When in March of 2020, we got the news to go home and work from there for a couple of days, I figured we’d be back within the week or so. My workplace was NOT ready to go remote. It’s not that they couldn’t; they didn’t want to. It wasn’t in their culture.
But, a couple of days turned into a couple of weeks, which turned into a couple of months. Suddenly, software was purchased to replace hardware (ex.: cloud-based vs. physical fax machine), and not-so-tech-savvy people learned to successfully create, join, and participate in virtual meetings. If you needed one, this is proof that the “I/ We can’t” is often just an excuse. You can, and you will (if you have to).
At first, people had many issues adjusting, but they mostly kept on going “for the greater good.” Working from home was the right thing to do. However, people quickly got tired of being in close quarters with their family 24/7 and began to miss the office dynamic (gossip and complaints, anyone?). Those that could, returned to the office. Maybe not full-time, but a couple of days a week. To my surprise, management announced that the hybrid model was there to stay. Woohoo!
Fast forward a couple of months. People are tired of being isolated; all they want to do is chit-chat with their co-workers and go out for lunch. Managers are discussing bringing everyone back in full-time. Even those that can work from home without any interruptions. Are you kidding? How blind can you be? Are you not aware of all the vacancies we have? About candidates refusing to pursue a job opportunity if they are forced to be at the office all day every day? Sometimes I wonder how people can be so… unaware…
One manager just lost a great employee because they decided that everyone should always be at the office. Another one is about to lose a new employee because, during recruitment, they talked about potentially allowing for a hybrid workplace after the first 90-days. They lied. They were never going to allow it. They were just desperate to get someone to fill that position. And now they will have to go through the process again. And these are the people that are pushing for an organization-wide return to work.
The thing I agree with is that celebrations are better done in person. So, when there is an event going on (ex.: someone’s retiring), sure – get people to come to the office for the day when lunch is being catered. Those events are good for people to catch up with those they don’t speak to on a daily basis. Virtual meetings make it impossible to have side chats (unless you do breakout rooms, but those aren’t organic).
I’ve previously discussed the pros of working from home on my blog. While working from the office is best for some (fewer distractions (I know, that’s one that’s hard for me to understand!), better motivation, closer monitoring of slackers), working from home is the superior option for me. It works for me on a personal AND professional level. I’m at my optimal.
This post was inspired by yet another rendition of a virtual workplace. Have you ever played The Sims? It was all the rage back in the day, so I got to try it maybe once on a friend’s computer. What it was (is?) was a computer game in which you got to create an avatar and just… live life. It sounded boring to me, so I never took to it. I am too busy living my own life. I don’t need to live a copy of it online. I assume the appeal for others was that they could try to create the perfect life for themselves through which they could fill the void in their real life.
I bring up the Sims because that’s the first thing I thought of when I read about a South Korean invention – the metaverse office. It combines the physical aspect of the office with the virtual world. How? Well, you know how you join a Zoom/Team/whathaveyou meeting with a click of a button, and you leave in the same manner? You do this just after or before closing/ minimizing other screens you work on. In the real world, you would actually have to get up from your desk, walk to the conference room, attend the meetings, and then go back to your desk. ‘Soma World’ by Zigbang combines those two. In the morning, you (your avatar) enter the building you work in, walk up the stairs/ take the elevator, and get situated in your cubicle/ office. If you need to talk to your co-worker, you either shout across the floor (which I’ve seen happen on more than one occasion at my workplace) or just walk to their desk and talk.
It seems to me that you would be playing an online game all day that way. I imagine you would need an additional monitor to watch the ‘office,’ while you do your actual work on the other monitor(s). When my partner and I first started dating, we’d jump on Skype once we got home and just did our thing. Every now and again, one of us would say something, and the other person would jump from their seat, having forgotten we were connected. This metaverse office reminds me of that. You’d be busy, working, and all of a sudden, you hear your boss’ voice. They are standing at your desk. Talk about being taken by surprise and trauma…
So, what do I think of ‘Soma World?’ I think it’s absolute nonsense. In my eyes, in an attempt to combine the best of both worlds, they actually combine all the bad things. Yes, you might be able to work from home, but you will have all the distractions from the office at your fingertips.
When I need to go to the bathroom, I don’t want to have to walk my avatar to the bathroom before I go there myself.
When a co-worker wants something from me, I encourage them to send me an email or set up a time to talk if it’s something more involved. I DON’T want them to just stop by whenever. That’s why I would close my office door often while at a physical office – sometimes, you just need to wall yourself off to focus.
Do I miss walking to the conference room? Umm… no. If I want to talk to a co-worker, I will meet them for drinks after work. Do I need to debrief after a meeting? Usually, not because that’s how angst and gossip are formed, but if I do, I will call them.
What does a simulation of an office bring to the table? It makes it SEEM like you are among people, but in reality, you really aren’t.
Do you see any benefits to a metaverse workplace?
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