November 8, 2023
November 16, 2022

The Metaverse: Making The Most of Remote Work

Taylor Yates

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered the nature of modern work environments. The reality of a fully-quarantined workforce ushered in a decade's worth of workplace innovations, enabling remote co-working at an unprecedented scale. Since this rapid acceleration came with its own unique challenges, employees at Spaceback have found that remote work provides new opportunities for workers and companies alike.

While remote work is no longer strictly enforced, companies unwilling to adapt to the new way of working will be disadvantaged to those willing to evolve. The need for quarantining has all but disappeared, but COVID-19 is and will continue to be a factor in public health discussions moving forward.

We're seeing several companies mandate that workers return to their physical offices, resolved to return to the way things were. For some employees, this is a welcome homecoming, but others are less enthused. Many who took advantage of the newfound flexibility are less amenable to traditional workplace incentives, like food trucks or pet-friendly offices. Accommodating these employees (or failing to do so) will have a noticeable impact on a company's success in the market.

Although work from home opportunities are often favorable to workers, it's important to emphasize that remote work is not a zero-sum game. Companies have a lot to gain by converting to a remote or hybrid model, if done thoughtfully. For instance, remote companies are not geographically limited when hiring new employees; this means larger talent pools to choose from with more diversity amongst applicants.

Another notable benefit is the reduced real estate costs. With the growing presence of modern co-working networks like WeWork and Regus, remote companies are able to provide their employees with flexible workspace options for a fraction of the cost of a full-service commercial lease. These savings open up new avenues of discretionary funding that wouldn't have been available otherwise.

While keeping all of these benefits in mind, it's important for companies to understand the inherent difficulties of maintaining a remote workplace. Company culture can be more fragile than that of an in-person organization. The overall community can quickly become siloed if left unattended. Establishing rapport with colleagues outside of your immediate circle can be more challenging without the cross-pollination of a central office. Remote companies will need to be creative with how they foster a healthy working environment.

At the end of the day, there really isn't a perfect substitute for face-to-face interactions. At Spaceback, we try to see each other in person as much as possible when it's safe to do so. We are intentional about arranging both team and company-wide offsites for all employees who are comfortable participating. In January of this year, Spaceback met up in Petaluma, California, marking our first official company-wide offsite. This week-long event was an incredibly valuable opportunity for everyone to work together and connect outside of their day-to-day work schedules.

Above: Team photo from Spaceback's first company-wide offsite in Petaluma, California

That said, an annual offsite alone is not sufficient for maintaining strong relationships. Continuing to build upon these connections while back in a remote setting is crucial to success in our business.

Back in April of this year, Spaceback invested in its company culture by providing employees with Oculus VR Headsets. There were no expectations set for how these headsets would be used, but we wanted to try out virtual conference meetings as an alternative for weekly video calls.

Our first meeting in Horizon Workrooms initially felt like disorganized chaos. However, as employees grew more comfortable in the virtual space, the chaos gradually transitioned into purposeful interaction. By the end, we were comfortable sharing our screens, presenting decks, and even giving each other high-fives. It really is incredible how far technology has come for this option to be possible and available for companies to use at their disposal.

To learn more about our work-related endeavors in the Metaverse, check out this article in the North Bay Business Journal.

While Spaceback's first venture into the VR workplace showed indicators of a bright future, we saw that the current state of virtual socializing left a lot to be desired. The low-fidelity facial gestures, audio/visual lag, and cartoon-like avatars are all good reminders that we are still in the early days of this technology. That said, we found that by pairing communal VR with a shared activity, we could provide a medium for connection that is difficult to achieve around a virtual conference table.

At Spaceback, our current activity of choice is Walkabout Mini Golf, Mighty Coconut's flagship VR golf game. The gameplay is fairly simple to get a handle on and allows employees with all different backgrounds to participate without feeling any pressure to perform. The game's inclusive nature has resulted in Spaceback employees setting up ad hoc matches for anyone who is able to join.

On top of these matches, we've also coordinated a company-wide golf league where players can team up and compete with other groups. While these games may seem trivial, they provide invaluable opportunities for employees to connect with each other outside of the workplace.

Spaceback is proud to be a fully remote company. We understand the care required to foster a healthy working community and are committed to discovering new ways to do so. While the Metaverse is still more dream than reality, we expect to see other companies hop on the virtual reality bandwagon in the coming years. Until then, we are happy to continue growing company culture, with or without a headset.