68% of employees responding to its survey believe organizations that create true presence virtually will be able to create a sense of belonging in an increasingly hybrid world of work
41% of employees surveyed are keen to adopt virtual spaces/offices in their working livesMeta
Do augmented reality, the metaverse and virtual reality have a place in the future of work? A survey by Meta of 2,000 employees and 400 business leaders across the U.K. and U.S. indicates that the answer is a resounding yes.
Meta wrote in the introduction to its report, which was released Monday, “After three tumultuous years, businesses have learned invaluable lessons about how to operate and what their employees expect from them in a vastly different working world. From the new working models their people want to adopt, to the technologies and processes that’ll enable them to create engaged and productive teams, there’s no going back from the changes of the past few years. And from this new platform, businesses once again look to the future and the ways in which work will continue to evolve—either through employee demand or technological innovation.
The company presented four predictions, with insights from MetaWorks vice president Ryan Cairns, Meta vp of people experience Brynn Harrington, Meta vp of business development Ash Jhaveri and Meta Reality Labs vp of sales Christine Trodella.
With one-third of the workforce remote, businesses must redefine their understanding of what community and inclusion means.
“We expect the meaning of community to evolve for organizations, as remote and hybrid working becomes ubiquitous,” Harrington said. “Over time, this will push companies to look to more creative and innovative methods of engaging their increasingly distributed, hybrid teams in order to provide them with the immersive and inclusive experiences they expect.”
Meta found that just 19% of employees responding to its survey believe video helps them feel more present in meetings, and just 15% feel that it leads to greater collaboration with colleagues.
Among employee respondents, 69% would like meetings to be more immersive and engaging, while 66% think the metaverse will help replicate the sense of togetherness that comes from being in the office and 68% believe organizations that create true presence virtually will be able to create a sense of belonging in an increasingly hybrid world of work.
Harrington wrote, “After several years of enduring videoconferencing fatigue, and with an increasingly decentralized and disengaged workforce, the demand for a more immersive work experience using the power of VR headsets and the metaverse will continue to grow. Companies will have to support both the overall employee community, as well as subcommunities who may feel marginalized due to remote or hybrid working. The metaverse can eliminate the barriers to belonging by welcoming all employees wherever they are on an equal plane. I think the metaverse will be especially key to engaging and retaining introverts, who are more likely to want to work remotely and enjoy the comfort of using an avatar to interact with teammates.”
Businesses will begin investing in VR headsets over laptop upgrades, in response to employee demand.
Cairns wrote, “Forward-thinking businesses looking to make work more accessible and inclusive will start diverting hardware capital traditionally reserved for laptops, desktops and landlines toward new and more innovative devices, such as VR headsets.”
Meta found that 60% of employees want to see VR headsets introduced to their workforce by 2024, and 62% want to tap VR spaces with digital avatars for collaboration.
“Once companies start using these devices in increasingly creative new ways—from human resources teams hosting more engaging onboarding and training sessions, to creatives being able to work on physical concepts or designs together, wherever they are—they will fast shift from a nice-to-have into an essential, especially for new talent.”
The company found that 40% of employees want to use work technology that works fluidly and helps them onboard new colleagues, while 62% are excited to use interactive digital training tools as a part of their jobs and 41% are keen to adopt virtual spaces/offices in their working lives.
“Virtual and mixed reality technology has limitless applications for collaboration—many of which will continue to surprise us in the future,” Cairns wrote. “And numerous organizations and individuals are constantly working to make the innovation more flexible, equitable and convenient. So, as these devices continue to mature, user experiences will become smoother, more immersive and more realistic. And as more employees, teams and even entire companies transition to these new tools, the undeniable benefits will prompt even the most cautious firms to experiment and adopt—or get left behind.”
Traditionally competitive brands will increasingly work together to meet the growing need for immersive, interoperable services.
“Soon, we’ll live in a world where workers have better access to knowledge, peers and opportunity, no matter where they live, the nature of their work or where they’re working from,” Jhaveri wrote. “This vision will require technology companies to work closely to ensure the right capabilities and experiences are brought together to enable seamless, best-in-class experiences for employees—regardless of who built them or what device they use.”
Meta found that 74% of business leaders who participated in the survey have dedicated some of their technology budget to AR, the metaverse or VR in the past year, while 80% expect to spend more on those technologies in the next two years.
Business leaders allocated approximately an average of approximately $24 million, or 15% of their annual tech spend, to AR and VR investment.
“It’ll take a plethora of hardware and software solutions to create the truly collaborative environment that businesses and employees alike need the metaverse to become,” Jhaveri wrote. “And with this level of cross-collaboration at the vendor level, businesses will no longer need to rely on countless point solutions as they have with all other iterations of the internet. If realized, this vision will deliver endless productivity and collaboration benefits as their digital ecosystem works seamlessly across platforms.
Businesses not thinking about the metaverse now will start to fall behind competitively.
“It takes time to fully integrate new tech into a business’ operations—training is required to bring employees up to speed with new digital tools,” Trodella wrote. “What’s more, it also takes time for employees to grow comfortable with innovations. As such, companies need to invest the right amount of time and resources into training and adoption timelines, so that employees feel both confident and excited to take advantage of the new possibilities. So, if approached and executed well, businesses can gain a significant advantage over their rivals.”
On the employee side, 70% expect that the metaverse will allow companies to hire talent from all over the world, while 66% believe it will encourage their employers to allow them to relocate and 76% would be excited to incorporate virtual worlds into their working lives.
Among business leaders, 64% already feel like they are behind their competitors when it comes to planning for the metaverse, while 54% cited the ability of AR and VR to help teams connect, engage and collaborate with each other as a top-three cultural benefit, and 59% believe emerging technologies will reduce commercial costs.
“As we move into the future, new talent will increasingly judge prospective employers by their ability to offer immersive experiences that support them and offer new capabilities—so getting this right early will be key,” Trodella wrote. “It doesn’t take much to get the ball rolling. For instance, 76% believe simulated experiences will help train employees at scale better than physical (in-person) training. Immersive training is simple and cost-efficient and delivers high impact and immediate value—so it can be a good place to start for businesses not already considering investment here.”
She continued, “Similarly, having an internal champion who not only understands the value of innovations such as VR but can passionately advocate for its use among teams can also be a powerful way to start to inspire a mindset shift. And whether that be enhanced productivity, more efficient team meetings or a heightened sense of community as a result of a greater sense of presence, 2023 could be the year that businesses start to realize the true potential of their investment.”