Over the past few years, plenty of us have become accustomed to remote or hybrid work. The shift led to monumental changes in the way we connect in our roles and with our team. But even with the experience we’ve gained, companies are still struggling with how to engage workers in a virtual workspace.

The metaverse may have the answers. Consumers are steadily grasping the importance of this emerging technology with 39% saying virtual, artificial or extended reality technologies will play a role in their brand interactions over the next year and 67% of marketers expecting to spend at least a quarter of their budget on these tactics.

Screenshot of Sprout Social Index™ infographic about interacting with emerging tech

But the potential of the metaverse isn’t exclusive to external opportunities. I believe the metaverse could be the next big thing for internal collaboration—and connection.

Connection feeds innovation

In July, we brought the entire Sprout team to our Chicago headquarters for our first annual Mid-Year Meetup. Employees flew in from across the world (and over half of them were making their first office visit). The experience was amazing, but just like anything, there were trade-offs. As Sprout grows, we may not be able to facilitate flights, hotels and activities for thousands of people and we have to stay vigilant about constantly changing health guidelines.

The importance of Mid-Year Meetup wasn’t parties, food or even showing off our office space. It was about connecting with coworkers on a more personal level—a level that traditionally is best achieved face to face. That kind of connection breeds trust that is the foundation for performance and innovation.

The majority of employees (75%) in organizations with intentional collaboration report higher levels of innovation. Our employees are more likely to take the kind of risks that have big pay-offs if they trust the people they work with. The ideas that come out of brainstorming are better when the group has a baseline understanding of each other’s personalities. But as companies increasingly transition to a remote-first approach, it’s getting harder and harder to create those kinds of relationships. Leaders have to find new ways to connect their teams in a remote world. So, can the metaverse help?

Working in the metaverse

Going to work in the metaverse may sound far-fetched but workers are ready for it. Three in five tech employees are interested in using VR headsets in the workplace. Employers need to be ready to provide the experiences they’re looking for.

Connecting outside the conference room

A metaverse meeting is a step up from a routine Zoom meeting, but it’s still not using the technology to its full potential.

Let’s say you’re opening a store in a new city. You could use metaverse technology to “visit” the city with key employees. The immersive aspect of the metaverse experience can spur new ideas and understanding across your team. Or, if you’re onboarding a new cohort of employees, you could use VR technology to give them a virtual tour of your office or other locations that are important to your business to help them feel more connected. Metaverse technology is known for transporting users to a new place. Find ways to use that to your advantage.

Fostering more equitable engagement

With a hybrid work environment, it can be difficult to keep things equitable for your team members that go into the office and your fully remote employees. The “watercooler” opportunity to connect with folks across the org is something hard to recreate virtually. Or is it? The metaverse could help create the virtual version of that experience.

Despite the best intentions, it can be difficult to consistently enforce certain meeting etiquette (e.g., ensuring all meeting participants join video conferences individually, even if some are sitting in a room together). Working in the metaverse ensures that the playing field is leveled for all of your employees and provides team-building opportunities that work for everyone–regardless of where they’re based.

Going where you feel most productive

The metaverse isn’t only helpful for interpersonal interactions. It can also help you get more work done individually. As remote work becomes the norm, many people are choosing to work from anywhere, taking their laptops with them as they explore different locales.

But that isn’t always practical. If your dream workspace is a beach, you might run into issues with sand getting into your keyboard. The metaverse makes it possible to work wherever you want, without the limitations of the space. Allowing yourself to work in the environment where you feel most productive can yield incredible results.

Filling in the gaps

Remote work is no longer the exception to the rule. More than half of employees expect at least a hybrid work arrangement, if not a fully remote position. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to adapt to the new reality and equip our teams with the technology and infrastructure they need to be successful—even if that technology is a VR headset. As the metaverse becomes more prominent, we should be thinking about its values as an internal business tool as well.

Want to learn more about the metaverse? This article lays out everything you need to know.