Using the Metaverse for Managing Remote & Hybrid Teams: Interview with Erin McDannald, CEO at Lighting Environments (Video & Podcast)

In this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky speaks to Erin McDannald, CEO at Lighting Environments, about using the metaverse for managing remote and hybrid teams.


Video: “Interview with Erin McDannald, CEO at Lighting Environments”



Podcast: “Interview with Erin McDannald, CEO at Lighting Environments”



Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


Gleb Tsipursky  0:02  

Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the wise decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. My name is Dr. Gleb Tsipursky. I’m the CEO of disaster avoidance experts, the future of work consultancy that sponsors the wise decision maker show. And I’m here with Erin McDannald, the CEO of Lighting Environments, which focuses on addressing lightning, but she’ll tell us the details. But before getting into the details of what she does, she has a really interesting story to tell us about transitioning to remote work and the metaverse. So the first question I want to ask you is , what made you decide to deploy the metaverse as a technique to address remote work challenges in your company?


Erin McDannald  0:48  

Thank you. There were a number of things that kind of pushed me into that direction I saw. I was observing my children during the pandemic. And they were very engaged in their 3d environments. But they were not engaged in zoos. And I started to ask why because I was feeling the same way. And so I went into Roblox with them to see if I was engaged and I became engaged in those environments, too. And in return, I started thinking about the fact that I could not see my team and had a desire to restore the sight of being able to see them. That was the most sensory thing that I was desperate to have because the 2d environments did not translate to me. So I started thinking about the metaverse as an option for our business, we also had a hard time selling digitally, and I needed to restore a way to sell digitally. So.


Gleb Tsipursky  1:48  

Okay, so that was about seeing and having many more senses engaged. That’s what I’m hearing you talk about? That’s correct. It’s fascinating that you followed your kids into Roblox. So how did you decide to do that? You just decided that they were checking out Roblox, you decided to see what it would be like for you. Yeah. And I also noticed that the value of their digital, the value they place on a digital interaction social, a social digital interaction was different than that of an older person. When somebody of an older generation thinks about a digital interaction, they almost devalue it as if it didn’t have as much meaning because it happened digitally. Were in a younger, younger environment, they didn’t seem to know the younger generations didn’t seem to notice the difference. And so I thought, that’s definitely the direction we’re going. And it’s a more humane user interface than the previous user interfaces that we’ve worked with before.


Erin McDannald  2:56  

And it’s mature, what did your employees find when you started making this change? I certainly saw your kids value your digital interaction, much more adults who your employees happen to be, tend to value it less. How did they start engaging with it? It was if the if the employee was a digital native, they were open to the possibility if they were not a digital native, we had to get creative, to get different ways to get them to engage in the metaverse so that you know you can we have a digital twin of our office and we have the Psychological Association, digital twin or office, both the same and in collaboration and interaction. And the older generations felt less comfortable with that interaction. And so we started to build in sales tools for them to use in the metaverse and they became more open to it. So meeting them at a different place and level was, and kind of walking them into it slowly, has been really important in the onboarding of this digital transformation for us.


Gleb Tsipursky  4:09  

And so it sounds like it’s some investments into this into the backend technology. Tell me a little bit more about the investments that you made. What kind of investments were they? What did you build out? Well, we own a lighting company, I own an IoT integration company, and we own a software company and we did. Our specialty was n’t intelligent buildings prior to this, and so we were always interested in a 3d interface. So we took our 3d digital twin and we put it in a gaming environment and we put people in it. We hired programmers, so we have our own programmers to do this.


Erin McDannald  4:55  

And we have people that can employ these digital moldings as part of our regular business. So it just seemed like a perfect extension to what we already did.


Gleb Tsipursky  5:08  

So let’s put a little bit more into your background so that we understand how you came to this place. You came here with certain tools, you have three companies. Tell me a little bit more about your background, as an entrepreneur, as a founder, how you came to this place.


Unknown Speaker  5:24  

My father was an architect, and I was an interior designer. I became interested in lighting because it was more technical in nature. And I, you know, I’ve sold lighting for 20 years, as I went through my career and moved up the ladder and eventually became an owner of a company. And then we scaled that company horizontally. And now we’re working on vertical scaling. Yeah, so go ahead.


Gleb Tsipursky  6:00  



So how did your experience building out the companies to come into the place where you are inform the transition that you’re making right now, in your company to the reverse? Would you call the workplace of the future?


Erin McDannald  6:39  

Well, I think it goes down to the way I view the world from a spatial intelligence perspective. And I think that’s applied in, you know, running, running businesses. But I think it can also be applied in how we communicate and how we interface with our digital environments. So I think I’m always thinking spatially, and I think that’s the one common denominator . Obviously, I’m very motivated and feel like we have as a company some skills to offer the world to be able to put these things together. And we’re kind of fighting the market to see if anyone is going to do it. We thought, well, we know how to do it. We know how to work in these 3d interfaces. We do it for building controls all the time. It’s just a matter of putting people in. So that’s what we set out to do. Yeah.


Gleb Tsipursky  7:43  

What kind of ROI Return on Investment Are you discovering, now that you’re building out and getting your team to collaborate in the metaverse context?


Erin McDannald  7:53  

we’re able to capture the return on investment in a number of different ways. And I find it to be very similar in the way that real estate captures their investment. The first one is, through our building controls we were able to make more spatially data driven decisions. And, for instance, to give you an example, we were looking at the usage of our space in the back where we hold all our samples. And I noticed that there were several rows that hadn’t been visited in a year. And we found that through our building controls through our 3d interface, and I realized that those samples hadn’t been brought out. Therefore, we’re not really selling those particular lines of lighting. So we’re making better decisions and actionable insights through that. We think that it increases the value of our business because we’re attracting, getting more partners to come and work with more clients to work with us. We see a big marketing advantage in it in a sense that we can create experiences for our clients to be able to experience in our lighting business, those lights so we created a park and we have outdoor all of our outdoor lights in this park and you can experience them and walk through this park with this baton and learn about the lights and experience what it’s like put the light on or with the sun out or with the sun down. So that’s been interesting and even creating games within those parks so that you can kind of create more memory tagging, when you’re having these marketing experiences with their clients and you know, the the differences, all of a sudden you can hear the birds and your feet crunching underneath when you walk and those things add to the experience and I think it’s I think it’s often overlooked. Yeah. And I think that it really helps us from the touch points or the collaboration points. It’s very convenient to walk up to somebody in the metaverse when you’re just kind of hanging out and ask a quick question. And I dream of someday being able to get rid of my email inbox, because it can be a little intimidating at times. But to think about rather than having an email inbox with people that are really walking up to you in the metaverse and asking questions, real time, it makes it so much more convenient. And it doesn’t recapture all of the collaboration points pre pandemic of having people in the office, but it’s better than the standard hybrid model we’re working in now. Much better.


Gleb Tsipursky  10:57  

So we talked quite a bit about clients earlier, you mentioned sales for your more or less digitally native stuff. Tell me a little bit more about how this impacts more specifically the sales dynamics for you? 


Erin McDannald  11:10  

Yeah, well, we’re really excited about emotional tagging. So this is, you know, just being able to just give those experiences we sell lights and my main business is building controls. And to be able to have this experiential sales. We’re up against a lot of other people in our marketplace that sell similar lights to us. So anything to get the client to help us to remember or to help them to remember us when they’re thinking about lights is really important. So we’re pretty well, but that also plays into our building controls portion of our business because we’ve connected our building controls to that Metaverse, and we’re illustrating what’s happening to those controls in the metaverse too. So there’s a lot of connection. What’s interesting about what happens when you put a digital twin into the metaverse is that every department on your p&l sheet wants a piece of the metaverse for one reason or another whether it’s HR and sales and marketing. They all want customer service. And they want a customer service counter to be available to their clients immediately, and then create a memorable experience at the same time. It’s been a great journey, developing this with them. And my team.


Gleb Tsipursky  12:39  

How do you think it impacted your retention and recruitment? 


Erin McDannald  12:43  

Well, I think it impacted it in a very positive way. Our turnover has been very low. It’s 3%. Yeah, so we’re excited about that. And I am also excited about the fact that I don’t have any intention of not having a hybrid workplace. In 2020, we decided that the world was here and was going to stay the same way that it was and then we started planning for a hybrid workplace. So this is sort of the culmination of what this has become. So if we were really excited to be able to be home with our families, and to integrate work in this different way in our lives. So we plan to stay that way. And I’m happy to take all the employees and programmers that are forced to go back to the office and don’t want to stay with their other employers. Yeah, it’s it, I think it’ll definitely give us a competitive advantage.


Gleb Tsipursky  13:52  

That’s what my clients are finding in helping transition to the future of work with hybrid work. That gives flexibility allowing some employees at least to work fully remotely. Others who want to do well to work full remotely could do well to come in day a week, something like that. That definitely helps retention and recruitment. So that’s definitely important. But it’s also important to figure out new systems and processes to collaborate effectively together. Tell me a little bit more. And then my clients have been working on that. And I’ve been helping them out and curious what you’re doing with your innovative approach to the metaverse. How are you changing your systems and processes to account for this transition?


Erin McDannald  14:33  

Um, well, we’re, we’re trying to create more rituals in our weeks. So I think ritual is a big part of a success at a remote hybrid workplace. So coffee catches up in the metaverse. I think the element of play and joy comes. It’s a really important part of this. And it was actually a surprise to me how much I enjoyed playing. We’re, we’re, we’re a part of this metaverse workplace. So we’re now incorporating her function into it in a sense that we can celebrate employees through the metaverse and acknowledge the fact that they’ve had a certain number of years with the company. Let people know, especially the newer people that there are mentors available to them. And then we have set collaboration hours. And that’s, I don’t imagine that to be a policy forever. But as we’re all getting used to this new platform and getting more comfortable with the new policies and procedures, we need to have set hours so we have set collaboration hours interdepartmentally within our company throughout the week.


Gleb Tsipursky  15:57  

That makes sense. And I certainly advise my clients to have kind of set collaboration hours when they can rely on others to quickly answer slack messages or something like that. So talking about Slack messages, to what extent are you using other collaboration platforms besides the metaverse and how are they integrating? 


Erin McDannald  16:16  

Well, sure, we’ve integrated teams, Microsoft Teams into our Metaverse, and so but I think that there’s still a place right now. And we’re as we’re developing the technology for zoom and slack and teams and HubSpot, and all of the things that we’re using, so we still have other collaboration tools. But we’re just tying them all into the same place and stacking software. So we have a hub to our metaverse. And it has a community section. It looks like an internal Facebook, if you will, in a sense. So we can post on it. But it also has a place for you to book desks, desks in the physical universe. And then tells you what the air quality is and the temperature. And all of the things are in the physical universe showing that the physical universe is tidy and everything is well. And if you desire to collaborate in person, you can find the days that the people you would like to collaborate with will be in the office and book your desk. So we’ve created the slot slot, this stack software to kind of accommodate all of these things and be a central core around the business I felt during the pandemic. With all the distributed collaboration systems, it confuses people and we need to consolidate, have the central core to our digital environment.


Gleb Tsipursky  18:01  

Yeah, that’s definitely important. I’d strongly recommend my clients set very clear expectations about which tools to use and how to use them. Because I also find that there’s adequate challenges around, how quickly do you answer slack messages? What about emails? What about Microsoft Teams messages or travel notifications? How do you establish an advocate for the metaverse? What is your technique for doing that? What are the advocates for the metaverse in your company? 


Erin McDannald  18:27  

We’re still learning and we’ve built in a lot of etiquette already. Obviously, we use voice to communicate. So through the metaverse. People can use messaging if they’d like or other versions but we prefer to use voice. And as far as etiquette is concerned, it really is about anything that you would do in the physical universe. We’ve applied to the metaverse so if you if HR would be upset in the physical universe, they would they would probably apply the same rules in the in the metaverse, although we’re still early on and to be very honest with that, is it that with the lawyers and human resources about what can and cannot be said in the metaverse one of the things that was important to us is that although this is the central core of our software, hub or digital hub in our environment is that the people, the avatars did not have any personally identifiable information. And that was most important to our lawyers that it be built that way but it’s also really important to the employees that it’s built that way so that your performance in the metaverse A is not being recorded. B is not being analyzed in any way, and C can’t be held against you in another job. And I think that was a big concern. So we definitely have that disconnect between the personally identifiable information.


Gleb Tsipursky  20:18  

What other concerns were raised besides this personally identifiable information that you didn’t expect at first, or that you think it would be valuable for other folks to know about? 


Erin McDannald  20:30  

I guess most people were concerned about being tracked, once we assured them that there was no personally identifiable information, there was a lot less hesitation to come in the metaverse. My business does things like heat mapping. This is pretty interesting, slightly off of our thing, but we can heat map people and shit see where in the office they’re commuting in the physical universe. And we can do the same in the metaverse, you can heat map so you can kind of find your collaboration points within the office. And it’s valuable information, both in the physical and Metaverse situation. But it is something that, you know, we’re tracking anonymously, so I don’t know what person is then in that spot. I just know a person has been in that spot.


Gleb Tsipursky  21:32  

Do you find the metaverse impacts team bonding?


Erin McDannald  21:37  

I think that both first of all, the element of joy and play, tend to lower boundaries. And I think that in the past, especially during the pandemic, people came to video calls with a lot of boundaries. And so and not knowing really what to expect. And so there is that element that lowers those and sort of opens people up to a more ideation, I think it enhances creativity. Because you’re making yourself in this spatial environment. It allows for you to have more or be in tune with your spatial awareness, therefore, you’re able to sort of build ideas better. I found that for me, I can apply that to all of the employees. But I can’t imagine that I’m much different. So I found that that was really interesting in the convenience of being able to have access to your team members. I never felt comfortable clicking on a team’s icon to call someone that I didn’t normally call as a CEO of my company, it was only because I didn’t know if they were away picking up their kids. We have a very open workplace. You know, we take care of our day, you know, our personal along with our professional as long as we’re getting our work done. And so we have this open environment. And I couldn’t tell if people were available or not. Sometimes the green lights on Thompson’s red lights are on but I can’t see behind the button. Having people physically you can we’re not physically but virtually you can virtually see them a person makes them much more accessible.


Gleb Tsipursky  23:45  

Now, more broadly, how do you think this Metaverse experimental transformation will impact your company’s brand? And how do people see? 


Erin McDannald  23:55  

I think they’ll see us as more technologically advanced and innovative in a sense, because we’re the first lighting and building controls company to go into the metaverse. So I think that definitely gives us an advantage. It shows that we’re invested in our company. I think just from the perspective of the people that are hiring us, they see that we’re, you know, curious intellectuals that are trying to make a difference in the world. This thing was mostly inspired by my daughter who has an autoimmune disease and can’t reach the outside world because she has to be home due to physical condition. So it’s really interesting. Her doctor, who is a neuro gastroenterologist, said that the children that he deals with Very much like her with dysautonomia have really high IQs. And, I thought, what a shame that they couldn’t reach the workplace. Because what a what an advantage to have people like this in our workplaces that this diversity, this different thought this different way of thinking. And so I was inspired to create this from that story. 


Unknown Speaker  25:29  



Gleb Tsipursky  25:30  

That’s a very powerful story. Thank you for sharing that.


Are there any other last questions you wish to share, anything that I haven’t asked you that you think our listeners would like to know?


Erin McDannald  25:45  

Well, I think that there, you know, having a psychological association with your workplace in a digital environment can be very advantageous to your business. And it creates mission driven employees and reminds them of the mission every day when they walk in those virtual doors. So it’s not that it’s not the utopia that is described in the movies. It’s a fabulous 3d user interface that we should be looking at to replace our 2d interfaces.


Gleb Tsipursky  26:23  

Excellent. Thank you. And can you tell us a little bit more about where folks can learn more about you online and your sites that you wish to care about and have any recommendations? 


Erin McDannald  26:32  

Great. Our website is The name of our app is Elevated Environments, and my name is Erin McDannald. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out. Thank you. 


Gleb Tsipursky  26:51  

Thank you. Thank you very much, Erin. And thank you to the listeners and viewers of this show. Again, this is the wise decision maker show. My name is Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, which is a future or work consultancy that sponsors the show. Please leave a review on Apple iTunes or wherever else you discovered the show. Leave a comment on YouTube and make sure to subscribe to the show that will help other folks discover the show and help you make sure that you keep in touch with all the latest episodes. And I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the wise decision makers show. In the meantime, the wisest, most profitable decisions to you, my friends.


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Originally Published at Disaster Avoidance Experts on November 8, 2022.