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November 1, 2022

Improve Teamwork with XR: The Water Cooler Effect in the Metaverse

Restore organic social interactions to remote and hybrid work when you create the space for unstructured conversations and interconnected relationships that go beyond scheduled meetings.
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The water cooler effect can be hard to replicate in controlled conditions. The phenomena refers to the improvements in teamwork and productivity that happen when colleagues have the chance to chat in unstructured ways. As soon as you try to create space for organic inspiration, you’ve killed the most important element—the actually organic part. 

Companies need the natural forces of camaraderie and innovation, though. We’re in an era when hybrid work is solving so many of the challenges of people operations. As we benefit from its newfound agility, it’s crucial we don’t lose the spark of authentic working relationships to a calendar of video calls.

Metaverse workspaces can help preserve the positives of remote and in-person days across every work day:

  • Establish a digital headquarters ahead of your competition.
  • Build cultures that become recognized as a great place to work.
  • Create productive and engaging remote and hybrid workspace.
  • Inspire natural interactions that lead to meaningful achievements.

Discover what it’s like to work in the Metaverse when you download Virbela Open Campus. You can visit on your own or with your team any time 24/7. If you’d like a tour, email sales@virbela.com.

Updating the Water Cooler Effect 

In the late 2000s, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research group quantified the water cooler effect. A contemporaneous article in Psychology Today explores how data was gathered and analyzed to discover that, in environments that usually thrive on structure, productivity increased by 4 to 15 percentage points based on casual networking on the job. The basis of the productivity gains was social cohesion or the idea of how connected your work friends are, how much they talk to each other, and how interconnected they are.

Most companies today realize the serendipitous interactions of real-life workplaces have tremendous benefits. Social engagement helps create cohesion. Additionally, employees may learn best about industry trends and opportunities alongside their peers.

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Spotlight: XR Evolution

A Gartner article reviews how the workplace may change in the next decade. Among its predictions, it says artificial intelligence will be a key component as companies embrace new combinations of people and technology, including software, smart machines, apps, and avatars.

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In the Metaverse, avatars help achieve the water cooler effect. There’s a sense of kinship that develops when employees are working individually and privately at home, but their avatars, tailored to reflect their personalities and interests, are in the same office with others. Avatars are self-selected representations of who you are. They’re how you get around the Metaverse, entering buildings, engaging in conversations, and creating a sense of space when you’re in groups. 

The persistence of the Metaverse helps, too. In Virbela, you have an always-on virtual world that anyone you permit can enter from anywhere with WiFi on a laptop or desktop. That kind of consistent presence can spark easy, fun moments together far more than any video call. Even if there’s no conversation, a sense of camaraderie begins to develop. You see people, you pass their offices, and share common areas. At any moment, anyone can talk to anyone they choose, extending into availability for impromptu meetings, collaboration, or social engagement.

Diversifying Team Experiences

If you want to create opportunities for your team to experience team-building, try some of the unique opportunities XR affords. For example, in Virbela, you can organize a scavenger hunt and bring in your employees from around the globe. In the real world, the expense of elaborate activities can be hard to justify. In the Metaverse, activities that allow organic team-building are cost-effective and much easier to organize. With XR as part of your strategy, you can set the stage for uniting teams and building a strong sense of community.

Another way to take advantage of the water cooler effect is to inject longer, structured meetings with unstructured breaks. For instance, during a multi-hour team meeting or remote group work session, people’s energy eventually starts to wane and distractions start to percolate. 

Virbela offers an expansive virtual campus with an array of experiences, from beach to museum, from office to outdoors. These options help everyone re-engage on their own terms. Take your team to the beach or a lounge club to infuse fresh energy and perspective. While you’re there, people can direct their own conversations before returning to the business at hand. 

Activities like these can help support social cohesion and the water cooler effect. With an ecosystem that is inclusive, transparent, and energizing, Virbela gives organizations a space to operate and create new workflows. Discover how you can transform your business culture and take advantage of what the Metaverse has to offer by connecting with sales@virbela.com.

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