When it comes to the metaverse, you might think of 2022 as both the best of times and the most confusing of times. On the one hand, Meta made significant strides in the drive to bring the next iteration of the internet to life. Last fall, we introduced Meta Quest Pro, our most advanced virtual reality headset yet, designed specifically to spur new levels of creativity and collaboration in the workplace.
And yet amid this excitement, there also has been a fair amount of uncertainty. Everyone may be talking about the metaverse, but many people remain unclear on what it actually is. Powerful new technologies are thrilling, but they also can be unsettling, and there is an understandable undercurrent of confusion about the changes, both large and small, that a more immersive, three-dimensional internet will inevitably bring.
In order to get a better understanding of the mix of emotions surrounding the metaverse — and how it might inform the future of work — Meta recently commissioned a study of some 2,000 employees and 400 business leaders at businesses around the world. The results are compelling, with 66 percent thinking virtual-reality technology will help replicate the sense of togetherness that comes from the office, suggesting that even if people do not fully comprehend the nascent metaverse, they are excited for the kinds of changes in the workplace that these new tools will enable.
To put the data into context, and to provide a sense of what to expect in the year ahead, we turned to some of our industry’s most influential thought leaders — and some of the finest minds on our Metaworks team, the individuals who will be responsible for bringing the metaverse to workplaces around the world. Below, you’ll find their top four predictions for 2023.
1. With a third of employees continuing to work remotely, technology will redefine community and inclusion.
Even as employees continue to stream back to the office, experts estimate that about a third of all workers will remain remote. And many companies (including Meta) are adopting a hybrid approach to work, allowing employees to work from wherever they can be most effective. That poses some challenges for business leaders. Only 19 percent of employees we surveyed, for example, said that videoconferences make them feel more present in meetings, and just 15 percent believe they lead to greater collaboration with colleagues. “Companies need to think about the immersive experiences that will support distributed teams and build culture and connection in a virtual environment,” says Brynn Harrington, Meta’s Vice President of People Experience. Interestingly, 69 percent of workers and leaders say they would like meetings to be more immersive and engaging, and 55 percent think it should be easier to join virtual meetings when they’re on the move. “We are building for the metaverse in a way that works across 2D and 3D surfaces; is interoperable across devices, from mobile and desktop to VR; and suits a range of user circumstances, such as working in the field or on the go,” Harrington says. “Modern work isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s only when we build for and prioritize different work styles — which will, in turn, drive inclusion — that we will be able to reap the true benefits of emerging technologies.”
Many in the workforce apparently agree: 66 percent of those surveyed think the metaverse will help replicate the sense of togetherness that comes from being in the office. How will leaders respond? Jacob Morgan, the noted author, speaker, and futurist, suggests that they adopt the mindset of a chef. “Leaders must balance two crucial ingredients in the right proportion,” Morgan says. “These are humanity, to make sure the organization stays human, and technology, using tools to make sure the organization can stay efficient, productive, and connected.”
2. In response to employee demand, businesses will begin making significant investments in VR and AR technology.
Our research found that 83 percent of employees are happiest when they feel included at work and 80 percent are most satisfied in a collaborative environment. Those kinds of sentiments will soon be reflected in the spending plans at many companies. “With hybrid working firmly embedded in businesses’ plans, we’ll start to see hardware budgets traditionally reserved for laptops transition to VR devices for the first time,” says Ryan Cairns, Vice President of Metaworks. Nearly three-quarters of business leaders surveyed said they have dedicated funding toward VR and AR technology. On average, business leaders have allocated about 15 percent of their total tech budgets to VR and AR, and 80 percent said they expect that figure to increase over the next two years. Between now and 2028, the market for extended reality (XR) technologies will experience a compound annual growth rate of 63 percent, according to Alaa Saayed, Senior Program Director of Digital Content Services at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. “For 2023, specifically, we expect more businesses to move from proof of concepts to full deployment of XR technologies to boost work efficiency and enrich communications and collaboration,” Saayed says.
Cairns sees that as a meaningful validation of the technology’s promise. “Even now, in the metaverse’s earliest days, the feeling of presence you get from VR can be better than video chat — and it only will improve in the next few years,” he says. The technology, of course, provides new opportunities for collaboration while making the process itself more effective — and exciting. “From truly democratic meetings that engage everyone directly, from the shop floor to head office, or by enabling designers to interact with physical holograms in 3D form instead of leaving text-based feedback, the opportunities for more immersive, engaging touchpoints are endless,” Cairns says. “Even if it’s just reducing video fatigue by providing an alternative mode of collaboration, we’ll see more features that make collaborating in VR more productive, natural, and immersive than before.”
3. More companies across industries will collaborate to offer technology that enables immersive experiences for their workforce.
The metaverse is the next generation of the way we connect online, built for 3D experiences across all screens and devices and creating a deep sense of social presence. “The reality is that companies have increasingly decentralized workforces, and the technology that exists today doesn’t solve the need for that human connection that enables the best collaboration and productivity,” says Ash Jhaveri, Meta’s Vice President of Reality Labs Partnerships. The metaverse, if built collaboratively, will be an open ecosystem enabling deep, rich, immersive experiences that are accessible and interoperable. Meta’s partnership with Microsoft and Accenture is an example of this — combining Meta’s platform and Meta Quest hardware, Microsoft’s productivity suite, and Accenture’s deep expertise to implement and deliver software to enterprises at scale, so that businesses will begin to harness the power of VR for work. “In the coming year, we’ll see more companies partner to deliver solutions in VR that will make your teams run better than any other piece of technology that you’ve got today. I guarantee that every enterprise has at least one if not five or 10 things that could actually be much better if they were in 3D.”
4. Businesses that fail to plan for the metaverse now will fall behind their competitors.
Companies that don’t have technologies like VR and mixed reality (MR) on their roadmaps will find themselves at a long-term disadvantage compared with early adopters. But don’t just take our word for it: 64 percent of business leaders surveyed said that they already feel they are lagging behind their competitors in planning for the metaverse, and 53 percent say that such technologies will boost work-life balance for employees. “Companies will compete on their ability to create immersive experiences to support employees and enable new capabilities,” says Christine Trodella, Meta’s Vice President of B2B Enterprise Sales for Reality Labs. In the early stages of the metaverse, businesses will turn to VR and MR to enhance vital parts of company culture and learning — like onboarding and training — making them more accessible, manageable, and inclusive at scale. “Immersive training is a simple, cost-efficient example that also delivers high impact and immediate value, and may be a good place to start,” Trodella says. “By leaning into these entry points and others, like team-wide events or creative collaboration, that can’t be done over video, 2023 could be the year that businesses start to realize the true potential from their investments.” Indeed, 72 percent of business leaders expect that the metaverse will allow them to hire talent from around the world. Other payoffs, Trodella says, include enhanced productivity, more efficient team meetings, and a heightened sense of community.