Professionalism doesn’t end after leaving the cubicle; in fact, it doesn’t even end in reality. According to market research firm Gartner, 70% of enterprises will have established policies for employee behavior in virtual worlds by the end of 2013, including dress codes for avatars. The origination of “avatar” came from the Hindu culture, meaning a deliberate descent from higher spiritual realms to lower realms of existence – otherwise known as “incarnation”. The more recent use of the word, however, represents a visual representation of an individual in a virtual or 3-D Internet environment.
Avatars With & Without a Dress Code
At first avatars were primarily used in the gaming industry, but with web and video interaction becoming more prevalent in the business world (especially with travel budgets being cut),
avatars are now being used much more in the business sector. With a virtual dress code going from the casual to the professional realm naturally naturally leads to discussion on the dress code. Gartner released the study “Avatars in the Enterprise: Six Guidelines to Enable Success” on how to address avatars in a professional environment. Highlights include the following:
- Let users “own” their avatar and use it to express their personality. At the same time, Gartner recommends a dress code for doing company business online.
- Educate users on reputation management — this is where having separate avatars for business and personal use comes in.
- Extend conduct guidelines for blogging and social media that may already be in place to cover avatars as well.
- Make sure to exploit the business uses of avatars, such as for training or holding virtual meetings.
- Encourage early adopters to use avatars for trial purposes, such as for online meetings.
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95. Second Life Girl: Second Life—a 3-D virtual world that’s imagined, created, and owned by its online residents—was launched in 2003 and now boasts nearly five million inhabitants around the globe.
In a world going more digital, it isn’t a surprise that standard business practices also have to straddle the realm between reality and virtuality. Now the dress codes are inevitably following.