Employers who encourage their staff to conduct business in virtual worlds such as Second Life are being advised that a dress code policy should be enforced before employees are let loose in cyberspace.
According to analysts at Gartner, 70% of companies will have set behaviour and dress code guidelines within the next five years.
The concept isn’t surprising, as you’d expect any employee representing a company to be issued with ground rules. However, the introduction of virtual world working brings with it a new set of challenges for managers, many of whom have already shown a lack of understanding and slowness to react to trends such as blogging and acceptable Internet use.
Having said that, if companies are official sanctioning their workers to form business relationships online, they are presumably forward thinking companies with an understanding of the risks and potential pitfalls.
If employees are acting unofficially, that’s a different matter. Many companies wouldn’t have the time or knowledge to monitor virtual worlds, particularly if employees are doing things in their own time at home.
Back to official presence, though. Gartner recommends that employees maintain two separate avatars — one for personal, non-work use and another for professional, company-related use.
Makes sense. After all, we generally have separate email addresses for personal and work purposes, and usually dress differently for work and leisure time.
Head of enterprise marketing at Linden Labs (creators of Second Life), Amanda Van Nuys, agrees.
If virtual work is to be taken seriously, then our avatars need to look — and act — as professional as we do in a physical workplace,” she blogged.