Virtual Reality

Is the metaverse the answer to the hybrid work engagement problem?

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Add engagement to employers’ list of concerns through 2023.

Last March, a Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey found that more than 80% of HR leaders were concerned about talent leaving their organization, with many citing a lack of engagement with offsite workers. like a pain point.

Months later, a Conference Board poll revealed similar drop in engagement levelsthough the organization noted little variation among remote, hybrid, and onsite workers on the topic.

That on-site presence is truly an engagement driver, it’s clear that many employers are thinking about how they can improve retention – including engagement is a crucial element — in an environment of flexibility focused on the pandemic.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and extended reality technology company Reality Labs, thinks the answer to this question may lie in the metaverse. The term describes a proposed, immersive version of the Internet that would incorporate virtual reality, augmented reality, and other technologies.

The company has already demonstrated potential use cases for its technology, perhaps most notably through its Product Horizon Workrooms. For the uninitiated, Workrooms can be thought of as a video game-like simulation of an in-person meeting in which team members are represented by digital avatars.

Earlier this month, Meta published the results of a survey of a targeted sample of businesses, she said, had been conducted with more than 2,000 employees and 400 business leaders in the UK and the US. 2022. Additionally, 65% of employees said they were more likely to stay in jobs in which they had access to augmented reality or virtual reality.

The results show that employees not only expect investments in technology from their employers, but also in terms of creating inclusive communities in an increasingly virtual work environment, said Ade Ajayi, head of global sales at Reality Labs, in an interview. But today’s remote and hybrid work processes, like video calling, may not be enough.

“One of the findings is that we find that employees feel happier when they’re included at work, and these employees say video calls stifle that,” Ajayi said. “They don’t have the same experience of feeling included in the workplace.”

Instead, teams could turn to apps like Workrooms to experiment with virtual interactions in new ways. Ajayi said his Reality Labs team meets periodically using the company’s Quest VR devices. The experience is entirely different from a video call, he noted, as users can interact with each other’s avatars and use visual aids like whiteboards to communicate.

He compared the immersive technology of the 2020s to cell phones of the early 2000s. “You’re not expected to be on the phone 24/7 or all of your working hours”, Ajayi said. “There are times when using your cell phone is most productive for what you are trying to do. The same is going to happen with virtual reality. [and] augmented reality.”

HR reality

It’s important for employers to recognize the gaps that exist when using collaborative tools that make remote and hybrid working possible, according to JP Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. These tools can also have drawbacks. Gownder said psychology researchers have found evidence of a demonstrable experience of user fatigue associated with video calls, for example.

Additionally, the advent of 3D spaces where employees can interact with the kinds of tools offered by Workrooms and similar platforms is promising, added Gownder; “It’s designed to solve problems that wouldn’t be easily solved otherwise.”

But there are a variety of hurdles that employers will need to consider before bringing the Metaverse into the fold. VR, for example, has already been employed in a number of training-specific scenarios, but Gownder said companies are generally far from the point at which it would make sense to shift employees to spend a significant portion of their days in virtual spaces.

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