Technology   //   April 7, 2022

What the metaverse means for the future of work

You’ll be able to shop, go to concerts and buy real estate there — and soon, you could be working in the metaverse, too.

Still in the experimental phase, the virtual worlds envisioned by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and other digital visionaries aims to reshape how we do business and socialize with each other. Likewise, it promises to impact the future of work — and sooner than you think. 

Gates predicted on his blog at the end of last year that we could be having virtual meetings in the metaverse in the next two to three years, pointing out that Microsoft and Meta have already offered a peek at what those meetings could look like. Naturally, doing so will require the latest tech tools like VR goggles, something most of us don’t have — which Gates admitted will slow the ascent of the metaverse. 

If anything matches the big dreams connected to the metaverse, it’s the number of misconceptions about it. For one, as far as the future of work is concerned, reimagining the business meeting is not the point of the metaverse, despite all you’ve read about that. 

“Unless it’s ‘have fewer meetings,’ no creative agency is looking for a different way to have meetings — yes, even if you get to be a poodle in a spacesuit sitting at a virtual boardroom table,” said Karen Piper, head of strategy at the Norfolk, Virginia-based agency Grow, which has done work for Google and Spotify. “That version of the metaverse is a novelty that has its place in the work of a creative agency, but it’s not the heart of its value. If we generalize the metaverse as an enhanced digitized shared workplace, it solves some key problems that remote work has created: peer-to-peer interactions and a stuttering creative process.”

As agencies like to talk about being borderless — working with clients and teams across the world — the prospects of the metaverse are a natural next step, as Aleena Mazhar, managing director of FUSE Create in Toronto, sees it. “Today’s version of virtual work still has a screen that separates us. The metaverse takes that screen away and you feel like you’re at a boardroom table, or in a collaborative virtual environment with another person,” said Mazhar, whose agency has done work for Ricola and CIBC. “This removes that barrier and truly innovates how we work together using a completely different sphere of collaboration.”

If we generalize the metaverse as an enhanced digitized shared workplace, it solves some key problems that remote work has created: peer-to-peer interactions and a stuttering creative process.”
Karen Piper, head of strategy, ad agency Grow.

Like the brands they represent, agencies are moving to set up shop in the metaverse. “As the metaverse expands, agencies are tapping into the space from buying plots of land to creating virtual office-like spaces. Many are using their offices as hubs to recruit talent, show clients their capabilities or create agency culture through parties or concerts,” said Sarah Dossani, senior strategist at the New York-based digital agency Razorfish, which has done work for Cadillac and Patrón. “This is not to say that agencies will abandon their in-office presence as things open up, but they’ll definitely continue to experiment and explore.”

Despite the promise, it would seem many people are as skeptical that the metaverse will shake up our way of working as they are it will impact our shopping and social habits. In a poll this month of nearly 25,000 U.S. consumers, San Diego-based Branded Research found that only about 14% think the metaverse will have a high impact on how people work in the next two to three years, while around 40% think it will have a moderate impact. Younger consumers were more bullish, as one might expect. 

Whether it’s marketing or the future of work, what’s clear is that, despite the varying degrees of understanding and excitement about the metaverse, nobody wants to get left behind. 

“Brands disregarded websites in the ’90s and social media in the 2000s until they became commonplace requirements,” said Steven Blutstein, head of performance creative at the New York-based agency The Social Standard, which has done work for L’Oréal and Jeep. “History repeats, this time as the metaverse.”

Likewise, while he believes it could be another decade before we are all wearing headsets and fully immersed in the working world of the metaverse, Nicholas Stoeckle, executive director, strategy and innovation at Tampa-based agency PPK, urged his fellow marketers to get onboard. 

“Ten years ago, Instagram had roughly 27 million users — today, they have roughly 2 billion users,” he pointed out. “Simply put, adoption might not be an overnight success, but technological advances do help shift consumers’ mindsets and behaviors.”