Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley are trying to convince us that we’ll all soon work in a virtual reality. Our marketing co-ordinator, Alex Lamont, thinks they’re wrong.
Perhaps you heard the buzzword when Facebook rebranded itself as “Meta”, showcasing that oversaturated infinity symbol as their new logo. Or maybe an enthusiastic executive sent around a couple of articles about how the metaverse will "change the world of work" post-pandemic.
So is the metaverse the future of work?
In my opinion, the short answer is no. The long answer is an hour of laughter and then a no. But if you want a very long answer this is the article for you!
What is the metaverse?
To quote the BBC’s Marc Cieslak;
“If we think of the internet as something that we look at, the Metaverse is a version of the internet that we’re inside.”
It’s a space designed to be experienced through a virtual reality headset, replacing the standard keyboard-and-screen format of working digitally. The best example is the video below from Walmart, where someone goes shopping from their home by putting on a headset and walking around a virtual shop, putting milk and bread in their virtual trolley, before waving goodbye to a virtual cashier.
For people like me who have fallen down the virtual reality rabbit hole (I own a VR headset myself for video games and immersive experiences) the idea might initially seem quite interesting.
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook certainly seem to think so - it’s currently their primary project.
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Sounds odd, but what does the metaverse have to do with work?
The tech-bros of San Francisco aren’t investing billions into the metaverse because they feel like it, they’re doing it because they believe this is the future of living and – mainly – working. In his presentation of the technology, Zuckerberg kept coming back to your “virtual workstation.”
What is the virtual workstation? Let me paint you a picture.
Imagine your home office. You have a chair, a desk, a computer, a keyboard, and a mouse. Now imagine you’re sitting in that home office with a pair of bulky goggles on so you can look at a computer-generated office – you have a chair, a desk, a computer, a keyboard, and a mouse. Maybe the mouse is glitching out because your internet’s cut out.
All that’s changed is your comfort level and how much your business is paying for this gimmick. When proponents of the metaverse describe it, they conjure up images of Tony Stark waving his hands around his lab, interacting with holograms to piece together a project in just a few seconds. But for Susan in accounting, this is hardly going to be the case.
“The metaverse will offer new, exciting opportunities to people. It could be an enhanced work-from-home experience that makes you feel part of the team. You can interact with co-workers, go on interviews, find a new job, communicate with clients and build businesses.”
Zoom fatigue is a very real thing. According to GlobeNewswire 49% of working professionals experience it - the metaverse is not the answer to this problem. Working from home has numerous creature comforts, but one of them is the peace and quiet of your own space to work from.
Removing the creature comforts of working from home and replacing them with an uncomfortable, expensive gimmick, is a sure-fire way to disincentivise jobseekers from seeking a job with you. Despite what Silicon Valley will have you believe,it is not the cure to a lack of candidates.
The metaverse isn’t going to redefine hiring, if anything, it will turn candidates off at a time where recruiters need to fit their candidate experience around jobseekers, rather than the other way around. With Generation Z beginning to dominate the job market, meta-pundits have missed the most glaring obstacle to their digital dystopia. Which brings me to my final point!
This is probably because Generation Z has already established fixed online personas through the wide variety of social media platforms on offer – TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat (and to a lesser extent, Facebook.) They don’t need a pair of heavy goggles to interact with the digital world.
In fact, Generation Z is more interested in cutting out unnecessary inconvenience in their daily lives. The move to sharing short videos – like with TikTok – shows us that they want something quick and snappily.
They want to sit down at a laptop and start work straight away, they don’t want to create an avatar, pay bitcoin to do up their digital self, then manually simulate walking around an office. They want to click a link to jump into a video interviewing platform, not stress about the body language of their digital selves while trying to win a job.
New technological innovations need future generations to embrace them wholeheartedly to work. But the majority of Gen Z think the metaverse is either stupid or not something worth caring about.
And if they don’t care, it won’t last.
What do you think? I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts - you can drop me an email here or connect with me on LinkedIn!