Article | Adaptive Spaces
How might the Metaverse shape the future of work?
September 13, 2022
The rise of the Metaverse – an immersive digital world where users, business and brands can work, play, learn, create and interact – promises to enhance the workplace experience and transform the future of work.
The way we work is changing. People are increasingly working remotely, demanding flexible work options and redefining the role of the office. CBRE’s 2022 Asia Pacific Occupier Survey found that adopting flexible working as the new normal is the top real estate priority among respondents in the post-pandemic era.1 In our view, hybrid working will no longer be about the home-workplace split, but rather about achieving equilibrium between the virtual and the physical world.
Transforming the workplace experience and future of work
The Metaverse is poised to shape the future of work, with its related technology promising to create innovative and immersive ways for people to collaborate and work online. We have observed several companies developing virtual workplaces – where colleagues can work together from anywhere – that are designed to improve a team’s ability to collaborate, communicate and connect remotely through the power of virtual reality (VR).
There are a number of ways in which the Metaverse could transform the future of work:
Enhanced remote collaboration: VR offers the ability to use and read body language, and actively participate in group discussions by scribbling post-it notes or drawing on a virtual whiteboard, making remote meetings in VR more engaging and less sedentary. This also requires much more active use of the neck, shoulders, arms and hands than in a typical virtual meeting.
While nothing can replace face-to-face collaboration, the Metaverse offers an interesting medium for remote team members to better connect. Activities such as brainstorming, ideation, socialising and teamwork can be enhanced by VR tools.
Immersive learning experiences and training: The Metaverse could revolutionise training and skill development, significantly compressing the time needed to develop and acquire new skills. AI-enabled digital coaches could be deployed to assist with employee training. It is particularly useful for training in high-risk environments where an immersive learning experience can replicate the physical environment but remove the health and safety risks. In addition, the Metaverse can help teams from across the globe have a better learning experience.
Well-being spaces: The Metaverse could offer dedicated areas for users to take a break and experience something different. Some platforms have created well-being areas designed as fitness studios, virtual forests or aquariums. These areas can contain on-demand content such as guided meditations and exercise classes augmented by VR tools.
Delivery to a physical space: Users can add features such as the ability to order take-out food or books and other merchandise within the virtual environment, and have these delivered to their physical location, be it at home, the office, or another workspace.
Live status tracking: Just as what can be found in the physical workplace, users can explore the Metaverse world with a panoramic view of the office floor, see where colleagues are located and who is available, and drop by for a chat or engage in other collaborative activities.
Reshaping the future workforce: The Metaverse will require new skills and capabilities, which could lead to greater demand for new roles such as Metaverse game developers, UX and interaction design, digital 3D workplace designers, VR portfolio managers, virtual experience managers, cybersecurity specialists and community managers. We have also seen some organisations establish the role of Chief Metaverse Officer to lead and support their business in the virtual world.2
What are the implications for occupiers and investors?
The rise of the Metaverse presents several opportunities and implications for both investors and occupiers of commercial real estate (CRE). In our view, there are four key recommendations that the CRE community should consider when it comes to applying the Metaverse to the workplace experience and the future of work:
1) Occupiers and investors should seek to understand which parts of their business or operations can effectively leverage the Metaverse as a tool. For example, occupiers may want to harness Metaverse technology to improve the facilitation of meetings and to enhance connectivity between employees around the world.
2) Consider piloting projects in the Metaverse. A number of companies are starting to think about implementing small-scale pilot projects in the Metaverse, and identifying key areas where VR and tools can be leveraged for end users and employees. We have also observed pilots related to technical training programmes in facilities management, and others in shipping or manufacturing where Metaverse tools are used to train operators through an immersive and more safe and secure experience.
3) Companies and brands that want to project a strong and fresh brand image are exploring the Metaverse to target younger and more niche demographics, and to position themselves as tech-centric organisations. This presents an opportunity to create a differentiated and enhanced customer experience around the positioning of their products and services. Some brands are already using the Metaverse to develop awareness, drive engagement and gain loyalty. In retail, as the related technology continues to develop, the potential lies in making online shopping more engaging and useful by combining the convenience of online shopping with the immersive experience of shopping in-store.
4) Companies should also be wary of the potential risks and challenges associated with the Metaverse – for example data privacy and cybersecurity concerns – and conduct relevant assessments to identify and manage these risks.
Ultimately, occupiers and investors seeking to enter the Metaverse should identify the most suitable applications for their business, and ensure that they fit into their long-term strategic objectives. Importantly, the Metaverse will not replace the walls and ceilings of the workplace. Instead, it promises to complement the physical environment and enhance the overall workplace experience. The nature of how existing physical space is utilised is also likely to change, and this should be another key consideration for occupiers when evaluating how the Metaverse and related VR tools can further augment their long-term workplace and portfolio strategy.