Create dress codes for online avatars, says Gartner

Professionalism still matters, even in Second Life


Second LifeDon't get too attached to that avatar of a punk rock angel you spent five hours designing in Second Life. According to Gartner, if you think you'll be doing work related tasks in virtual worlds in the coming years, chances are your employer is going to establish dress codes that governs how the avatar looks and behaves - and halo wearing flying rockers just won't cut it.

The research firm says by the end of 2013, "70 percent of enterprises will have behavior guidelines and dress codes established for all employees who have avatars associated with the enterprise inside a virtual environment."

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has spent time in virtual worlds. The socialising and personalisation options, coupled with the fact that users can "play" practically any role they want while disguising their true identities, gives rise to the possibility of awkward scenes in product sims and in-world meetings. How might such scenes play out? Futurist Mike Lorrey noted that in-world professionalism is important to corporate clients, who may be worried about "the oddballs in the office showing up as dragons, fairys, or in other wear that wouldn't be acceptable even on casual friday in a real office."

We've already seen corporate conduct policies drawn up by early adopters, such as IBM. If Gartner is right, such documents will become far more commonplace over the next four years, at least among those companies that use virtual worlds.

Gartner had some other virtual world recommendations, ranging from educating employees to launching pilot projects. We also noted this:

"Justifying avatar use in a business setting is becoming easier, in part because avatar use is gaining wider acceptance. Training and virtual meetings are the top use cases, and one of the main reasons for the increased use of avatars is cost."