For decades, gaming has been an influential part of our culture, creativity, and connection. Some of today’s most forward-looking leaders grew up in packed mall arcades, dreamed of being stuck in a film like Tron, and faced off around the family computer or console of choice, from the Atari 2600 to Xbox, and everything in-between.
Fast-forward, and gaming now includes online, mobile, social, cloud, augmented reality, virtual reality, and the metaverse—a market that is on track to surpass $200 billion in 2023.
For over 20 years people have collaborated in games like The Sims and Second Life and most recently Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, Pokémon Go, and more. These are more than just games; they are shared virtual play spaces designed to meet up, build worlds, battle on, buy virtual goods, dance off, and jam out.
But what does this trend mean for the future of work? Surprisingly, quite a bit.
The hybrid future of work
Companies can now embrace “work” in a variety of ways to build belonging and foster a culture of connection, community, creativity, and productivity. In fact, those who want the most innovative, diverse, and exceptional talent must know how to collaborate and leverage technology for a multitude of arrangements and employee realities at any given time.
Balancing needs and interests has taken on new meaning in a world where 73% of teams will have remote workers by 2028. It’s all about accessibility, flexibility, and continuous feedback loops to improve experiences and enable productivity, while also combating challenges like those cited in the latest State of Remote Work report: poor communication/collaboration (17%), loneliness (19%), and difficulty staying motivated (12%).
Companies will begin offering up places and spaces for collaboration in cities where multiple team members reside, providing a base outside of the home to support team members in the best ways for them. It will be important for companies to accommodate a mixed and merged workforce, creating safe spaces where businesses can both set expectations and manage employee well-being.
A gamified workforce
According to a recent Deloitte study, the vast majority of Generation Z (87%), millennials (83%), and Generation X (79%) play video games weekly on personal and household devices. While some might think that Fortnite is child’s play, more than 60% of the Fortnite community is between the ages of 18 and 24—the very demographic entering the workforce. In another recent survey, more than 50% of Gen Z participants plan to own their own business within the next 10 years.
This generation grew up buying virtual goods or power-ups for their mobile games—and is native to online engagement and collaboration, community-building, and problem-solving. It’s no surprise that gaming and play are informing new business models and shaping the future of work in all kinds of settings. The future of hybrid work is changing, and adding virtual reality into the mix of remote and in-office collaboration can create a new, dynamic workspace that gives businesses the best of both worlds.
Brands are exploring the creation of their virtual identities to help personify their values and beliefs into a virtual being that can show up live, in real time, on any channel. The behaviors of the rising workforce will continue to drive these innovations and brand evolutions.
Already we see companies expanding their organizational structures to include new roles such as director of metaverse engineering, head of Web3, avatar creator, virtual architect, builder, and real estate agent.
The metaverse is not quite here, but it is near. The metaverse and evolution of Web3 are reminiscent of the early days of the internet: The potential is enormous, and there is no set playbook.
We are creating the future of work every day. A multitude of collaboration platforms have been rolled out so far, each with its own flavor and features. Some are VR only, some are AR only, events only; some are inspired by retro gaming and others may even replicate a traditional office suite.
Immersive platforms are pushing the traditional work setting into mixed-merged worlds with team onboarding, virtual showrooms, virtual test labs, gamified gatherings, company celebrations, and more—all accessible from almost any device via laptop, mobile, or VR headset.
With the rise in remote work, companies are looking for new ways to collaborate and create a better-connected culture. The sense of community the metaverse brings is no longer limited to just gaming. As workplaces evolve, workers will increasingly collaborate, create, and communicate in the metaverse.
As workspaces catapult into the future, the metaverse will help maintain the innately human sense of connection and community that so many of us crave, while enabling the kind of flexibility and balance that we’ve also come to know.
Val Vacante is senior director of product innovation at Merkle.
The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.
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