Metaverse: The (virtual) office of the future

The world of work is constantly changing, but from time to time a decisive moment happens that changes things forever: the industrial revolution. The railroad. The car. The desktop computer. The Internet. And as the next step: hybrid work?

The transformation of the office began with the digital revolution and the introduction of personal computers in the 1970s. But only in recent years has the move towards hybrid working accelerated thanks to technological advances and the pandemic. Hybrid working is here to stay: regardless of whether it is a home office, the classic office or coworking spaces.

At a time when virtual and digital work platforms are becoming increasingly important, we have to ask ourselves what exactly the future of work will look like and what role technological solutions and physical offices will play in the future. How will we be able to successfully bridge the gap between the virtual, real workplace and the metaverse in the future?

The office as a digital place

Today’s office is no longer a fixed physical place – rather it has transformed into a digital construct. Data is no longer stored on-site, but resides on clouds around the world. Employees can choose between different workplaces and forms: Hybrid working enables employees to work both from home and from flexible workplaces, i.e. completely independent of location. The office as a place of communication is therefore becoming more and more important: In addition to the equipment and design of offices, the reason why people come to the office plays a major role. The office is developing into a place of collaboration, social exchange and creative creation. For example, meetings can take place in open spaces – with digital whiteboards, open seating and height-adjustable tables. This promotes creative exchange in groups or during brainstorming sessions. The trend is towards collaborative areas in which VR glasses will open the door to the metaverse in the future.

But the pandemic has also accelerated change: the attitude of many employees to their working conditions has changed massively. Hybrid working has gone from being a “nice to have” to a “must have”. In a recent study, more than 70% of applicants state that they now insist on flexible working policies. In order for companies to remain attractive to new talent, there is no way around hybrid working models. A company based in Bavaria can hire an employee living in Berlin for a task that would previously have required them to move to Munich. In a hybrid world, he can easily check in via Zoom from a coworking location or from home and visit the Munich headquarters two or three times a year. This is not only an advantage for the employee, who no longer has to choose between a dream job and a home they love. This opens up a much larger pool of talent for companies that they can attract for themselves and their work.

Virtual offices – next step: Metaverse?

Technology continues to be a driver of this change: Specialized technologies are springing up to help organizations meet the challenges of a distributed workforce. The basic provision of a reliable, digital infrastructure for all employees has become standard over the past two years – both at home and in the office. In addition to the necessary hardware, modern companies now also give their employees access to digital collaboration and communication tools.

Innovative start-ups are currently testing the possibilities of linking a virtual with an on-site workforce. For example, office space could be transformed into shared augmented workplaces in the near future. With the help of VR devices, employees appear in virtual space and can thus interact with one another. Employees are already working together in spatial project rooms by pinning dynamic content to virtual walls and creating a common playing field for collaboration. Other solutions provide the ability for virtual check-ins and status updates to help teams do their jobs more effectively. It’s not far to the virtual image of a hologram.

The currently hotly debated “Metaverse” is the next step that will change the nature of the classic desk model: a glimpse into the future shows that working in front of the screen will no longer be the norm, but rather interacting with it an alternate universe using virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses. This means that video conferencing will be a whole different experience as our avatars meet as holograms in any virtual environment we deem appropriate – remote working will become more of a focus. Due to the widespread expansion of 5G as the engine of development, this scenario is no longer as far in the future as one might think.

The office of the future – a place of social exchange

In summary, it can be said that we are only at the beginning of a drastic change. Fifty years ago, typewriters and fax machines were the norm in offices—fifty years from now, perhaps the Metaverse will be the norm of collaboration. What has not changed over the years: the role of the office as a place for social exchange. Studies have shown that many remote workers miss spontaneous interactions with their colleagues. This applies not only to private issues, but also to working on joint projects. In an increasingly digital world of collaboration, the office is increasingly becoming the focus for exchanges between people. In the future, the office will be a place for creative exchange, a sense of belonging to a company and a platform for entering the global working world via digital technologies. Companies that rely on flexible working solutions today are therefore well on the way to being able to react quickly to changes in the working world in the future.