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March 30, 2022

At Hands In, a New Virtual World Shows the Future of Remote Work

Virbela’s first-ever user conference gathered futurists and corporate leaders already leveraging the Metaverse in a brand-new virtual campus. Here’s what it was like.
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Virbela’s first-ever user conference, Hands In, gathered over a thousand attendees to engage with futurists and corporate leaders to discuss the rapid shifts in remote work and learning.

How exactly we connect at work has been one of the greatest challenges companies have faced in the past few years. With the reveal of a new virtual campus, Virbela can solve common workplace pitfalls and help companies gain a wide competitive advantage in their industries.

During our half-day conference, we featured a keynote session with product announcements, two expert panels, multiple workshops led by companies already working in the Metaverse, and tons of community experiences in virtual galleries, outdoor scenes, and social spots. 

Read on for the recap or watch the livestream of Hands In 2022.

A New Work Space for a New Work Culture

Throughout the day’s scheduled events, Hands In attendees had the chance to take tours or freely explore the reveal of the new Virbela campus. 

This was the first look at a fully redesigned environment where enterprise companies can set up operations, perform work every day, and build community with outreach, recruiting, or client events.

As companies create more customized workflows and schedules, the need for a gathering point has evolved, too. The new Virbela campus feels like going to work in a modern city, but staff can access it from anywhere in the world. 

The flexibility of virtual offices replaces the expenses and climate impact of physical corporate real estate, but still lets companies collaborate in teams and across departments. The always-on nature of a Virbela campus gives staff the freedom to achieve their objectives in a streamlined, balanced way. 

Daily office attendance is a relic of outdated values–or, worse, a total pass for the brightest talent in the job market, leaving companies struggling to innovate with their markets.

As widespread remote work enters its third year, people are getting used to its signatures—namely, the thread of video calls that shape the average week. 

It’s been a cultural revolution, for sure, but in the rapidity of the shift, some companies struggle to restore collaboration in larger groups, create transparency across teams, and offer access to leadership.

The new Virbela campus overcomes these challenges by providing easy access to a tech-enabled office environment that surpasses the functionality and returns of typical real estate.

New Product Introductions

At the Hands In keynote, Virbela Co-Founder & President Alex Howland shared his vision for the future of remote work in the Virbela campus, highlighting the ways in which companies can smooth adoption by focusing on engagement.

Following his presentation of how Virbela parent company eXp Realty uses the platform to operate and scale globally, others from the Virbela team shared new product introductions, including an avatar redesign and Zoom integration.

With new avatars, anyone can design a look that expresses who they truly are. Billions of appearance combinations allow for greater reflection of diversity and include more people than any other enterprise Metaverse.

Combined with an upcoming Zoom integration, companies will be able to foster communication seamlessly across platforms and use additional everyday tools to enhance collaboration.

Diversity and Equity in the Metaverse

The Diversity and Equity in the Metaverse feature panel showcased the insights of corporate leaders on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Led by moderator Sarah Segrest of Octosmos, speakers included Lilac Ilan, AVP, Innovation and Partner Ecosystem at AT&T; Mitra Best, Partner & Tech Impact Leader at PwC; and Courtney Chakarun, CMO at eXp World Holdings.

Discussion centered on the potential to rebuild structures around equity at work. As virtual workplaces grow, outdated and biased practices around diversity and inclusion can be left in the past. 

This important shift requires companies to develop new frameworks for pay equality, promotion paths, and inclusive innovations. Developing these structures during transitions to virtual workplaces remains crucial to business growth and expansion. 

The Future of Work

The main afternoon panel featured virtual world pioneers in The Future of Work in the Metaverse. Speakers included Alex Howland, Co-Founder & President at Virbela; Philip Rosedale, Founder at Second Life and High Fidelity; and Kristie Grinnell, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at DXC Technology, moderated by Forbes tech columnist Charlie Fink.

As part of this discussion, speakers addressed the adoption opportunities and challenges of the Metaverse, noting its broad application across industries and verticals. 

With the advent of work and community spaces, leaders expect to see growing value around building brand and individual identities in the Metaverse, including opportunities in technology, retail, education, and professional services, like banking and insurance.

Workshops for Virtual Worlds

Bringing the thought leadership of panelists down to the use case level, a series of workshops invited Hands In attendees to explore how they might operate in the Metaverse.

Led by companies already achieving their goals in Virbela, these workshops were smaller and more focused conversations on engagement, best practices, and real-world value propositions.

At “How Can We Create Memorable Moments at Events in the Metaverse?,” Fujitsu’s Emma Chatwin, Head of Marketing, and Kevin Collins, Head of Partner Discovery & Partner Management, shared how to inspire engagement that mirrors the meaningful takeaways of physical events. 

eXp Realty EVP, People Mike Vein and SVP, Agent Development Kirtus Dixon revealed their approach to creating virtual workplaces staff love at “Building a ‘Best Places to Work’ in the Metaverse.”

During “L&D in the Workplace of the Future,” Wavemakers Head of Post-Secondary Institution and Student Engagement Emily Hartman and Head of Employer Partnerships Jack Litchfield were joined by Singularity University faculty Aaron Frank, discussing how to develop learning programs that prepare students for career objectives.

For organizations interested in large fundraising goals, Global Relay for Life Strategic Director Matt Lewis shared his experiences building massive communities as part of his work for American Cancer Society.

Community and Art Experiences 

Since Virbela offers expansive spaces that feel like real-world environments, art and community were at the forefront of the event.

At the center of the campus, Hands In celebrated Women’s History Month with a Diversity Promenade, a tree-lined avenue with exhibits showcasing women’s contributions to technology across the decades. Attendees popped in and out of exhibits just like they would during a neighborhood art walk.

An art gallery with NFTs and AR exhibits displayed the emotional artwork of acclaimed digital artist and art professor Trish Gianakis, lending a big art fair feel to the event.

At closing, Hands In concluded with a celebration of Virbela’s 10th anniversary in the Speakeasy, a club and lounge space featuring live DJ Jeremy Sole. If you’ve never danced in virtual reality, it’s worth jumping on the dance floor. You’ve got moves you might not have in real life.

See the new Virbela campus and watch as attendees and speakers connect during a livestream of Hands In 2022. For more on how to get started in Virbela, email sales@virbela.com.

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