Imagine a world where you could have a beachside conversation with your colleagues, take meeting notes while floating around a space station, or teleport from your office in London to New York, all without taking a step outside your front door. Feeling under pressure with too many meetings scheduled today? Then why not send your AI-enabled digital twin instead to take the load off your shoulders? These examples offer but a glimpse into the future vision of work promised by “the metaverse,” a term originally coined by author Neal Stephenson in 1992 to describe a future world of virtual reality. While defying precise definition, the metaverse is generally regarded as a network of 3-D virtual worlds where people can interact, do business, and forge social connections through their virtual “avatars.” Think about it as a virtual reality version of today’s internet.
How the Metaverse Could Change Work
The workplace of the 2020s already looks vastly different from what we could have imagined just a couple of years ago. Now, the metaverse promises to bring new levels of social connectedness, mobility, and collaboration to a world of virtual work. The metaverse is poised to reshape the world of work in at least four major ways: new immersive forms of team collaboration; the emergence of new digital, AI-enabled colleagues; the acceleration of learning and skills acquisition through virtualization and gamified technologies; and the eventual rise of a metaverse economy with completely new enterprises and work roles. The metaverse also opens up new possibilities to rethink the office and work environment, introducing elements of adventure, spontaneity, and surprise. A virtual office doesn’t have to be a drab, uniform corporate environment downtown: why not a beach location, an ocean cruise, or even another world? Our work colleagues in the metaverse will not be limited to the avatars of our real-world colleagues. Increasingly, we will be joined by an array of digital colleagues — highly realistic, AI-powered, human-like bots. The metaverse could also revolutionize training and skills development, drastically compressing the time needed to develop and acquire new skills. While still in its early stages, the emergent metaverse provides an opportunity for enterprises to reset the balance in hybrid and remote work, to recapture the spontaneity, interactivity, and fun of team-based working and learning, while maintaining the flexibility, productivity, and convenience of working from home.