Building a digital workplace that works for everyone

Imagine sitting at home, your loved ones around you. You just saw your kid take their first steps, and your pupping is lying at your feet. Life is good — it’s on your terms.
An office lobby with two digital avatars and one person
Vishal Punwani, Co-founder & CEO
January 17, 2022

Note: This is the final piece of a 3-part Series. Read ‘Part I: Human Compatible’ here, and ‘Part II: ‘Work today doesn’t work’ here.

Hey y’all, Vish here. I want to talk to you about the ‘Workplace Metaverse’. That’s our vision for the future of work here at SoWork.

In Part I, I described how our company transformed after we moved into the Workplace Metaverse shortly after the pandemic hit in 2020. It became our Mission to ‘move work from the Earth to the Cloud’, because we couldn’t believe what we’d unlocked for ourselves, and we wanted others to benefit too. Read about that origin story and transformation in Part I: Why We Need the Workplace Metaverse.

In Part II, I wrote about the incredible benefits that companies give themselves and their teams by moving to the Metaverse. I also talked about the probable downsides of not transitioning over. Read Part II: Work Today Doesn't Work.

Here’s Part III — a vivid picture of what your work life could be.

Building a workplace that works for everyone

Imagine sitting at home. Or in Hawaii. Your loved ones are around you, you just saw your kid take their first steps, and your new puppy is lying down at your feet. Life is good — it’s on your terms. You no longer have to drive in to work, which means you get an extra hour of sleep every night, and get to eat healthy, slow breakfasts with your spouse, while deepening your relationship through conversation and laughter. Life really is good. You move to a quiet room, get settled in, open your laptop, and log in to the Metaverse.

Woman sitting at her laptop working from home

Dani’s at home, but in a split-second, she jumps into her office in the Workplace Metaverse to hang with her team.

You quickly glance over at the baby monitor to your right — all looks good, your 3-month old is sound asleep. For now (🤞🏽). Back to your computer. You spawn in the Board Room, where you pick up the notes you left here yesterday and head back over to your desk.

Avatar of a woman sitting at a real conference table.

Dani logs in. She’s configured her avatar to look just like her irl, idl.

There’s a stack of sticky notes left for you while you were off, already sorted in priority order. Your desk is otherwise just how you left it — decorated to your imagination’s limit. You notice a new Trophy sitting there too, left by one of your teammates for one of your recent wins. You probably need a bit more room on your desk, so you instantly swap your desk out for a much more spacious, luxury mahogany workspace ($0). Mmkay, now it feels like home.

You hear your name being called, and are greeted by smiling faces of your favorite colleagues plus a friend from the next office over. It brings a smile to your face. “Hey! We were hoping you’d jump in!”, they say. “There’s someone next door you should meet!”. They excitedly run off, leading the way for you to follow them through your office. You hop up and follow your teammates. You see all sorts of teammates as you walk through the office: some are in meetings, some are in deep-work mode, and some are touring around the new additions to the team (Aside: ah, the interns. Lots in store for them in the Metaverse 😈). A few teammates are on lunch together, ordering food and drinks from the digital world to their real-life locations.

Remote workers eating and talking in a real office break room with video tiles and emojis floating over their heads

It’s a busy place, the New Office. Working, chatting, eating, and making new friends.

As you’re about to walk outside and into the broader Metaverse world to keep up with your teammates, you spot Natalie from marketing wearing green sweatpants and chuckle to yourself, remembering that she basically wore the same green sweatpants every day at the recent all-hands team retreat (after all, ‘on-site’ is the new ‘off-site’). Glad she’s reppin’ authentically in the Metaverse. You send her a few 😂😂 emotes so she knows you get her.

Outside of your office, you see your teammates and friend, plus an unfamiliar face. “Hey, this is Blason, the CTO of KitHub!”, your colleagues tell you. “We met him this morning, and thought you’d love to meet him given you’ve been complaining about infrastructure for weeks. He said he’s happy to help think through things with you.” Damn, that’s a great connection. And it came out of nowhere, like all the best ones do. So glad your friends are here.

Blason sends you a connection request. “Great to meet you!”, he says. “Just hit me up whenever you’d like to chat — I’ve got you covered.” You are eternally grateful, /bow to your friends and Blason, and teleport back to your desk, energized and ready to get productive.

Three remote teammates work together in front of one laptop

Get great work done with your team.

Throughout the workday, you attend a few shared cross-company events, where you make new friends, deepen your bonds with your favorite teammates, and earn Trophies that prove you learned stuff. You were able to run out to the Metaverse pharmacy to authorize shipping of your kids’ medication to your physical doorstep, since your identity is verified in here. You were even able to help a few people make connections at new companies in the Metaverse where they wanted to apply working at. Now this is a real community.

Toward the end of your day, you get a pop-up letting you know that you’ve worked hard today, and that you should probably think about winding down. You appreciate this — you set the reminder to smartly activate based on your work patterns, and it’s probably saved you from burnout more times than you can imagine. You wave goodbye to your colleagues, who will leave notes on your desk if they need anything while you’re away until tomorrow.

A woman working from home, sitting behind her laptop with her teammates' video tiles floating around her.

Back at home in an instant. Time to hang out with your loved ones.

You close your laptop and exit the Metaverse office.

And you’re instantly home. You hear the sound of your children and spouse laughing and working on dinner. You head over to them, scoop up your kids, pet your dog, and hug your spouse as you prepare to set the table for a wonderful family meal.

This is how you balance it all. Your workplace in the digital world — accessible anywhere, anytime — and your loved ones in the physical world.

We made a lovely piece of content about this too (psst — I made a cameo!).

This is all possible, and is the Workplace Metaverse future that we’re building at SoWork. One that makes your work much more compatible with your life — the one thing that really matters.

Where do we go from here?

There are two things that will reasonably go back to normal when we accept the endemic state of COVID-19: school and social. And there’s one thing that absolutely will not go back to normal: workplace. School will go back to normal, because kids need social development and exploration of interests, and parents need alone time. Social will go back to normal, because there’s no major ‘problem to solve’ here. People aren’t sacrificing their time and health in order to socialize. But workplace…

Work will never go back to normal. Ever. The playing field has expanded too much, and there are far too many Metaverse office benefits for people, companies, and the climate.

Plus, work was already heading to this distributed future — generationally, technologically, and behaviorally — far before the pandemic came around. COVID merely sped up the inevitable.

But the noisy, fatiguing distributed workplace of today is not going to work long-term. To be effective and compatible with us humans — us, the overly social species that needs close human connection to thrive — we need to solve particular problems that are not being solved today.

That’s why so many employees want the Workplace Metaverse. Yes, we need good asynchronous communication. And yes, we need good synchronous communication. But in addition, we need to be able to express ourselves, to form strong bonds with our colleagues, and to feel belonging. We need to be able to live our one precious life on our own terms, around those we love, in parts of the world that enrich us as humans.

And that just can’t happen using today’s tools — all sides lose if we keep going as is. But in the rich, purpose-built Workplace Metaverse made to empower teams and create healthy organizations, all sides win — people, companies, and the planet.

So now you know a little about our Metaverse office ‘what’, and a little about our ‘why’. I’ll be doing a lot more writing soon on several parts of the ‘how’. This is a Camelot moment — a real chance for us as a society to build a system that works for us. And given we spend 80% of our lives working, it’s critical that we build this right. Join us!


Note: This is the final piece of a 3-part Series. Read ‘Part I: Human Compatible’ here, and ‘Part II: ‘Work today doesn’t work’ here.