Will employees return to work in the metaverse in 2022?

Businesses may consider having their employees work in the metaverse as COVID-19 variants continue to delay return to office plans.
29 December 2021

Would you rather work in the office or in a virtual but physically safe space? (Photo by JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Having employees return to the office to work has been on the agenda for almost all organizations around the world since the pandemic started in early 2020. Despite technology enabling remote work to be a possibility for most roles, the reality is, most employees prefer having their employees return to the office and be at their desks working.

Many would think this only applied to companies that are not tech-savvy or able to support their remote workforce. Reports have shown that even large corporations like banks and financial services and even tech companies were initially pushing for their employees to return to the office upon getting their vaccination next year.

However, COVID-19 had other plans for everyone. The new Omicron variant has now made organizations relook their return to office policies for 2022. Tech companies like Microsoft, Meta (Facebook), Google, and Apple have now told their employees to continue working remotely.

Apple’s initial February 1st return to office deadline has been postponed while Meta will let employees know how they can work next year, be it in the office or remotely. CNBC reported that Google’s security VP, Chris Rackow, sent a company-wide email to employees informing them that they will not have to return to offices on January 10th as initially planned.

For financial services, Reuters reported that several Wall Street banks and investment firms, including Bank of America, Citigroup, and Jefferies Financial Group have reversed their push to get staff back to the office as Omicron has spread across the Northeast.

Over in Europe, a survey reported by Reuters showed that only 14% of European workers want to return to the office. More than half say they have become more productive as a result of working from home, which has boomed amid COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. The survey of 14,000 people across Europe also indicated that 83% of workers were seeking more support from their employers to help balance their work and home lives.

Google’s Community Mobility Report charts movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential. For the US, the UK, and most countries, the report showed a falling trend of employees in offices.

A return to office in the metaverse

With the possibility of new COVID-19 variants in the future, businesses may need to look at new ways of getting their employees to return to the office, should these organizations still insist on it.

When Mark Zuckerberg announced the metaverse reband several months ago, many were initially skeptical towards it. The idea of putting on a wearable to work and do activities in a virtual world was not exciting for the older generation.

However, Zuckerberg may have just uncovered a gold mine for the younger generations. While millennials may be divided about the metaverse and even the idea of remote working, Gen-Zs and Gen Alphas are seemingly more excited about the metaverse. Although most of them see it as a gaming platform, the reality is, should there be more new viral variants in the future, the metaverse might just be the new office for everyone.

And it is not just Meta that’s developing the metaverse. The whole concept has already drawn interest from other companies, including competitors. The metaverse itself is now becoming a marketplace and platform for business for many.

At the same time, innovation in remote and hybrid working tools is ensuring productivity remains high for employees. Communication tools like Zoom and Teams are already implementing new upgrades to enable more tasks to be simplified and to be less complicated to be conducted by employees. These collaboration tools have already been used since 2020, and most employees have already gotten used to working with them in the intervening months.

With that said, 2022 is definitely going to be an interesting year for businesses wanting their employees to return to the office. Remote and hybrid working has already been proven to be more productive by numerous studies. Roles that require employees to be physically present on-premises are also being enhanced, so that they can work remotely during times of crisis.

Hence, the only question for employers now is, do they want to disrupt productivity and insist employees return to the office once COVID-19 is under control, or do they want to round out their employees’ capabilities and prepare their organization for the somewhat inevitable future of work.