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Exploring the Metaverse at Work

Anita Lettink
Anita Lettink
Hello again! I’ve wanted to write about the metaverse for a while now, but it took me some time to wrap my head around it. And to separate the hype from what’s real. Today I’ll explore the different concepts, to lay a foundation so we can have a conversation about the implications for work. It’s a topic for more than one newsletter, so I hope you come on this journey with me.
But first: BIG NEWS on my first online course!

Want to know the secret to buying your next payroll?
I am super excited to announce my first online course: “Everything you need to know about Buying Payroll”. Over the past 20 years I’ve learned a lot, and in this course I share my insights and tips to negotiate the best contract. I’ve included templates and checklists that give you a head start. I hope you check it out and find it useful.
And do me a favor: forward the link to anyone who is buying a new payroll and can’t afford to hire an external advisor. They will thank you for it!
Exploring the Metaverse at Work
When you see pictures of the metaverse at work, it looks like we will spend our workdays with a headset on while your avatar meets with other avatars in a virtual office. But I find that a bit too dystopian. What about you? And is that really what the metaverse will look like?
So let’s start with the million dollar question: what is the metaverse? If you’re old enough to remember Second Life, you’ll have a slight idea of where we are headed. Or just ask the kids to show you their Roblox.
The metaverse isn’t defined yet: it’s a concept, an idea where we are headed. I’ve listened to podcasts, read articles, watched videos and have come up with a definition that I will use for this series:
The metaverse is an immersive, virtual and shared space where people come together to meet, socialize, work, play and connect in real-time.
  • Immersive: because virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are the key ways to enter the metaverse. Smart devices will be another. Online experiences will look and feel as real as offline ones.
  • Virtual: as opposed to the physical world.
  • Shared: the metaverse is a way for people to share experiences with each other. It won’t work if you’re by yourself.
I’ll probably adjust the definition as we discover more, but for now, we’ll use this.
But what about Web 3.0?
When people talk about the metaverse, they often mention Web 3.0 in the same sentence. So is that the same thing?
Not really. Let’s take a look:
  • Web 1.0 is the original World Wide Web as conceived by Tim Berners-Lee,. It was based on documents as HTML pages that you access via a browser (Read).
  • Web 2.0 emerged when companies created Apps for better experiences and people started to participate by writing content (Read/Write). It’s a combination of e-commerce and social media, powered by the platform economy and owned by corporations.
  • Web 3.0 is in its infancy, but it’s expected to enable a decentralized economy that relies on the blockchain, bringing about a new form of collaboration that isn’t owned by businesses (Read/Write/Own). Web 3.0 is focused on giving autonomy to the user, and put them in control by introducing Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO), Non-fungible-tokens (NFT), and Decentralized Finance (DeFi).
Yes, that is an enormous expectation and realization is a long way off. I am also skeptical about the suitability of blockchain as base (especially its scalability, transaction speed and energy consumption as Web 3.0 goes mainstream). I wrote a couple of blockchain articles focused on work, that you can check out.
The other issue I see is that the move to Web 3.0 requires massive investments in developing these emerging, supporting technologies. And so we can talk about ‘power to the people’, but the initiatives I’ve seen so far are all driven by large corporations with deep pockets. And you can be sure they won’t make it available for free or run it as a decentralized democracy. Other initiatives started out with great intentions, but when they became more successful, their founders IPO-ed.
With so much uncertainty, it’s best to think of Web 3.0 as an overall emerging concept, and of the metaverse as one of its manifestations. The Creator Economy is another one, which I expect to have a much deeper and faster impact on work. More on that in the next newsletter.
I found this picture helpful, and I hope you do too:
From Web 1.0 to 3.0
From Web 1.0 to 3.0
Back to the Metaverse
As mentioned above, today’s internet is flat and 2D, powered by websites, Apps and closed ecosystems.
Using VR and AR, the metaverse will offer shared 3D spaces, where users interact via avatars, and participate in a virtual world.
People can buy services and virtual goods, for which they pay and get paid in cryptocurrencies. In that sense, you can see the metaverse as a logical next step, making the most of these new technologies.
The metaverse will be used for a wide array of things, and work will be part of that. You - or rather your avatar - will be able to join online meetings in a virtual space that closely resembles your office. You can also move from one virtual place to another while completing tasks and collaborating with others.
And while the fully immersive metaverse might be a decade out, companies are already buying up land in the metaverse. They set up storefronts to sell their products, and create office spaces. All virtual of course, and what they really own is an NFT.
You might have heard about NFT’s or non-fungible tokens, because of the large amounts of money that flow into this space. Or because the artist Beeple auctioned off one of his NFTs for $69M! Which really was an exception.
NFTs are virtual assets that you can buy and sell with money or crypto, and that use the blockchain to claim ownership. Assets can be anything, from plots of virtual land to a concert ticket to sneakers and other clothing items for your avatar. There is a lot of controversy around NFTs (what do you really own?) and we’ll discuss that when I take a closer look at Getting Paid in the Metaverse.
And with that, we’ve discussed the most important foundational topics that we need to explore the metaverse at work. I hope you enjoyed the introduction, and I am looking forward to the next issue. We’ll look at the Creator Economy, and how that will change work. And since I am one of those creators, I will share my own experiences.
Have a great day, Anita
Buying a new payroll? Check out my online course!
Buying Payroll - HRTechRadar
What's next?
Future of Work
The reports that come out of Geneva Macro Lab are solid and well researched. And I recommend you download their latest: AI and the Future of Work. It asks the hard questions: What exactly is the impact of AI on jobs? And what opportunities and threats does AI represent? The report highlights the discussion between leading experts and presents solutions to the issues at stake. And if you don’t want to read the full report, just read the “Quick Reader Summary” that covers the most relevant conclusions.
I’ve written about skills and the need to reskill before and now there is new research to underpin that necessity. The Digital Talent Forecast gives you the overview in numbers. They also found out that learners really want to belong: to a field or a community of practice. The report includes advice from General Assembly’s Standards Boards to set up your teams for success in a constantly evolving labor market.
And with companies announcing new return to the office plans, take a moment to read the latest Everywhere Workplace report from Ivanti which found that 71% of employees choose ‘working from anywhere’ over being promoted. You’ll have to do the math for your own workforce, but they share some good insights.
If you are in Bucharest on June 16, I am keynoting the HR Masters Summit. And there’s a Metaverse summit on June 15 as well! Stop by to say hello.
Remember that ransomware attack on a global workforce management vendor back in December? I’ve been following that case with interest, especially as it pertains to what happens next and what it means for vendor liability. To my knowledge, it was the first attack on a major HR Tech vendor. It raises the question: who is to blame when you outsource your services, but you can’t pay your people due to a ransomware attack on the vendor? Would you be prepared? Better check that chapter in your business continuity planning today…
Payflow, an earned wage access company I wrote about in a prior issue, is starting a quarterly EWA newsletter with fundraising news, M&A activity, market overviews and exclusive articles. Sign up here.
Metaverse at Work
Kevin Roose from the New York Times published The Latecomer’s Guide to Crypto. It’s a detailed and balanced explanation of the origins of crypto, including benefits and risks. Once you’ve read it, you have a pretty good handle on what’s going on. And the best: it’s free to read for all.
What exactly is Web 3.0? Gartner offers this insightful, detailed comparison between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 with examples. They also explain their view on metaverse and Web 3.0 as related, yet separate topics. And while you are there, check out their elements of the metaverse picture.
And just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Not everything is better in the metaverse, and here are 6 examples, from “Hang a new TV on the wall” to “This could have been an email”. Highly recommended for a fun take on the metaverse!
Get in Touch
I offer workshops, keynotes and coaching sessions. Want to see more of my work? Click below:
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Anita Lettink
Anita Lettink @let_anita

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