You and your space
In the third and final of our series on the future of work in the metaverse, author David Mattin reveals how the ability to personalize both our spaces and ourselves will challenge traditional expectations and make work more fun.
In this series of articles, we’ve looked at how the metaverse will reshape the future of work.
We’ve seen how virtual and augmented reality spaces will allow us to create a work bubble we can take with us anywhere - the infinite office. And how democratized access to virtual spaces can fuel a revolution for mentorship and inclusivity, transforming work culture in the process.
But there’s a crucial piece of the puzzle missing when it comes to work in the metaverse. And that’s personalization. Work inside VR and AR environments will allow for powerful new forms of personalization across two dimensions:
- Spaces: We’ll be able to choose and customize our workspaces depending on the task in hand and our own preferences.
- Self: By creating and customizing our own avatars, we’ll have near-limitless control over the way we show up in virtual environments.
At heart, this is about a range of fundamental human needs – control, flexibility, self-expression and more – that have always been at the center of our working lives.
But an embodied internet hands us tools that unlock new ways to serve these needs. That means new ways to get the most from ourselves, and those around us.
Let’s dive in.
The right space
Have you ever listened to music to get into the right headspace for a work task? Or found that a change of scene – from the office to a coffee shop, say – allowed you to blitz through your inbox or nail that proposal?
We’re all accustomed to these kinds of scenarios. And we all know the frustration that comes with feeling stuck in a workspace that isn’t cut out for the task in hand. Too loud! Too quiet! Too small for the whole team!
These are more than just subjective impressions. There’s evidence to show the impacts that our environment has on work outputs.
Researchers have found, for example, that music has measurable impacts on the productivity of workers in a wide range of settings; it’s believed that’s mostly due to the power music has to enhance mood. Meanwhile, the UK innovation foundation NESTA has published research on the link between physical spaces and team creativity.
“Working in an internet you can step inside will mean the ability to choose from a vast array of fully immersive VR environments, and customizing them around the tasks we’re performing.”
The underlying lesson here? If we want to do our best work, environment matters. And when it comes to stepping inside the metaverse, that is a huge deal.
That’s because working in an internet you can step inside will mean the ability to choose from a vast array of fully immersive VR environments, and customizing them around the tasks we’re performing.
Or dropping a customized AR layer over our view of the real environment in order to reshape it around our needs in the moment.
In fact, inside the metaverse human imagination will be the only limiting factor on the workspaces we can design and use.
Want to focus? No problem, choose and customize an immersive virtual room that puts you in a concentrated state of mind: How about a calming ocean view? Holding an ideas session with the team? Choose from an array of VR environments designed to amp up energy and creativity: How about holding this session inside a theatre? Or in space? Meanwhile, if you’re planning to use a physical environment for the session, you’ll be able to add digital elements to that space using AR.
And another upside? It all happens at the touch of a button:
We’re only at the beginning, right now, of understanding the ways in which our workspaces can support different kinds of tasks. In time, as we experiment with virtual environments, the evidence base around them will grow.
We’ll be able to design rooms – size, colours, music and more – that are proven to support deep concentration or to facilitate team learning. The more our understanding deepens, the better our spaces can become.
And production of optimum work environments won’t only be a top-down endeavour. In time, a peer-led creative ecosystem will thrive around the design of these spaces. And easy to use tools will empower everyone to build and customize spaces as they wish.
Inside the metaverse, total control over the space where your work happens will be just a gesture away.
Getting your best work done isn’t only about the right environment. It’s also about feeling your best.
A key part of that is showing up, and being seen by others, in the way you want.
As work moves into the metaverse it’s crucial to ensure that we allow everyone control over the way they show up in the AR and VR worlds they enter.
“As work moves into the metaverse it’s crucial to ensure that we allow everyone control over the way they show up in the AR and VR worlds they enter.”
That starts with ensuring that everyone, whoever they are and whatever they look like, can build and refine an avatar that captures their unique physical presence.
We’re not there yet, but a future is approaching in which you’ll be able to create a photorealistic avatar; a three-dimensional virtual representation of ourselves that looks just like you.
But control over the way you show up in the metaverse doesn’t stop there. In virtual environments, everything about your appearance will be near-infinitely customizable.
Hopping from a presentation to the board into an informal meet-and-greet for new starters? No problem! You’ll be able to swap the power suit for less formal clothes at the touch of a (virtual) button - if that’s what you want.
But the real power of this near-infinite choice and control will lie in the way it challenges traditional, and often unfair, expectations when it comes to appearance and expression of personal identity in the workplace.
“The real power of this near-infinite choice and control will lie in the way it challenges traditional expectations of personal identity in the workplace.”
As we know, those expectations often play out along specific lines, in particular gender, ethnicity and age. Research by UK law firm Slater Gordon, for example, found over 35% of female employees surveyed had been told by managers to ‘wear makeup’ or ‘look nicer for the team’ when on video calls.
As we build the future of work inside the metaverse, we have the chance to upend these kinds of inequalities. Individuals will be free to design their avatars as they wish. And organizations can hold democratic processes, across remote teams, if they wish to create new virtual dress and avatar codes.
Meanwhile, the potential for self-expression and sheer fun will be unlimited. Want to appear at the next team meeting as a superhero? A penguin? In the metaverse, it’s all possible.
In the zone
The opportunities afforded by the metaverse to create new kinds of custom-made spaces and avatars are powerful. They can unlock a future of work that’s more productive, collaborative and fun. And one in which everyone is empowered to present themselves, and be seen, in the ways that reflect their deepest selves.
But this future won’t make itself. It’s up to us.
We need to learn much more about the way spaces can support (or inhibit) our ability to perform certain kinds of tasks and team activities. We need to fire up a creative ecosystem that builds a million and more work spaces for organizations and individuals to choose from. And we need to hand everyone the tools that empower them to build avatars that truly represent who they are.
It’s all there to be realized. Now, the work has to begin.
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