Virtual workspaces are the next big thing in virtual work

It will add a bit of spontaneity and togetherness to virtual work.
Ameya Paleja
A virtual business meeting.
A virtual business meeting.

EvgeniyShkolenko/iStock 

With the hurdle of online meetings crossed many times over, startups are now looking at solving the next piece of the problem regarding virtual working, the lack of team spirit. The answer is likely to be virtual office spaces that team members log into while working, Bloomberg reported.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and work was forced to go remote, services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams rose to the occasion to keep people connected and work ongoing. For many, work turned into a series of online meetings to be attended day after day.

What was amiss in them was the casual conversations that happened before the meetings or in the break room afterward, which brought a sense of togetherness and belonging among team members. Now, startups are looking to bring this into virtual work through virtual offices.

What is a virtual office?

Virtual offices are online spaces that people can log into when they are working, even though they do not have a scheduled meeting. It isn't anything like Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse-based vision of a futuristic office, where people float around in their avatars.

Instead, team members are present inside the space that they can customize to look like an office, which can include a conference room or even a kitchen if team members desire. The availability of other members of the team can be displayed with color codes and spontaneous conversations can happen by simply tapping on a member when available to talk.

Virtual office startups believe that giving employees the option to connect beyond online meetings will boost connectedness. If needed, an office dog could be added to the space, adding more personal touches to the area.

Why is it important?

When work turned remote during the pandemic, bosses feared productivity losses. However, the freedom to work from anywhere resulted in greater productivity, and many companies are turning to a hybrid working model.

However, employee engagement is lost. Studies have shown that connections between co-workers were lost for the first time in this decade due to the pandemic. Since informal communication outside of scheduled meetings contributes to team unity, a virtual office space can provide a platform that online meetings do not.

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The fact that meeting platforms do not engage users beyond the call duration is not lost on the likes of Zoom or Microsoft either. Last month, Microsoft launched Games for Work to help co-workers connect through play.

Zoom, on the other hand, wants to grow from being a meeting tool to becoming a business platform where users can stay online all day while using its email and calendar tools. But what it must do the most is rekindle the feeling of belonging seen in a physical office on its virtual platform, or else lose out to startups that are working toward this goal.

Businesses will be expected to pay fixed fees per-user-per-month in an attempt to keep their team members connected as we move into a new world where virtual work is rapidly becoming the norm.