Hybrid and flexible working arrangements have numerous benefits, but they also have drawbacks.
One of the most prevalent is the so-called “distance bias,” which refers to the human tendency to favour things that are physically close to us. It’s possible that managers who aren’t aware of the phenomenon are more likely to show favouritism toward their coworkers, which can lead to unconscious bias in the workplace.
This is supported by Office for National Statistics data. According to the study, people who worked primarily from home between 2012 and 2017 were less likely to be promoted and more likely to miss out on training than their office-based colleagues. There was a 38% decline in the likelihood of home workers receiving a bonus between 2013 and 2020.
Hybrid Working in Metaverse
According to the company PixelMax, a 3D immersive communications platform, PixelMax’s technology could level the playing field. At the end of last year, a whitepaper stated that a virtual office that was always on, 3D, and metaverse-based could be the hybrid workplace of the future, where both remote and office workers could interact in real time.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of cryptocurrency, would be used to pay for goods and services and to access applications like Slack and Dropbox from a virtual workspace. The virtual office would be based on augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies, as well as digital twins, and would be integrated with third-party tools and applications to create a truly immersive environment.
ISG’s Northern European
When it comes to the likelihood that such a concept will catch on, however, ISG’s Northern European director of research and advisory, Iain Fisher, isn’t so sure. He believes it could be useful in certain industries, however, such as the arts. A few examples: Computer games are “huge,” and immersive technology could be used by retailers, entertainment providers, and advertisers to create new customer experiences.
There are many other potential applications for 3D printing, including teams of designers in manufacturing and engineering, the adult industry, and military planners who use the technology for virtual mission walkthroughs. Learning and development in both hard and soft skills is another area where VR has already been used to great effect and could be expanded into a broader metaverse environment.
Fixing people’s Ill’s
The social issues raised by hybrid and flexible working, such as employees feeling cut off from their coworkers and the workplace, do not convince Fisher that this approach is the best one.
According to him, “I don’t think this solves the problem. At least five years down the road, employers have more pressing issues to deal with when it comes to hybrid working.
Thomas International’s director of science, Jayson Darby, is also sceptical about the claims. “The big challenge for the metaverse is: what problem is it solving?” he says.
There are two ways in which Darby believes virtual environments that allow people to interact can be used to help with a problem known as “human connectedness.”
Is it a utopian, accessible environment that brings people together, resulting in better working relationships and engagement because it looks and feels like the real thing? he asks. Are we at risk of re-creating the same issues we face today, such as the sarcastic emails and social media posts that are commonplace, or presenteeism because people don’t feel like they can log off?
According to Darby, “visual acceptance” is an important consideration in terms of engagement. If an avatar doesn’t look like a real person, it’s just a proxy, which causes the same issues we have with online communications, he explains. “This means that your communication will never be as good as it is face-to-face, which will be a significant barrier to adoption – except maybe among geographically dispersed groups, where video-conferencing is not ideal, but meeting physically is impossible.”
Addressing The Underlying Problems
However, there are other, more complex issues to contend with. VR headsets, for example, are not only still prohibitively expensive for large companies to purchase, but they are also not always as intuitive to use as they could be. Even though he does believe that the metaverse concept will have a role to play, Duncan Roberts of Cognizant’s Centre for Future of Work does not believe that it will take over the workplace world, at least in the short-to-medium term.
The technology has a long way to go before it is comfortable and useful enough to spend your working day (and possibly your social life) in,” Roberts points out. Some people get headaches, nausea, and motion sickness from wearing a device on their face or a screen over their eyes if the software isn’t well-designed.”
For IT leaders, it’s important to know how to make money back from their investments, such as by reducing travel costs or improving employee skills, says Roberts. Although ISG’s Fisher believes the metaverse is not a priority for most employers at this time due to the complexity of moving to a hybrid, flexible or even fully remote working model from a financial perspective; this is because they are already dealing with the nitty-gritty of this transition. As a result, they aren’t debating the merits and demerits of cutting-edge technology.
“Technical issues such as upgrading systems and changing architectures and support models must be dealt with because people are changing the way they work,” says Fisher. Adapting HR policies and management styles is also part of the equation, so there’s a lot to think about.”