City at night with AR animations

Metaverse: Innovation rooms for employees

Employees are learning to get around the virtual room. Clients are discovering technical developments by T-Systems

2022.09.09Georg Pepping

Working as an avatar

VR headsets and virtual company hubs instead of one-way communication via email, video conferences and longer business trips for short on-site meetings: is this what our everyday working life will soon look like? What occasions are suitable for working in a virtual space– and when should we be sticking to the conventional way of doing things? The first companies are already using virtual applications to improve collaboration with customers and employees. We at T-Systems are doing it too.   

Metaverse - a new way of collaborating

Man with VR headset in the metaverse

Gaming, shopping and concert – everything is possible in a virtual room. But how does it work in the metaverse? The huge potential of amazing genuine experiences in new worlds which are brought to life via VR headsets, are being met with great interest in the entertainment and marketing sectors. Just recently, ABBA has demonstrated how hologram-like avatars could get an entire auditorium screaming. The curiosity for virtual experiences on the subject of the metaverse has also been awakened. But what do these latest developments mean for our future working environment in everyday work? One thing is clear: In the world of work, different rules apply than with gaming or when shopping in a virtual showroom. But it is also clear that in the virtual metaverse room, professional interactions are more intuitive, more flexible and innovative than via video conferences – we are standing on a threshold to a new way of collaborating. A kind of union of virtual realities – that is, a fluid virtual world in which we interact using our avatar clone, travel without any problem and of course pay in a digital currency – does of course not yet exist. But companies are already benefiting from the first metaverse platforms and virtual work rooms. 

The first steps in the metaverse: what can my avatar do?

I've tried it out: If I smile at home and raise my hand, my avatar can greet my colleague with a friendly wink – like in the office, although she is a few hundred kilometers away working from her own home. Users discover a completely new technology which combines a virtual world with a digital experience. It permits significantly more interaction and identification then previously via Teams or Zoom, for example. A few examples: I can put a photo of my head on my avatar, transfer my office clothes to the digital room via body scan and, thanks to the spatial audio function, I can virtually withdraw to have a discussion in a small group without the other people in the room being aware. Without ever needing to switch on the camera, I am able to freely and intuitively move around like this. Digital facial expressions and gestures gain a completely new naturalness. If employees also have their own wardrobe or decorate their desk in the virtual company office, they can strongly identify with their metaverse alter ego – perhaps more so than with their video meeting ego. This might also be because the personal and creative freedom to create is simply fun for many. Monotone and tedious video calls are unlikely to be able to keep up with these new opportunities in the world of work.

Innovation space for employees and customers

In addition to this, employees in the virtual room don't have to dispense with anything, which has been proven remotely: screen and document sharing or brainstorming on Miro can be seamlessly transfered into the metaverse realities. By combining this with new technical functions such as an impressive realistic speaking and 3D audio quality and the shrinking and enlarging of models and avatars, it only adds to the digital world's scope. Teams working together internationally can meet in a virtual room without having to take a long journey – making it flexible and environmentally sustainable. Like via video but with a significant difference: Already with regard to various locations within Germany, avatars are closer than camera boxes in Zoom – it strengthens the team spirit of the employees and the company. At T-Systems, for example, employees can experiment with three "Innovation Labs" using VR equipment and take part in training on the use of the new technology. In addition to the flexible use of the office spaces in the Meet & Connect Hubs, scattered teams find the innovation labs to be a new point of contact and they can get to know new colleagues. Employees who are already more accustomed to moving around the virtual space, will find creative workshops and specialist professional development taking place. 

Employees can also conduct customer meetings on site in the labs in the metaverse. Because, in addition to the advantages to the employees themselves, the company's customers benefit from technical developments from T-Systems becoming within reach as virtual models – for example, when the inside of the e-vehicle battery suddenly opens or when they are able to follow the application of a software for hospital communication virtually.

Interface between office and home office: What remains?

Nevertheless, all the advantages such as flexibility, increased identification and playful ease can only be enjoyed in moderation. A healthy, varied everyday working environment continues to require personal contact. In some situations, real human gestures and facial expressions are indispensable. For this reason, real meetings between employees and the company's customers will not disappear completely. But home office, company office or virtual world – what works best when? The activity-based working concept, which T-Systems also applies, offers valuable decision-making tools in the working world: when it comes to the activity-based working concept, the activity very flexibly dictates the place of work. Performance appraisals, onboarding, important customer appointment or tricky workshop subjects, for example, are examples of good reasons for a face-to-face meeting. Accordingly, employees and customers of the company should always ask themselves which format will allow them to carry out their activities in the most productive way. 

What must always remain is the responsibility of the employer towards their employees: in addition to the technical equipment, the necessary security with regard to digital intellectual property as well as sovereign cloud providers and data protection are a part of this. In the right context, metaverse applications open up new opportunities to promote the human and business side of companies.

About the author

Georg Pepping

Managing Director Human Resources and Labor Director, T-Systems International GmbH

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