What is the initial thought that comes to mind when you think of the Metaverse? When you close your eyes and picture it closely, do you see a virtual reality where a mass variety of people can gather to meet without actually meeting or a digital universe where you can transmute your business thoughts and ideas into an interactive reality? If you thought of either of those instances, you are indeed correct. The Metaverse is a new-age form of internet exploration that allows consumers to interact virtually with the utilization of various interfaces such as 3D virtual reality. This has become an intricate addition to some businesses and brands that are evolving into this new tech era of the 21st century.
Although this interesting idea of the Metaverse has captivated millions of internet users across the globe by storm, a percentage of these users who are business owners and major company brands have wondered if this new technological advancement is a friend or foe. This leaves behind the age-old question; to Metaverse, or NOT to Metaverse?
The metaverse is an appropriation of what the technology industry considers to be the next and more advanced version of the internet and how consumers can access the internet. This digital world is described as "a single shared, immersive, persistent, 3D virtual space where humans experience life in ways they could not in the physical world" – (techtarget.com,2022). This new extension in the tech world of communications began to be more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the outbreak of the virus, many employees who were public workers started to immediately switch gears to working remotely. This was beneficial for employers who had the offer on the table to work remotely.
From the perspective of major corporate businesses, specifically, industries that are involved in media, technology, and communications, for this demographic of employees to switch from a brick-and-mortar environment to a virtual style of interaction has not only been a safe move to make because of a the pandemic, but it has become an intricate extension with beneficial side effects.
There are a vast number of companies that have constructed their own virtual realities for business. Some businesses such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are just a few to name. Even social media platforms, such as Facebook, are taking complete advantage of this technological advancement. According to a recent blog post from CrowdCreate, "This has given them a competitive edge over other companies in the market." - (Jeffrey Maganis, CrowdCreate, 2022).
From the primary factor of businesses that are affected by the metaverse, there is more positive connotation than there is negative. Although that may be enlightening to hear, many others want to know the downside of the metaverse takeover. Before we get into the light side of this topic, let's chat about the parts of the metaverse that aren't so light when it comes to affecting business.
With many organizations transitioning into virtual employment, for starters, there is a major increase in equipment that is needed to complete work-related tasks for remote work. For those of us that work from home, the only aspect that you, as the employee, have to take care of is to simply apply for the job, pass the interview, receive your equipment, and start work right away. Seems easy enough, don't you think? On the contrary, the more employees that are hired for virtual work results in a higher cost for the equipment that is being shipped to you. These expenses come straight out of the employer's pocket. So, not only is managing payroll a primary obligation but ensuring the proper equipment is shipped to the employees also rears the minds of many CEOs and company heads.
The equipment that is purchased by the employers does not come cheap. Many companies require their remote workers to have a full computer set up upon being hired. In some cases, this would require a CPU (computer tower), at least two monitors, possibly a laptop, and extensions for the computer as well (mouse, keyboard, headset, etc.). One thing to keep in mind is that when you are hired as an employee for a company that is utilizing this type of VR, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of other workers that are hired within a short amount of time for different positions if not the same. If you were to purchase your setup, you may encounter a price range anywhere between six hundred to one thousand dollars minimum and higher. If you are currently an employee for a company, take the minimum of six-hundred or one-thousand dollars and multiply that by the number of people working for the company. If you work for a small business, the minimum you would probably multiply by is one-hundred employees or fewer. After reviewing your calculations, the amount may be close to, equal to, or greater than a six-figure price range.
There is also room for workers to become addicted to the virtual world of the metaverse. What has to be understood is that the metaverse is an intangible source of interactive web activity. Overuse of this type of activity can contribute to disorientation, disassociation, and disconnect. That being stated, multiple contributions can escalate to these events. The first is stress and burning out.
Based on earlier observations, researchers have found that "75% of U.S. workers have struggled at work due to anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent world events." - (Forbes, 2020). Usually, when there is stress, there is a coping mechanism that follows. Workers with pre-existing notions of stress who use the metaverse for work may become addicted to the concept of virtual reality. This would be presumed more as an escape rather than a work resource, which can then lead to other overwhelming factors that can prohibit productivity due to becoming withdrawn from reality. Overall, this is a disadvantage that can influence the perception of reality for remote workers.
Identity issues are another shadow side of businesses utilizing the metaverse. According to an observation indicated by theirmindia.org, "many experts are afraid that if rigorous security measures are not adopted, identity theft in the metaverse may become even easier." And in continuation to this statement, "experts are concerned about bogus information campaigns delivered via deep falsified audio and video snippets endangering our country's security." - (theirmindia.org, 2022). With this information taken into consideration, companies that transition into working with virtual reality would have to take extreme caution to uphold company policy and privacy security for the safety of employees as well as company standards.
Although there were a few negative nancies that were mentioned, there are some advantages that come from businesses using the metaverse. One of the advantages would be increasing the sale of products that are sold by certain companies. For example, companies that are within the fashion industry can use the metaverse to present their items to potential buyers and sellers. Also, many furniture brands have access to the metaverse to allow customers and buyers to use the "View In Your Home" feature. This is an extension that allows customers to see how a product looks in their vicinity prior to purchasing from a company's website. This is something that has become popular with Amazon. This makes the buying process easier for consumers.
Team building is essential for any business. With the metaverse, companies can create essential team-building tactics with a more diverse approach. VR rooms are becoming significantly used for businesses. In a VR meeting, the conference will feel more interactive which would allow attendees of the meeting to talk amongst one another and hash out ideas. In other words, this will not seem as if the employees are in a typical Zoom call or audio conference. Within a VR meeting, no one will feel as if they are left out.
Last, but certainly not least, businesses have utilized the metaverse to introduce new ways for leadership and other employees to engage with one another. Interacting in a virtual world is something that is still considered new to a lot of people. Many of us would prefer the traditional "knights at the round table" setting for those quarterly meetings. Although that seems to be the go-to norm for most employers, introducing the metaverse as a way to commune with others in the workplace makes working virtually fun and interactive with the prevention of boredom. That being stated, VR also has a positive effect when it comes to productivity in the workplace. This can result from employees with a traditional mindset, based on workplace interaction, transitioning comfortably into metaverse utilization from the company they work for.
How will the metaverse affect business, you ask? Well, there are both positive and negative outlooks that are determined with time of a particular company using it. Although taking a step into virtual reality can be considered a major jump for some companies, it's all about doing research. As long as there is a blueprint set in motion by the employer and how they plan to use the metaverse to its full capacity, the balance may tip favorably for the company and its employees.