The idea of ‘workplace well-being’ is increasingly recognized as a top priority for employers, spurred on by the growing body of evidence correlating employee well-being with retention and performance.
In essence, well-being initiatives are methods by which staff physical and mental health is protected, allowing them to perform to the best of their ability. And, unsurprisingly, the current escalation in tech innovation has not passed this important field by.
The same immersive technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, that are making waves in the training and communication space also have exciting applications in the well-being space.
All signs are pointing in the same direction: we’re entering a new era of tech-enabled mind/body optimization in the workplace.
Waking Up to the Importance of Well-Being
For the global white-collar workforce, the pressures of living through a pandemic and adapting to new remote and distributed ways of working have had a significant impact. Add social isolation and job instability to the mix, and it’s hardly surprising that according to a recent Europe-wide survey, nearly two-thirds (64%) of workers feel that they have experienced an increase in work-related stress levels over the past year.
Now, it doesn’t take a team of consultants to conclude that workforce burnout now poses a substantial threat to businesses and to national economies. And as a result, popular well-being initiatives of the past – from colleague coffee meets to drop-in therapy sessions and leaflets on stress management – are being sidelined by managers on the lookout for evidence-backed, cutting-edge solutions built to give their employees the mental edge on the competition.
Such solutions are already proliferating. The best of these solutions are not ‘quick fixes’: they are designed to deliver long-term benefits to employee mental and emotional well-being. And, unsurprisingly to those already involved in the sector, it’s the immersive technology that is poised to dominate this burgeoning field of sustainable workplace well-being.
Unique Opportunities Delivered By Immersive Technology
Sector experts have long been predicting the present boom in the application of virtual and augmented reality technologies to workplace well-being.
This is because the most impactful well-being solutions work not by treating the symptoms of stress and burnout, but by preventing them from taking hold in the first place. This prevention comes in the form of training individuals to deal with the mental rigors of a demanding, uncertain, and changeable work life.
VR and AR tech platforms are increasingly the first-choice tools for the delivery of such training. This is because, as a response to social distancing restrictions, the use of immersive technology training platforms has become increasingly popular with medics, university students, and C-suite leaders.
Research has provided robust evidence that immersive technology platforms dramatically accelerate learning and embed new skills for longer, making them cost-effective and scalable training solutions.
Harnessing the Power Of Mindfulness in Virtual Reality
Virtual reality mindfulness training is an excellent example of how the unique affordances of immersive technology can be harnessed to promote employee well-being.
Mindfulness – the practice of becoming fully aware of (and present in) one’s environment, mind, and body – is already a popular practice when it comes to enhancing professional performance.
Studies show that regular mindfulness practitioners enjoy a better attention span, sharper focus, more regulated emotions, and better sleep. Typically, workplace mindfulness courses are designed to support high performance under pressure, teaching users to navigate difficult emotions (including stress) and maximize productivity.
However, traditional mindfulness training is difficult, time-consuming, and usually dependent on the presence of an instructor. Even novice practitioners who use apps to guide their ‘on demand’ training often stop practicing when their progress becomes frustratingly slow.
Using virtual reality tech to facilitate a course of mindfulness training significantly changes the game. Because the practitioner is fully immersed in the 360-degree, interactive content – free from the distractions of everyday life – they are able to lay down the new neural pathways that constitute ‘learning’ more rapidly.
They can take part in as little as five minutes of practice per day, at times and in places convenient to their schedules, and still reap the benefits quickly. On account of these advantages, many practitioners hail VR mindfulness as the epitome of well-being provision.
Immersive Technology and the Employee Of the Future
Successful workers of today must be resilient to the challenges thrown at them. They must be emotionally and mentally prepared to adapt to change across multiple dimensions, and they must be skilled at communicating and collaborating with geographically dispersed colleagues and clients.
As the global business landscape becomes ever more tightly competitive, companies are increasingly looking to invest in the mental well-being of their employees and thus drive crucial marginal gains.
This is escalating interest in a new breed of tech-enabled well-being programs designed for remote teams, and it’s hardly surprising that cutting-edge, evidence-backed VR and AR solutions are taking precedence.
These solutions are categorically different from the flash-in-the-pan fads typically associated with the well-being industry.
As more and more businesses realize that employee well-being solutions are now a ‘must have’, the adoption of VR and AR platforms looks set to evolve from attention-grabbing initiative to industry gold standard.Guest Post
About the Guest Author(s)
Dr Alex Young
Dr Alex Young is a trained Trauma and Orthopaedic surgeon, and the founder and CEO of immersive training company Virti. With offices in Bristol (UK), Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City (US), Virti is an award-winning immersive training platform for creating and distributing XR content.