Around one-third of the U.S. and U.K. workforce works remotely, so businesses must redefine their approach to community and inclusion and explore innovations such as the metaverse and virtual reality, according to a new report on the future of work from Meta.
“Over time, this will push companies to look to more creative and innovative methods of engaging their increasingly distributed, hybrid teams to provide them with the immersive and inclusive experiences they expect,” the report said.
For this research, Meta said it interviewed 2,000 employees and 400 business leaders across the U.K. and U.S. to gather data on the changes they’re expecting to see and how they’re preparing. The company said it also asked experts within and outside of Meta to get their take on the future direction of work and the changes they’re anticipating over the coming years.
Budgeting for VR and AR
One of the main findings is that businesses will begin investing in VR headsets instead of laptop upgrades in response to employee demand as remote and hybrid working becomes ubiquitous. In the past year, some 74% of business leaders have dedicated some of their tech budgets to invest in augmented reality and VR technology or the metaverse, according to the report.
Use cases for VR tech include the metaverse
Some use cases for VR technology could include human resources teams “hosting more engaging onboarding and training sessions,” as well as creative teams being able to work on physical concepts or designs together wherever they are, the report said.
Another opportunity for developing greater virtual collaboration will be digital inclusion through the metaverse, the report suggests, because it is “a platform that enables new kinds of collaboration and communication.”
SEE: Metaverse cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
The report also makes the case that businesses that don’t think about the metaverse now will start falling behind competitively, noting that 70% of business leaders “are keen to unlock” its benefits.
Meta believes the metaverse should be designed to work across 2D and 3D surfaces and be interoperable across devices.
Vendor cross-collaboration will enable immersive, interoperable experiences
The report also found that momentum is growing for traditionally competitive brands to work together to create seamless, best-in-class experiences for employees to meet the growing need for immersive, interoperable services.
“To build the exceptional employee experience of the future, the next chapter of the internet will require new levels of interoperability” to deepen collaboration between the tools and systems business use, the report said.
With vendor cross-collaboration, businesses will no longer need to rely on countless point systems as they have with all other iterations of the internet, the report noted. “If realized, this vision will deliver endless productivity and collaboration benefits, as their digital ecosystem works seamlessly across platforms.”
Emerging technologies could benefit hiring and retention
The metaverse will also help facilitate deeper levels of inclusion. Businesses will be able to empower a diverse mix of employees to interact in the same digital environments in their own way no matter where they are — something 62% of employees said they want, the report said.
“The organizations that will flourish in this new paradigm will be those that can see a more equitable future is already within reach, as they will be the ones attracting the best talent,” the report said.
In fact, 65% of employees said they are more likely to stay in their jobs if their company gives them access to VR/AR tech, according to the report.
“So, businesses that move early to integrate these tools into their operations will gain an advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining great employees,” said the report.
How employees may benefit from VR tech
Deploying technology will create better opportunities for employees and lessen the day-to-day pain points from working remotely, according to Meta. For example, right now only 19% of employee respondents said video helps them feel more present in meetings, and 15% agreed that it leads to greater collaboration with colleagues.
SEE: Best uses of the metaverse for business (TechRepublic)
Already, 60% of employees want to see VR headsets introduced into their workplace within the next two years, and 62% want to experience VR spaces with digital avatars for collaboration, according to the report.
Further, the Meta report found that 54% of respondents believe organizations that create a true presence virtually will be able to create a sense of belonging in an increasingly hybrid world of work. And 53% said improving work-life balance for employees will reduce presenteeism.
How to start applying this emerging tech research today
The report offered some recommendations for businesses to start their journey to the new world of work. For starters, leaders are advised to “completely embrace employee flexibility,” and no longer follow the traditional five-day, nine-to-five work week.
Businesses should also expand the scope of communication technology beyond video calling and provide workers with new tools to explore digital experiences in more immersive and engaging ways.
Lastly, the Meta report recommends that businesses “challenge the traditional approaches your business has towards inclusivity. Be open to the new ways technology can broaden the possibilities of what a truly inclusive digital experience can be — one that positively impacts everyone.”
Brush up on metaverse and virtual reality terminology with these glossaries from TechRepublic Premium. And, when your company is ready for VR and AR tech, download TechRepublic Premium’s ready-made and customizable virtual and augmented reality policy.