5 challenges of working in the metaverse, from counterfeiting to safety concerns
Avoid these pitfalls with SHI's Metaverse Foundations Workshop.
The metaverse is not new, but its potential in the workplace has become more evident recently.
With the pandemic pushing companies to adopt remote working models, organizations have been grappling with employee engagement and productivity. Metawork could be the answer as it offers a virtual environment that blends the best of both worlds: remote work and “in-person” interactions.
According to a report by Citi, the metaverse could have as many as 5 billion users by 2023, which presents a significant opportunity for employers to rethink how and where we work.
The metaverse workplace will allow for greater collaboration and creativity, and the ability to work in a virtual environment will make it easier to bring together employees, customers, and partners from different locations and time zones.
However, as with any new technology or environment, there are challenges that decision-makers will likely face — and need to overcome — to fully realize the potential of the enterprise metaverse.
Five metaverse workplace issues
Threats to diversity and inclusion
In online gaming, choosing a character or avatar is mainly about digital escapism, but when the metaverse reaches workplaces, individuals will likely choose more photorealistic avatars — ones that look like themselves or, at least, how they perceive themselves to be.
While avatars can be an excellent way for users to express themselves, they may also lead to issues around bullying, harassment, or discrimination. Selecting avatars that reflect individual gender identity or characteristics could raise diversity issues as well, while some people could use their avatars to deliberately poke fun at others.
Businesses working in the metaverse must ensure every participant feels represented and included and take strong measures to address unconscious bias. Establishing policies around avatars and metawork that promote equality and prevent discrimination based on gender, race, or other protected characteristics is a good place to start.
Counterfeiting, impersonation, and fraud have always been problematic in the digital world.
As the metaverse moves into the mainstream, businesses that jump on the bandwagon will likely encounter similar issues — given the high value of such products, content, and experiences.
If you plan to use the metaverse to conduct confidential business deals, verify participants’ identities to ensure they are not competitors or bad actors seeking out confidential information.
The need for identity verification is heightened if payment transactions are conducted. While most existing online systems today rely on simple user registration systems that link to an email address or mobile phone number, more rigorous checking is necessary where full identification is required — especially when financial services are involved.
Consider using strong ID approaches and taking advantage of new techniques like biometrics. Digital signatures can also be helpful for identification. It would be best if you also incorporated protection against counterfeiting in the design and manufacture of your metaverse products, content, and distribution systems.
Health and safety risks
Doing business in the metaverse comes with unforeseen health and safety risks.
Virtual reality (VR) headsets can cause physical harm if not used properly — users could inadvertently run into walls or experience motion sickness. Organizations must create a safe environment for individuals using these devices, whether it’s in the office or at home.
You could face legal liability if users suffer harm from things like content overload, disease spread from equipment that’s not properly sanitized, nausea or seizures caused by the metaverse experience, and more. As you might expect, the legal framework for safety obligations and liability is complex and varies by country.
If you’re going to offer the metaverse experience to your employees, customers, or partners, take practical steps to minimize risks, including:
- Assessing potential health and safety hazards
- Identifying relevant legislation and regulatory requirements
- Assigning executive responsibility and developing a plan for managing and addressing relevant requirements
- Incorporating safety features that might help prevent or minimize the impact of any risk
- Providing appropriate warnings and user guides
- Having ongoing safety reviews and audits
- Purchasing and maintaining insurance policies
- Putting procedures in place for dealing with any incidents
Prioritizing the health and safety of your metaverse users will help avoid potential legal and reputational damage.
Security and privacy concerns
Security and privacy are essential aspects of any digital platform, and the metaverse is no exception.
Since the metaverse is multi-dimensional and multinational, the application of data privacy laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and others will become very complex.
Mounds of personal data can be gathered during a metaverse experience, such as eye tracking and gaze details, height, thinking and neural patterns, behavioral patterns, and more. So, your organization must take precautions to ensure users’ data and confidential business information are protected from cyber threats.
Privacy must be top of mind from day one. Develop robust security protocols to protect against cyber threats like hacking and data breaches and let participants set their privacy settings according to their personal preferences.
With new degrees of freedom, opportunities for misconduct and crime always exist — and you should be aware of them.
While your existing policies and employment law may already cover many types of misconduct, remember that the metaverse is still a workplace and should be subject to the same rules and regulations.
For instance, if one of your workers is abusive to others in a virtual environment, they should be held accountable under standard disciplinary rules. Remember that unfair dismissal laws still apply, and investigations into misconduct in the virtual workplace must be conducted fairly and thoroughly, even though there may be logistical challenges.
With the emergence of AI-driven non-player characters, new types of misconduct may surface. To avoid confusion, ensure your disciplinary policies account for metaverse misconduct and handle any instances appropriately and thoughtfully.
The metaverse challenges are real — so prepare accordingly
With the rise of the metaverse, you may soon see fewer people occupying large offices on a regular basis. Companies are turning to this innovative technology to increase brand awareness, create exciting opportunities for their employees, deepen customer loyalty, engage with their communities in new ways, and grow revenue.
However, there are genuine risks with using the metaverse in the workplace. Since the concept of a virtual workplace is still largely untested, companies must proceed cautiously and carefully consider the potential benefits and challenges of using the metaverse as a work environment.
SHI can help.
We not only have the resources and expertise to get your extended reality (XR) and metaverse project off the ground and across the finish line, but our Metaverse Foundations Workshop will help you discover how to unleash a truly infinite office, boost productivity, and attract top talent.
This new world has the potential to revolutionize the workplace. Don’t let these challenges prevent you from maximizing it.
Contact SHI today to learn more about the metaverse or how your business can harness the power of technology.
Important legal information
Please keep in mind that the goal of the post is to offer an overview of the potential challenges you may encounter in the metaverse. Since the metaverse is relatively new and rapidly developing, there is not a lot of legislation or case law that pertains specifically to it today. In fact, the technologies in the metaverse stack have raised some questions which, in many cases, will need to be solved by applying existing law to a variety of new scenarios.
Over time, more specific regulations are expected to be introduced and/or updated to address some of the issues raised by them and other emerging technologies. Because recommendations often depend on the facts for your specific case, make sure you seek the proper legal advice to ensure that all your interests are properly protected.