VR can improve the workplace is in the human resources (HR) department. As an alternative to in-person interviews, VR allows HR to give virtual tours of the office for potential employees to assess the environment and atmosphere, which can save time and streamline processes.
As the world progressively moves towards a post-pandemic era, technology is also significantly changing the human experience in the physical and digital worlds. Sooner or later, the metaverse will increasingly influence not only our workplace, but overall daily life, until it becomes a new norm. The metaverse is the future of work, and the world.