Will you meet me in the metaverse?
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This week I finally managed to rearrange the To Be Read (TBR) stack on my desk. Somehow, a rickety stack of business books doesn’t quite capture the imagination like people bragging about their bedside table full of sophisticated fiction on social media, but I’m a fan of the workplace book. Some of these are brilliantly written and far better than many of the pompous novels I sift through.
Many of the best titles I’ve read are shortlisted for the annual FT Business Book of the Year awards (bad blood And realm of pain come to mind). The 2023 award is now open for entries.
What are your favorite business books? Can you recommend something from my stack? Let me know.
Read on for what happens in the almost-forgotten metaverse of the workplace where there are no stacks of books (or other reading material), and in the Office Therapy column I offer advice to a reader whose new employee is unhappy at work.
Contact us: Please send your book recommendations and ideas for Working It podcasts and newsletters to email@example.com. Or you can privately DM me on LinkedIn.
Meeting in the Metaverse: Yes, still one thing 🍿
Mention “the metaverse” and anyone cool will think, “You’re so 2021.” Because that was the year Facebook rebranded to Meta and everyone’s kids were tied to it Fourteen days.
We heard a lot back then about the potential of the Metaverse — “a three-dimensional version of the Internet,” as Tim Bradshaw, the FT’s global technology correspondent, describes it — to revolutionize the way we connect with colleagues in a remote or hybrid environment -Environment meet working world.
In the metaverse, our avatars can move, chat, gather in forest glades, around a campfire – or in an exact replica of an auditorium. The latter was actually where I attended my first Metaverse meeting last week.
Two years after the hype, I was curious to see how reality would develop. I donned Meta’s Quest headset and participated in a virtual “fireside chat” about VR and the work I lead charter, a media and events company. (This may be heresy, but I signed up because Charter puts out a great workplace newsletter.) The hour-long meeting was preceded by an in-person onboarding to get us up and running.
How was it? Here’s my reaction immediately after the event in authentic Stream of Constance format.
It was a mixed, odd situation, but what I didn’t know is that you have to be fully present – you can’t read email – and you’re not allowed to take notes etc, so it can be quite frustrating. On a positive note there were people from all over the world and it felt very intense and I paid attention to what was being said.
It’s very hard to move around with the controls, but it’s probably like driving. I’m not good at that either. The main thing was that I wasn’t the worst.
The charter event took place in a virtual meeting environment called Gatherings, operated by Mesmerise, a UK-based VR company. I asked Mesmerise co-founder Andrew Hawken for examples of what his teams are now doing for business clients. He points to an immersive experience for 100 bank interns in different cities that allowed them to “meet and network with colleagues and leaders,” as well as training medical students using a 3D model of a human heart.
How does the Financial Times’ Tim Bradshaw see the future of the metaverse in the workplace? He reminds me that Meta is still investing and highlights other pipeline developments: “Google’s Project Starline is a high-fidelity telepresence system that uses 3D cameras and screens to create a more immersive, real-world feel — like Zoom, but with holograms.” This will delight the heart of anyone who loves it star trek‘s holodecks 🖖
What sticks in my mind in the 21st century is the total immersion that a 3D meeting requires. you have to listen You can’t multitask by turning off the camera to do the laundry, you can’t attend to the eight other tasks you have open on your desktop, or you can’t continue with emails while other people talk to you .
The metaverse will cause a lot of extra work.
The problem: I hired a young colleague for the company and he has proven to be very capable. They are very dissatisfied with their role because of their manager’s approach. This person is a micro manager and not supportive etc. I know this manager and see little prospect of change. I am afraid that we will lose our new colleague. I encouraged my colleague to talk to his department manager and maybe request an internal move. What else can I do besides moral support?
Isabel says: A tricky one, because you can’t change any of it. Your idea is a good one though – internal relocations are often an elegant solution to managerial problems, although it’s annoying that your capable new hire has to move while the bad boss stays in place.
If this makes you angry, go to the HR manager or a key boss and tell them what’s going on. Or a subversive tactic would be to talk to others about the bad boss’s corrosive effects. If you are a smoker (old school) or belong to a larger social group at work, all the better. “Horizontal networks” of colleagues in different departments are very effective disseminators of information. It will come back.
I got a second opinion from workplace consultant and FT editor Michael Skapinker. “Maybe you think together about why the difficult manager is like that. Are they under pressure from above?” Michael emphasizes, “Difficult bosses are common and learning how to deal with them is one of the crucial but under-discussed organizational skills.”
If things don’t improve, we both agree that you are better off leaving your employee. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. (Plus, they owe you a drink — if only everyone had such considerate co-workers.)
Have a question, problem, or dilemma for Office Therapy? Do you think you have better advice for our readers? Send me: firstname.lastname@example.org. We anonymize everything. Your boss, colleague or subordinates will never know.
This week on the Working It Podcast
Have you ever felt “invisible” at work and all your efforts went unrewarded? 🤔 This week’s podcast, I’m talking to two experts on confidence and personal branding (don’t worry, you don’t have to call it that) and learning How to start getting noticed without going viral on social media.
Aliza Licht is the author of On brand, a book about building confidence in your career, and Viv Grooskop is a writer, stand-up comedian, and regular FT contributor. (Vivs Article about the difference between professional reputation and personal branding was the inspiration behind the idea for this episode).
5 top stories from the world of work
Big law firms are going out of style with Gen Z. A new US survey suggests that aspiring lawyers are turning away from the long hours culture that’s norm in big law firms. Only 40 percent of the young cohort said they would like to join one of the top 200 companies. Just three years ago it was 60 percent.
Work and weekend wardrobe: do we need borders? The lasting impact of the pandemic could be blurring our work and home wardrobes, says the FT’s Emma Jacobs in a post that also earns us the excellent phrase “The Great Slobification.”
The loneliness epidemic threatens both our health and our happiness. The US surgeon general has warned the country faces major loneliness problems. Science commentator Anjana Ahuja examines the effects that can shorten life.
The unstoppable advance of the acronym: Pilita Clark has an email folder where she keeps the “Acronyms Gone Mad,” which posts about impenetrable job titles and industries. (“CSI Appoints FSI Veteran Linda Fischer as COO and Appoints New CRO, CPO and SVPs.”) Why is this nonsense on the rise?
Would it be unwise to leave my well paying job to pursue a career in film? Jonathan Black, who writes the FT’s popular career advice column, faces an unusual dilemma. But one that many people dream of.
Just one thing: I have read The Good Enough Job: Getting Life Back From Work by Simone Stolzoff, which will be published next week. If you’re struggling with the oversized place work takes up in your life—and how much of your identity it takes up, then this refreshingly different book is a good place to start.
Where I work
Working It reader Vuk Radojevic Vukovic sends us his thoughts in London. “I love the vibrant and bright greenery as well as the occasional squirrel friends zigzagging across the patio. It all helps me stay grounded and grateful in my mostly digital everyday life.”
We are very happy about the photos of your desks and the views from your workplaces. Please keep coming and let us know why you like working there – then we will publish our favourites.
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