Virtual offices are taking over as the shift to remote and hybrid work is likely here to stay. Micropreneurs 2.0, crypto-artisans and nomadic employees are redefining what it means to work in the 21st century.
In its report, “Future 100: Trends and Change to Watch in 2022,” marketing agency Wunderman Thompson, via its research unit WTI, charts the future of work.
Let’s take a look.
Microsoft launched Mesh for Microsoft Teams this year, enabling mixed reality for users, with the option to attend meetings as customized avatars and collaborate on projects through shared holographic experiences. Mesh also gives companies the option to build immersive virtual environments. Microsoft describes the feature as “a gateway to the metaverse.”
Meta has its version called Horizon Workrooms. By connecting through VR co-workers can collaborate and create together in the same virtual workspace. “Meet teammates across the table, even if you’re across the world — and transform your home office into your favorite remote meeting room,” Horizon Workrooms promises.
Building branded virtual workspaces are gaining popularity. Kumospace and gen-Z startup Branch focus on heightening “organic interactions” using virtual rooms that mimic physical environments, where users’ avatars can move around and interact.
“The way we connect, live and work is transforming thanks to the metaverse,” says Emma Chiu, global director of WTI. “The future of work will foster a hybrid setup for many, leading with virtual workspaces that generate new forms of creativity, collaboration and immersion.”
The Web 3.0 economy is providing an alternative to corporate employment in the form of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). This is a digitally native community or organization that could potentially represent the future of work.
“Your next employer could be a DAO,” imagines Chiu. “Strictly speaking, a DAO is a community-led digital organization that runs on blockchain technology. It is managed not by a CEO or board of directors but by a smart contract (lines of code that define its operations). In practice, many DAOs are not yet fully autonomous and so the term is also used colloquially to refer to digital organizations in general. Crucially, DAOs also have built-in treasuries linked to cryptocurrency, which means members can earn tokens in return for their contributions.”
A new breed of crypto worker is already being drawn to DAOs as an alternative to the corporate nine-to-five. WTI says participation in the DAO economy growing fast. According to DeepDAO, a platform that tracks the industry, there were 1.6 million members and token owners in December 2021.
From an employee’s point of view, DAOs have a lot to offer, WTI observes. DAOs are digital, so there are no physical HQs or geographic boundaries—both already outdated notions for many Gen Z’ers. DAOs have little to no hierarchy, so there are no bosses either. Instead, they offer members the ability to collectively influence decisions and share in profits. Above all they offer a readymade community of likeminded, passionate, and highly invested people all pursuing the same goal.
“While not every company will want to copy the DAO model, nor will it be universally appropriate, there are interesting lessons to learn from this new model in terms of community, culture building and worker empowerment,” WTI notes.
“In the coming years, companies of all kinds are increasingly going to be re-orienting towards a hybrid model of virtual and physical work, production, commerce and communications. The dual forces of converging technologies and emerging consumer behaviors in virtual places makes the cultivation of a ‘virtual pillar’ critical for many, if not all, businesses.”— Grant Paterson, Wunderman Thompson
In an era of employee activism, many want to shape the place they work to fit their values, as Julia Rosenberg, cofounder and CEO at Orca Protocol, recently explained at the Mainnet conference (quoted by WTI): “If you disagree, you have the opportunity to effect change, which is not something that exists in centralized organizations,” Chiu says.
In the initial months of the pandemic in 2020, many workers quit their desk jobs to pursue passion projects full-time. Now the trend has snowballed into a nationwide reassessment of work that is precipitating the next era of employment.
British workers are going freelance in droves. April 2021 data from freelancer platform PeoplePerHour found that almost one in five freelancers had become self-employed as a side hustle alongside an employee position, and nearly two-fifths of those began freelancing in the past 12 months.
“The way we connect, live and work is transforming thanks to the metaverse. The future of work will foster a hybrid setup for many, leading with virtual workspaces that generate new forms of creativity, collaboration and immersion.”— Emma Chiu, WTI
According to Microsoft’s global Work Trend Index, published in March 2021, 41% of people around the world were likely to consider leaving their jobs within the next year, rising to 54% of Gen Z. The Washington Post dubbed the shift the “great reassessment of work.” So where are workers going? Many are leaving for higher-paying jobs, whether that’s retail and service workers taking entry-level positions or mid-career professionals switching jobs.
As of December 2020, resignations among managers were 12% higher than the previous year, according to workforce analytics company Visier. Others are pursuing passions or side hustles full-time. Microsoft’s research revealed that 46% of people were planning to make a major career pivot or transition.
“Employees are scrutinizing what they want from a career and a workplace, potentially bringing about the end of the workplace as we know it,” suggests WTI.
The Great Reskill
A related trend happening across business as the nature of work changes, so does the need for new employee skillsets.
“As the digital revolution races on, brands are realizing that the fastest and most effective way to keep pace is to upskill their existing workforce,” says Chiu.
According to one educator, employees will be expected to have to learn some sort of new skill every four years.
It’s already happening. Levi Strauss & Co announced a new company-wide Machine Learning Bootcamp. This was an eight-week, full-time, paid program that offers employees training in digital skills such as coding and machine learning. Graduates of the bootcamp will either return to their current job with new skills or will join the company’s strategy and AI team.
Verizon invested more than $200 million in employee learning and development programs in 2020, offering training in topics like data science, 5G and AI. By the end of 2021, Verizon said it had equipped 100,000 employees with digital skills “to ensure team members are ready to keep pace with ever-changing demands of building the future.”
The Nomad Economy
What’s more, the new influx of workers won’t be expected to be in the office. At least not all of the time or not in our received notions of what an office constitutes.
Pandemic-induced lockdowns have broken traditional working habits. “With this came a surge of remote workers, some of whom became digital nomads for the first time, choosing to work in new cities, states, or even new countries,” says Chiu. “The future of work is borderless. As ingenious companies step up to iron out the complications that accompany a transient lifestyle, digital nomads will continue to grow in numbers and financial clout. A new economy is emerging that caters to digital nomads’ administrative, financial and logistical needs.”
“Is it time to hire a chief metaverse officer?” Vogue Business mused in an October 2021 article that noted the rise in augmented retail, virtual venues and digital possessions.
From virtual material designers to creatives across the board, companies are hiring for a metaverse workforce. The metaverse virtually recreates pretty much all aspects of life, and recruitment is no different.
“In the coming years, companies of all kinds are increasingly going to be re-orienting towards a hybrid model of virtual and physical work, production, commerce and communications,” Grant Paterson, head of gaming and esports at Wunderman Thompson, explains. “The dual forces of converging technologies and emerging consumer behaviors in virtual places makes the cultivation of a ‘virtual pillar’ critical for many, if not all, businesses.”
The report notes that Nike filed seven trademark applications in October 2021; they include use of “downloadable virtual goods” and “retail store services featuring virtual goods.” In the same month, the company started recruiting virtual material designers to sit within its digital product creation team. The job spec describes the role as helping to “build the future of Nike Footwear materials” and ignite “the digital and virtual revolution at Nike.”
Last November, British broadcaster ITV posted a position for a metaverse creative within its new Metavision initiative, which “looks to combine the worlds of gaming, entertainment and advertising.” The role involves creating metaverse brand activations from concept stage to execution.
According to Chiu, “Partnering with external tech and games companies has been the trend of the past year; now brands are seeking out talent of their own to accelerate the technological offerings of the metaverse. Just as when social media became mainstream and companies scrambled to hire social media leads, so recruiting talent to help build offerings around the metaverse will be reminiscent of that hurry to hire, and maybe even more urgent.”
Does Web3 offer the promise of a truly decentralized internet, or is it just another way for Big Tech to maintain its stranglehold on our personal data? Hand-picked from the NAB Amplify archives, here are the expert insights you need to understand Web3’s potential and stay ahead of the curve on the information superhighway:
- The Web3 Dream vs. Digital (and Economic) Realities
- What Needs to Happen for Web3 to Go Mainstream
- Web3 and the Future of Work (Oh, Guess What? It’s Decentralized.)
- Web3, Free Will and Who Will Own the Future
- Taking Those First Steps Into Web3