Remote work can’t be fixed by the metaverse

The Nice Resignation is right here, and it’ll take greater than a digital watercooler in the metaverse to repair it. At the begin of the pandemic, executives shortly thought-about easy methods to change the ubiquitous watercooler. With places of work closing down, we shifted into speedy movement, involved about how to make sure our workers and prospects had alternatives to convene casually and keep a way of neighborhood. We had been satisfied it was the serendipitous watercooler conversations that mattered. 

We had been incorrect.

Stylish digital areas in the rising metaverse from a seemingly endless checklist of newly funded corporations did not create the human connections individuals yearned for. It was the sense of objective that was lacking—and we’re nonetheless working to reestablish that in an efficient manner.


As staff clicked from one Zoom assembly to a different, the Great Resignation began. And as the pandemic continues to churn, worker burnout charges have reached an all-time excessive

It’s now clear digital areas, which try and mimic actuality, or the whimsical video digital camera filters, which search to distract and entertain, will not be the options to isolation and burnout. These improvements additionally failed to resolve the childcare challenges thousands and thousands of individuals confronted every day on account of the pandemic.

Organizations tried—with restricted success—to counter the rising drawback by investing in meditation purposes and different sources. However burnout occurs because of a number of factors similar to lack of management, unclear expectations, lack of social assist, and a distorted work-life stability.  The true, unmet wants of staff embody belonging, security and a way of objective.

Belonging is a necessity that every one people have with a view to thrive, as Maslow described in his seminal work Hierarchy of Needs.  To fulfill this have to belong, researchers counsel individuals have to not solely have constructive interactions with others, however they require significant interactions that aren’t random and happen as a part of long-term steady relationships. (The other of the informal watercooler chat!)

Firms like Airbnb successfully tapped into this psychological motivator years in the past with their tagline “belong wherever.”  As a younger firm, the founders might have targeted  on a “discover a good place to remain” tagline, however their mission of belonging appealed to individuals who wished extra than simply one other in a single day keep at a Hilton or Marriott.  They genuinely appealed to the human want to slot in, belong, and be half of a bigger neighborhood of visitors and hosts. 

Immediately, as people proceed on the treadmill to burnout and isolation, corporations would be higher served by contemplating how individuals come collectively in significant methods, quite than solely specializing in the nuts and bolts of digital area, or particular person remedy or meditation purposes.

In an earlier op-ed, I wrote about the alternative that the pandemic-induced lockdown may create to extend consciousness of the significance of versatile work, and the way a shift to a extra versatile mannequin might improve the management alternatives that girls, particularly, might need in the office. A versatile work surroundings, nonetheless, shouldn’t be confused with a digital work surroundings. 


As Gartner, the world’s main analysis and advisory firm not too long ago famous, organizations ought to truly take into account shifting from a “location-centric” tradition to a “human-centered” tradition. By solely replicating the bodily world and offering individualized options to fight burnout, corporations might have truly made the drawback of isolation and burnout worse. The answer lies with creating objective.

Creating objective and constructing a real sense of neighborhood are each important to lowering burnout and unlocking stronger worker engagement in work environments, which can possible proceed to be digital in the years to return.

Ten months in the past, I began engaged on a brand new firm.  Our mission is easy: Create higher methods for individuals to return collectively to develop. We wish to assist individuals transfer past perceived limitations, and discover what’s potential for themselves and others.

In our preliminary analysis, we seemed intently at group gatherings, together with teaching periods, group remedy, and even Alcoholics Nameless, the place it’s clear that fellowship helps extra individuals obtain sobriety than remedy does. In all of those practices, the intention is to convey individuals with completely different views and backgrounds collectively to realize particular person or widespread targets. 

Organizations similar to Vistage, YPO, and Techstars, the place I used to be a GM, have all sought to resolve for a few of the loneliness and burnout which comes with serving as a CEO or a startup founder by creating alternatives for cohort-based gatherings with peer assist and training.  In a cohort mannequin, people with comparable experiences and targets, are gathered in small teams to take part in a shared expertise. Via widespread actions, they acknowledge that their challenges, which can really feel distinctive, are literally widespread amongst friends. At Techstars, founders not solely take part in an unique peer program, however they change into a part of one thing bigger—a community that permits them to proceed to attach and belong over time. The mannequin has been confirmed efficient with a a lot increased success charge for startups that take part in the program.

In profitable group gatherings, one other element that creates a way of objective is the use of formality. Rituals convey individuals collectively, create bonds, promote a way of well-being and belonging, and scale back loneliness, as anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas described lengthy earlier than COVID.

In accelerators, efficient rituals may embody a Friday KPI assembly and Wednesday dinner, in agile growth, rituals might embody a every day standup assembly and bi-weekly retrospective, and in Alcoholics Nameless efficient rituals typically embody mirroring strategies with widespread phrases like “go it on.” 

All of those rituals present individuals with a powerful understanding of what to anticipate subsequent, and we all know that when uncertainty for people is lowered, well-being will increase.

As organizations face the want to take care of a shift to digital, contemplating methods to nearly assist intentional group engagement and the introduction of every day rituals for consistency and belonging, will do extra to scale back burnout at scale, whereas constructing neighborhood, creating a way of objective, and rising studying and growth.

Whereas the Nice Resignation is barely getting worse, corporations that look past enjoyable workplace perks and stylish digital areas to really maintain individuals engaged nearly in a significant manner may have considerably higher possibilities of overcoming the odds.  And with the traces between dwelling and work without end blurred, making certain workers have an efficient method to pursue each skilled and private growth is crucial. The way forward for work doesn’t have to be bleak, even when it stays digital.

Claudia Reuter is the creator of Yes, You Can Do This! How Women Start Up, Scale Up and Build the Life They Want, creator of the podcast The 43 Percent, and is at present CEO of a brand new firm targeted on the way forward for work which is in pre-launch mode and supported by High Alpha