Apr 29, 2022 - Technology

Welcome to the virtual staff retreat

Illustration of a laptop with a party hat surrounded by confetti.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The future of company bonding includes golfing, escape rooms and scavenger hunts — all attended from your home office.

Why it matters: Distributed work is giving rise to new ways of connecting with colleagues.

  • These innovations are attracting venture dollars and Fortune 500 clients — and could take a bite out of the vast hospitality and transportation industry that powers corporate retreats and conferences.

What's happening: A slew of big companies are onboarding new employees — and fostering connection between existing ones — in the metaverse.

  • Accenture bought 60,000 virtual reality headsets from Meta for its workforce, the Wall Street Journal writes. Now it holds part of its orientation for new hires in the virtual world.
  • Mural, a tech company that has employees on different continents, brings workers together over virtual mini golf games, even if they've never met in person, per the Journal.
  • Remio, which just raised millions in venture funding, is one of the startups devoted to this new trend in the working world. It builds VR bonding experiences and has worked with companies like Google, Netflix and HubSpot, Venture Beat reports.

The big picture: America's corporate event market is worth $100 billion and includes event halls, hotels and transportation.

  • But if more in-person gatherings, like company retreats or even conferences and conventions, move to the metaverse, those dollars could be redirected from hospitality and transportation to VR and supporting tech.

Yes, but: There are skeptics.

  • VR headsets are still quite clunky and expensive. And wearing them for long periods of time can lead to the same sort of fatigue we get from extended time on Zoom, the WSJ notes.
  • Many company leaders think in-person events are even more important now that workforces are distributed. The metaverse can't replace the experience of socializing live, they say — at least not yet.
  • And when it comes to conferences and conventions, many of those are demonstrating or showing off new tech or products that are best experienced in person.

What to watch: We're not there yet, but startups and big companies alike see a happy marriage between remote work and the metaverse.

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