Virtual Worlds Employee Avatars Will Need Dress Codes

Managers don't want an employee showing up at a company function on Second Life as a green spiky animal or wearing barely-there club attire. So analysts at Gartner Inc. recently recommended that as more companies conduct business in virtual worlds, employers should establish ground rules regarding employee avatars.

Gartner predicted that by the end of 2013, 70% of companies will have set behavior guidelines and dress codes for employees who use the remotely controlled online characters in business settings.

"We advise establishing codes of behavior that apply in any circumstance when an employee is acting as a company representative, whether in a real or virtual environment," Gartner analyst James Lundy said in a statement. For example, whatever rules apply to Web activities such as blogging can be extended to cover virtual worlds, except that visual environments also require a dress code.

To avoid problems with employees mixing their personal and professional virtual lives, companies should suggest that employees use one avatar for work interactions and a different one for personal activities, Gartner said.

Amanda Van Nuys, head of enterprise marketing at Linden Lab, which operates Second Life, agreed about the need for separate work and personal avatars.

"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 said in a blog post.

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