The metaverse is an immersive virtual world where millions of people live, work, learn, shop, and interact with each other – all from the comfort of their couches in the physical world. The platform is often described to be similar to Roblox, but its use of real-world settings (augmented reality) makes it a more advanced social platform.
Over time, commercial businesses have started expanding their workspace into the metaverse to evolve how they collaborate with their employees, customers, and clients. For example:
It is evident that the metaverse provides great opportunities for businesses, but its lack of legal governance also creates risks that lawyers and businesses must consider, especially when it comes to employees and employment law.
In the metaverse, employees can be in control of their work lifestyle and work from where they feel most comfortable. As Linklaters explains, it can also reduce unconscious bias as employees will be working in the ‘same medium’. However, there are also some downsides, as we have recently seen in the news. For example, there have been increasing reports of harassment and inappropriate conduct in the metaverse involving employees.
It has been acknowledged that avatars do not operate by themselves and so we can expect its users to be held responsible for abusive behaviours and be subjected to standard disciplinary rules, however, the question is to what extent will they be held legally accountable? Whilst laws like the Equality Act 2010 protect employees against discrimination, there is a concern from researchers that this legal protection will not be as easily implemented in the metaverse. For example, with users being able to create avatars with any characteristics that they like, it is uncertain to what extent laws protecting the person also extend to the avatar. Therefore, employers must ensure to implement a ‘safe-space’ model and monitor misconduct.
There are also many health and safety concerns surrounding employees working in the metaverse. Longer virtual usage time can cause issues like (increased) fatigue, back pain, poorer eyesight, etc. There are also mental health concerns to consider: for example, working in the metaverse void of in-person human connections could exacerbate feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc (already associated with hybrid-working). Moreover, working from the comfort of a home desk could cause a lack of separation of home and work life for employees and cause them to feel obligated to be connected every waking moment – even resulting in addiction. Therefore, it is also important for businesses to react to the lack of legal frameworks with proactivity and empathy and create policies that protect its employees against these issues.
Find out more about key AI applications you need to understand.
To conclude, in order to successfully integrate their operations within the metaverse, commercial businesses must first identify the risks associated with it and implement frameworks, action plans and policies, to mitigate these risks.
One of the most affected groups will undoubtedly be employees and it is crucial that they are empowered and protected to ensure the success of any company’s digital transformation plan(s). There is much opportunity for law firms to lead the way with this and provide their clients with impactful and accurate guidance. For law firms, (and commercial businesses), this means developing a deep expertise in this growing market and staying on top of new developments/disruptions as time goes on.
These are the kinds of questions you could be asked about the metaverse to test your commercial awareness:
Learn more about how technology is being used in the commercial world.
By Precious Odunaiya
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