Is the metaverse the future of human interaction?

Hybrid working models are becoming the norm as companies both big and small have realised that people can be trusted to work efficiently at peak capacity from home. In fact, in order to secure the best talent, hybrid working is something that should be embraced or ultra-sought employees will look elsewhere to businesses that offer this flexibility.

Hybrid working is not the only phenomenon to emerge from the pandemic. The digital realm has become a new and exciting frontier that could change how we interact with each other in a professional manner - permanently. For those of you who aren’t aware, the metaverse is where we may be headed next when it comes to business meetings and remote working.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is hard to describe as it is quite technical in nature and many things at once. In a nutshell though, it is, “A fully realised digital world that exists beyond the analog one in which we live.” That may conjure up thoughts of The Matrix, but it is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, avid gamers who play on platforms like Fortnite and Animal Crossing: New Horizons utilise this technology all the time. For instance, they use avatars and are able to interact and chat with friends and competitors in real-time around the world with their personal virtual characters.

What could the metaverse mean for offices (and office space) in the future?
The buzz is that companies could use the same tools that gamers leverage to craft a ‘cyber hub’ to do business. For hybrid working, online meetings could take a whole new form. No longer would we have to suffer through Zoom calls rampant with latency issues and technical difficulties. With a metaverse version of meeting space, the way we collaborate, present, exchange ideas, and socialise with colleagues, could be so much more engaging and efficient.

Who is leading the charge on the metaverse?

The most immediate name that you will recognise is that of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has recently rebranded his empire to Meta. He sees the future as one where there is a virtual world where people can socialise, work, and play. He is staking the future of his trillion-dollar company on the concept and while some see it as a marketing ploy to distract from the company’s recent PR woes, there is no doubting his commitment and financial investment.

To be clear, Zuckerberg is not exactly a trailblazer in this arena. Companies like Nvidia, Roblox, and even Microsoft, have been building virtual worlds with virtual or augmented reality tech. What is evident is that the variety of virtual experiences, environments, and assets that gained momentum during the online-everything shift of the pandemic, are a solid glimpse into where the internet is headed.

What is the downside?

Many are not keen on the concept, saying that physically and psychologically we are already losing our personal connections with each other and therefore our innate and primate need for close interaction will suffer; though that may be a bit more on the philosophical side. However, if the future of the metaverse is aligned with what Zuckerberg is aspiring to, then we can expect a major disruption in the world, via shifting our existence from being rooted in physical reality to one in which our digital presence increasingly supplements our real one.

What does this mean for the future of the physical office?

It is too soon to tell as the dust continues to settle globally from the pandemic. Office trends such as hot-desking, open workspaces, and personal offices, have come and gone - then back again. So, all we can glean from the past is that agility will be key going forward. Over time, the pendulum could swing back to traditional offices with traditional hours or shared workspaces, if people find collaboration, camaraderie, and productivity suffer when working remotely. Globally, we remain in uncharted waters as to what working will look like in five, ten, or twenty years from now. The metaverse however, is certainly something to keep a keen pulse on, so watch this space!