In the past few weeks the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed a lot of us to work from home and some of us to even lose our jobs. It’s clear that this virus will effect our economy over the next 6 months, if not longer. In the end though, I believe it’ll provide a better future for us all. Stay with me.
Covid-19 and Remote Work
It’s unfortunate that a lot of people have lost their jobs and some of us have had our job roles change. Before this pandemic I was working from home 2–3 days a week. That has now changed to being full-time remote. Being in IT it’s a great privilege to have that ability. In the last few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time helping others move to working remotely. Most often that involves training others on Microsoft Teams or Zoom and helping companies understand their security risks.
It’s funny how 2 months ago many people were still on the fence about moving any of their workloads to the cloud. This included collaboration platforms and remote work. Now those same people can’t get there fast enough. This “forced” change will open people’s eyes to the future of work and where we’re headed as a society. So I want to take this time to share my thoughts and geeky excitement on where we’re headed.
Over the course of the next few decades the reality of “The Matrix” will become ever closer. While a full-life simulation might be a few hundred years out, we’re already starting to create virtual worlds where we play. What changes will this bring to everyday life?
If you’ve watched “Year Million” from National Geographic then you’ll know where I’m coming from. In the series “Year Million” they refer to a fully-simulated virtual world like the Matrix as the “Metaverse 2.0”. Before reaching that point though we have the “Metaverse 1.0”. This preliminary version of the Metaverse is one we can login and out of. The potential for this virtual world is well described in the book “Ready Player One”. There are really only a few steps between our world now and this new virtual world.
Phase 1 — The Remote Work Push
Remote work isn’t new but many companies have been reluctant to dive in completely. Yet, many technical employees are starting to demand remote capabilities. It’s because of this that many companies are starting to shift their IT environments. As we move into this “Always Online” world, remote work is becoming the new American Dream.
Covid-19 has expedited this push. Those reluctant to move to remote work are being forced to adapt to survive. Even non-technical verticals are being forced to innovate now. Medical practices, small and large, are adopting TeleHealth as fast as possible. Restaurants and retailers are two verticals having a hard time. Insurance companies and landlords aren’t offering them much help right now. So these businesses are being forced to find new ways to bring in revenue.
There are many cloud communication platforms available to help these businesses. Apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. Platforms like Windows Virtual Desktop and AWS Workspaces are also good solutions for remote workstations. With this surge in remote work, in a few years time, most businesses will be migrated to the cloud. They most likely will have a majority of their workforce operate from home too.
That’s all well and dandy but many people crave human interaction. And video calls and meetings are great but there’s one technology that will make a huge push in the next decade. This is true for businesses and remote workers. That is Virtual Reality (VR).
Phase 2 — VR Offices
At the moment VR is usually synonymous with video games. That’s because video games have been the driver behind the technology for years. I still remember begging my parents for a Nintendo Virtual Boy in the late 90s. The progress of VR in the past decade now has many businesses looking for innovative ways to use it. Once VR is generally adopted by businesses we will begin creating VR offices for employees to telecommute into. We already have VR chatrooms so the reality doesn’t seem too far off.
Imagine putting on a VR headset & BAM! You’re now inside a virtual office building with desks, workstations, and whiteboards. One of the hardest parts of working remote is feeling included and communicating with colleagues. In a VR office though there’s a virtual water cooler we can chat by. I can peek over a virtual cubicle and ask a colleague a question. We can walk up to the whiteboard and brainstorm on a problem or a new product offering.
Companies are already accepting that virtual presence is more important than physical location. With a VR office, business owners don’t really need to have a physical location. Since most people already have a strong internet connection we don’t need much more. Building large impressive offices will no longer be necessary. Which leads me to the last step….
Phase 3 — Virtual Worlds
Forgoing conversations on global warming and the environment, you have to agree we should work to protect our planet. Our cars are polluting the air, we’re cutting down more and more natural environments and building larger and larger structures. While virtual worlds won’t solve all these problems they are definitely a good first step…assuming its powered with solar energy 🙂
The beauty of virtual worlds is the new jobs it will create and the reach we’ll have inside of the virtual worlds. We’ll begin hiring VR architects to design and create our new virtual office. We’ll hire VR interior designers to give our office the right feng shui. Instead of flying to Tokyo for that business meeting we’ll join a VR conference room to meet with a vendor. This in turn leads to less physical travel and more time we can spend with our families and friends.
This whole idea may sound farfetched to you but we’re moving closer and closer to it. And while I’m not naive enough to believe VR will solve the world’s problems, it’s the way forward. If you’re a futurist then I’d encourage you to start thinking on this now. There are lots of questions we’ll need to consider before we get to that point. There are a lot of new business opportunities that entrepreneurial types should consider too. Such as:
- Who will create the “Amazon” or everything store of our VR worlds?
- At what point will people start spending more on upgrading their VR world than the physical?
- What currency will reign supreme in VR? Or will we create a new one?
I’ll leave you to it. Stay safe out there!