- The metaverse is gaining traction and coworking spaces might be able to benefit.
- Three options exist to build the world’s first virtual coworking space, but monetization and the user experience need consideration.
- The metaverse is still in its infancy and caution must be applied to achieve a long-term ROI.
Virtual reality is finally breaking through into the real world. The metaverse sits front and center of this rise, providing a range of virtual environments and experiences for today’s tech savvy workforce.
We’ve already seen companies transform their training initiatives, recruit staff and tackle workplace bias using virtual reality tech. But there’s one future of work phenomenon that’s notable due to its absence: coworking spaces.
That’s not for a lack of trying. In the past, companies have experimented with different virtual coworking initiatives. But the reality of virtual coworking centers rarely lived up to expectations.
The technology itself was partly to blame — headsets were prohibitively expensive, and user experiences were clunky. And most people favored AR apps that they could easily access through their smartphone, according to Gartner.
A range of cultural challenges also hampered adoption rates and some would argue that virtual reality tech still needs to be normalized to gain full acceptance. But the times are changing and so is VR. With the introduction of the metaverse, businesses are finally starting to buy up virtual real estate.
Retailers, for example, are entering the metaverse with the likes of Adidas, Samsung and even banks like HSBC investing in virtual space. But choosing the right virtual location isn’t as easy as you’d expect; there are around 50 different world providers within the metaverse.
“Retailers and other investors are having to gamble on which of these will go on to become the dominant force in the metaverse, gaining the most visits from our avatars. And which other worlds may fade away into obscurity,” according to a BBC report.
This is a sound warning for coworking spaces, too. The metaverse is still in its infancy and caution must be applied to achieve a long-term ROI. But many businesses are already exploring how to benefit from this brave, new virtual world and attract forward-looking customers.
So, how can coworking spaces get set up? Here are six steps to create a virtual coworking space in the metaverse:
- Choose your metaverse
- Set up a virtual wallet
- Buy some crypto
- Buy/rent a plot of land
- Build your office
- Ask coworking members to join the platform
Step one is a little more complicated than it sounds. There are three routes to choose from:
1. Build your own virtual world and coworking space
There are many metaverses out there with more appearing every day, which means there’s nothing to stop you from creating your own virtual world and building a coworking space in there.
However, this requires significant investment and there are lots of steps to take into consideration here. You’ll need your own dedicated server to host your virtual coworking space, for example, which could get expensive. And you’ll need to invest in the development and maintenance of your virtual space.
This option provides you with the maximum freedom to create whatever virtual coworking space you want.
You don’t have to go it alone either. There are already some examples of companies teaming up with VR experts to create unique virtual offices. You just need to reach out to the right people (and be prepared to invest heavily) and you could create a unique virtual coworking space in your own metaverse.
2. Use a pre-built virtual office
At the other end of the spectrum, you could tap into some of the existing metaverse platforms out there.
Meta (formerly Facebook) launched Horizon Workrooms earlier this year, which is a VR space where teams can virtually meet up. There are also several other digital spaces available like Gather and Teamflow.
It’s a simpler option than building your own metaverse and virtual space. But, you’ll be limited in terms of how much of your brand you can stamp onto these premade metaverse spaces — not to mention how you could monetize using such solutions.
So, this is probably a better option for companies looking to trial virtual meetings, rather than for coworking operators to open up a virtual space in.
3. Build your own coworking space in an existing metaverse
There’s also a nice halfway option where you can build your own virtual coworking space without building a metaverse platform. Instead, you could buy some virtual land in an existing metaverse and start building your coworking space.
Buying or renting virtual land is usually done with cryptocurrencies, so you’ll need to invest in that first. This is where you need to make a choice, because there are several metaverse platforms to choose from and different ones use different cryptocurrencies.
Gamified platform The Sandbox, for example, uses a currency called SAND and the community-focused Decentraland platform uses MANA. While there are other platforms available (with plenty of new ones popping up), these are two established ones. But make sure you shop around to see what else is in the market.
Also, when you purchase some virtual estate, the sale is recorded by transferring NFTs (that’s non-fungible tokens). That means you’ll need a wallet capable of storing NFTs.
There are plenty of wallet options out there, but Binance and Metamask are two popular options. Or you could use a reseller platform like nonfungible.com (which also has a lot more information on the NFT ecosystem). There are also virtual real estate companies like Metaverse Property to help you navigate the entire virtual estate purchase process.
Make It Your Own
Now that you have a chunk of virtual land, you need to do something with it. Design in the metaverse depends on the platform you’re using.
In Decentraland, for example, there’s a simple drag-and-drop 3D builder to help you build your space. And you can add customized assets, too. You can also hire expert virtual architects to design something special for your coworking space.
When your virtual coworking space is ready, you need to ask members to start using it. They’ll just need to create an account on your chosen metaverse platform and then they can start meeting up.
Is It Worth It?
Every metaverse platform has its own asset marketplace where you can list your coworking space. Then, when someone uses your space, the sale is credited back to your crypto wallet.
Of course, persuading people to use (and pay for) your virtual coworking space is another challenge in itself. Historically, virtual reality has struggled because of poor user experiences.
So, just as we’ve seen in the real world, to run a successful virtual coworking space your community (and its user experience) is key. But that effort could very well pay off. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 10% of the workforce will regularly use virtual spaces, up from 1% in 2022.
There’s no reason why coworking spaces couldn’t enter the metaverse and continue to influence the future of work. It’s just a case of when and where the first virtual coworking space becomes a reality.