The internet is an endlessly big place with many opportunities to meet new people and explore new subjects. Not everyone who logs on is in search of new connections, however, and many use the internet to keep in touch with individuals they already know. This increasingly includes coworkers, with a rising emphasis on collaboration outside of a brick-and-mortar workplace, necessitating that the workforce form closer ties than what might have been necessary in the past. Evolving technology, paired with some surprisingly established strategies, are taking this digital task and yielding decidedly real-world results.

Post-Pandemic and the Rise of the Remote Workplace

As the digital sphere extends its ever-increasing reach, daily life is transformed in sometimes unexpected ways. This includes professional interaction. While in-person business meetings are still held in high regard in many organizations, the benefits new technology offers have become abundantly clear over the past year. 

Organizations both big and small faced desperate circumstances in 2020 with the rapid spread of COVID-19, which quickly spread across the globe and plunged the world into disarray. One of the industries hardest hit by the abrupt dismissal of daily norms was the business vertical. Corporations depend upon reliable daily circumstances to keep their employees on track and remain productive and profitable. The pandemic made this almost impossible, with the ability to meet in person and conduct business as usual severely limited. 

The result was the rise of the digital workplace. The idea was not a new one, of course, and some experts had been urging businesses to embrace the conveniences of advanced technology for many years. Making the first move proved difficult, however, and many organizations created a ‘piecemeal’ approach to online work if they considered the subject at all. As the pandemic continued to impact people around the globe, leaders found themselves racing to set up digital spaces where their employees could meet and interact with each other as well as their superiors.

Virtual worlds and collaboration

A virtual world is a digital environment that offers users a place to communicate, collaborate, and network without meeting in person. The term often differs slightly from person to person. For some, the phrase conjures the image of a 3D space that mimics the real world in scale, function, and appearance. This type of world is more akin to virtual reality than a simple online platform offering diverse connection methods. For others, virtual worlds represent the intermingling of mediums of communication such as email, instant messaging, and even video chat. In most cases, however, the purpose of the professional virtual world is clear. It presents the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with peers.

The idea of an online space where individuals can interact is likely not a novel one to most readers. In fact, it is something that has long been a part of the online community via massively multiplayer online (MMO) games as well as other online communities like those found on social media platforms. The desire to meet new people and unite around common interests is one many people have in common, hence the proliferation of virtual worlds. 

Let’s stick with MMOs as our example and take a closer look at how virtual worlds enhance collaboration regardless of where team members are located. The vast majority of online multiplayer games feature social elements that must be followed in order to advance the story. Banding together to defeat a strong enemy, for example, is common fare for MMOs. This often features a group of players, some of whom might have played together in the past and some of whom likely have not – collaborating to create a smart course of action that takes each other’s strengths into account. Other games, such as online casino games, require the same type of interaction and forethought. Communicating and thinking critically about everyone’s role in the venture are critical to success. 

If those actions sound familiar, that is likely because they are the commonly shared goals held by most businesses that emphasize collaboration. Working together with a thorough understand of, and appreciation for, each other’s abilities and ideas equals leads to creative thinking and high-quality output. Carefully constructed virtual worlds created with specific workplaces and workforces in mind present leaders with the potential to leverage the power of shared online experiences. As such, the remote workplace can become a benefit rather than a necessary evil.

The online workplace and modern teamwork

The evolution of digital technology has led to a steady change in the business landscape. Previously well-defined concepts such as ‘workplace’, a term generally used to refer to a brick-and-mortar space, have shifted to accommodate new ideas and new norms. While many industries were slow to accept the reality of digital innovation and its place in the modern office, the idea of online collaboration and the benefits it offers businesses in many different industries has quickly become a topic of conversation. 

This is where the idea of virtual worlds comes into play. The right design differs from business to business, but while some are looking into more detailed and avatar-driven creations, many organizations find a more traditional interface that offers employees everything they need to succeed in a familiar environment is a boon to productivity. This kind of virtual world is a bit less exciting than lands of fantasy and fancy filled with monsters to face. However, it encourages collaboration and determination nonetheless. 

When done well, remote workplaces and the virtual worlds that drive them as well as online collaboration save everyone involved time and money. Operating costs tend to decrease with fewer offices maintained, for example, and online work can eliminate the downtime employees might otherwise spend traveling from one meeting to another.

Embracing remote work might have been a decision made of sheer necessity as COVID-19 raged and individuals and organizations alike struggled to adapt, but the changes have opened new doors for businesses in a variety of different fields. The shift to online collaboration is likely here to stay as more companies invest in comprehensive online virtual world experiences for their workforces.