Recently, Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg laid off more than 11,000 employees due to a drop in profits, and this saw shares in the company sink by almost 20%. This is all without mentioning the anonymous reviews being left by former Meta employees on Blind – with one of them claiming that “the metaverse will be our slow death”. Suddenly, after months of being told that the metaverse is going to be the next step in the working world, people have begun to question this sentiment.
The metaverse is being marketed as the saving grace of hybrid, remote and global working. A digital space where users can interact with a face-to-face element from the comfort of their homes, allowing for company culture to remain intact, as well as revitalizing the ability to socialise with colleagues. It’s great on paper – but the whole point of the metaverse is its paperless allure.
Which brings me to the question – do we actually need it? Aside from the new wave of HR-related issues that would have to be navigated, seeing the sudden drop in its financial potential has spotlighted the fact that the metaverse may be a solution looking for a problem.
When we look deeper into what it is offering, it is presenting itself as the next step after Zoom and Teams, but is it more of just a sidestep? Video calling allows for face-to-face communication and global communication with ease, and now, after lockdown, most people have been trained and come to terms with the ins and outs of remote work. Introducing the metaverse into the workplace – which does the same thing but sounds cooler – could bring on more confusion than it’s worth. It would require an entire new set of training for colleagues to understand how to use the virtual reality headsets, as well as the purchasing of said equipment.
And while avatars are meant to make interaction in the metaverse more personable, will they be able to capture the non-verbal cues that are just as telling as someone’s verbal communications? Or will it require employees to become fluent in Cybernese, the emerging non-verbal language of the digital world? On Zoom, we can still see facial expressions and, to a degree, examine body language, but would this be the case with an avatar that is mimicking your behavior, or would it require a new set of knowledge entirely?
There is obvious attraction for a digital world – and the strides that could be taken in more hands-on jobs (such as mechanical engineering and biomedicine) could be life-changing for the future. But in terms of office jobs, it may be pulling at the wrong lever. A recent poll that OrgShakers conducted seemingly confirms this, as 50% of respondents did not want to use the metaverse, 22% didn’t know what it was, and no one said they were excited about it.
And with products like Sneek – which allows remote workers to see their fellow colleagues as they work and jump into instant video chats with them – the concerns that hybrid work has brought are already being solved without the need to venture into a digital landscape.
As it stands, the metaverse’s integration into corporate life could go either way – but while up to this point I had been viewing it as a huge step forward in the way we work, I am now beginning to think that we all might be blinded by its hype.
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020