Have a drink with your fellow avatars in a virtual office, café or marketplace? It is perhaps the second best solution after that real drink, says Laurens Kok, head of sales at the Breda software company Xuver. “Our brain can’t distinguish between real and virtual,” he says. If you’re on a 3D roller coaster, you might as well get that upturned stomach.
Drinks, presentations, meetings, it’s all possible in that virtual world, the metaverse. Everyone has their own avatar, who walks around, talks to others, does assignments or watches presentations. It is a growing branch of sport, says Kok. Facebook might be the biggest believer: the company even recently changed its name to Meta.
Xuver and competitors make the software needed in that virtual world. For example, the company designed an online clubhouse for the Belgian web store organization SafeShops. But companies can also easily get started themselves, he says. “And you can participate from just about any computer.”
Companies that take out a subscription, for just under 1000 euros per year, get access to a library with formats, from cafe to open-plan office. You have recently also found a Christmas room there, because there is a lot of search for alternatives for the annual drink or Christmas greeting, says the entrepreneur.
Marketing company Spotler creates a virtual Christmas event for customers and partners. An invitation will be sent out shortly. In these times of distance, the company was looking for a ‘personal touch’, says employee Yvonne Rosheuvel. People can see a Christmas greeting, visit stands and chat with employees. “It’s a perk that fits this time.”
Since the pandemic, the enthusiasm for coming together in virtual worlds has increased, says Benjamin de Jager, co-owner of Mibo. His software company also makes these worlds, for clients such as Nike, Google and Netflix. “A tropical island, for example, or a forest.” You look around with your mouse and you can walk with the keys.
Also in the Christmas atmosphere, because there will be virtual busy drinks in the near future, the entrepreneur knows. Situations arise as in real life: groups of people chatting or playing games. “I won’t say it’s better than having a beer together, but this is close.”
The more interactive, the better, says organizational psychologist and professor Aukje Nauta of Leiden University about our digital meetings. In that respect, metaverse is a good addition. “But we also just have to acknowledge: it’s not going to be as nice as in real life. We want to smell, feel and cuddle.”
If you want to keep it intimate online, the groups should not be larger than six. “You have to ensure that everyone can contribute,” says Nauta. A drink with personal photos and stories, for example, or one where one colleague sings and the other plays the piano. Even better: try to arrange something physical. “A walk in small groups.”
Via Zoom, Skype or in another world, a tour shows that again this year many companies are doing their best to make the holidays something cozy anyway. CEOs that video cook for their staff, teams that do pub quizzes and drink boxes that are delivered. The effort is good, says Nauta. “It’s cool that companies are trying so much.”