Many of us know the concept of virtual reality and it is likely that most of us have experienced it in some form or another over the years — most likely in the form of an immersive virtual experience or via video games.
Family fun centers have been utilizing virtual reality to create amusement park style experiences within the confines of a single building for years. Oculus Rift has been utilized by not only gamers but also by a variety of professionals to trick the mind into thinking that it actually inhabits a virtually constructed world.
Early precursors of virtual reality have been popping up here and there since the sixties — but nothing really caught on until recently due to technological limitations. Virtual reality is in a far better place than it was in the 80s for multiple reasons.
To say that virtual reality has influenced video gaming is nothing new. What is new is the fact that VR is being used for a variety of purposes beyond creating an immersive gamer experience.
For instance, the medical industry utilizes virtual reality for examining human biology, not to mention helping prospective surgeons practice certain methods and procedures virtually.
The health and wellness industry is worth around 4.5 trillion dollars globally, statistics show, and it’s an industry that spends a lot of resources developing high end products that are aimed toward a socially and health conscious demographic. It’s no small wonder that businesses and brands around the world are now looking to utilize virtual reality in order to assist employees, especially those who are feeling less inspired within the constraints of a normal 9-5 job.
VR and the Health and Wellness Industry
Virtual reality has been adopted by and incorporated into the health and wellness realm in a variety of exciting ways. As VR technology moves forward, the idea of VR only being associated with video games will seem like more and more of an antiquated concept.
VR technology is helping individuals:
- Deal with pain management
- Learn crucial health and wellness education in a new and interactive way
- Treat PTSD and undergo certain parts of the injury rehabilitation process
VR can now provide people with stress relief, enhance various fitness and wellness practices, and assist those who are aging in place in retirement homes.
How does virtual reality help someone feel better or feel less pain?
Virtual reality inherently aims to create an immersive experience for people, which ends up having an effect that leaves a person feeling pulled away from daily realities. When we are in pain or in states of distress or confusion, our awareness of our own pain increases and alleviates. When we can be released and delivered from our own pain and ailments, our mind is able to focus on other things, which provides a therapeutic effect.
As virtual reality becomes more and more sophisticated, each and every sense will aim to be captured and integrated into a high caliber virtual reality experience. Once taste and smell can be successfully and convincingly incorporated into a virtual experience along with sight, touch, and sound, virtual therapy and virtual mindfulness will evolve as well.
Businesses and Health and Wellness
Nowadays people are highly aware of a business and/or brand’s social standing, which might include how businesses treat their employees. Now that just about each and every person has a platform to be seen and heard, stories are getting told about harsh and undesirable circumstances that some employers may or may not be subjecting their employees to.
Perhaps as some sort of response, more forward-thinking companies are spending thought energy coming up with ways to promote wellness at the workplace.
You might have heard about that hot new tech company downtown that has a yoga studio in their building and buys vegan food every Friday for their employees, or maybe there’s a new smoothie machine in the break room that is indicative of many employers at least making an effort to promote wellness at the workplace.
VR Mindfulness and Wellness in the Workplace
Employers have a vested interest in putting energy into making sure their employees are happy and healthy, especially in their work environment, which inspires creativity and productivity. On the contrary, anxiety and stress can seriously curb someone’s ability to perform their job successfully, not to mention spend precious time and energy that could be better spent on day-to-day operations.
But it’s not so easy to see what is going on in the mind, especially since people always try to put their best foot forward while at work. There is still a negative connotation with mental illness, which might also be a reason why VR mindfulness is catching on in the workplace, where anonymity can be held intact. VR mindfulness tools enable users to engage in an illusory experience alone, in the comfort of their office or cubicle.
Speaking of cubicles, one of the number one complaints that employees have is feeling trapped at work, especially when working in smaller spaces. A VR experience is an easy and cost-effective way for an employee to escape their everyday working environment and visit a faraway place or even a newly constructed virtual reality that doesn’t exist in the waking world.
The Sunday scaries are a real thing, and they have to do with the average worker dreading going into work on Mondays, so much so that it compromises their ability to enjoy their Sunday, which accounts for 50% of the average worker’s weekend.
It turns out that being able to teleport to new realms (albeit only momentarily) has a lot of benefits for someone working at a brick and mortar establishment — upper brass and groundfloor ranking employees alike.
VR is more than simply technology that gives an employee the ability to view a new environment, they can also interact with it via tracking performed by remotes equipped in the hardware in the three-dimensional space. Workers can now interact with virtual environments, creating a more well-rounded immersive experience.
Okay, So There Are Games…
Obviously some employers might want to create a fun and entertaining virtual experience for their employees that will allow them to blow off steam during breaks from productivity. Taking rest from work is a good way to recharge the batteries and attack an old problem from a new angle. Many employers have dart boards and foosball tables that allow employees to entertain themselves, but these forms of entertainment have obvious limitations. Only 2-4 people can play foosball. Only a few people can play darts.
However, a virtual game can be used by every employee simultaneously, as long as there are enough headsets and hardware for the entire team.
On the wellness side, there is far more serious and therapeutic work to be done. Meditation apps are utilizing virtual reality to help users surrender to meditative processes, which helps the mind slow itself down, which is a prime state to try to let thoughts settle down.
Turns out there is a ton of stimulation at work. Top stresses that employees and employers experience at work is:
- Financial Troubles
- Unrealistic Goals and Expectations
- Workplace Politics
- Lack of Clear Leadership
- Lack of Accountability
These sorts of issues can seriously compromise an individual’s ability to perform their job in a functional manner, much less excel at what they do. Once one team member is feeling down and out at the workplace, they might feel the inclination to lament to others, which will ultimately lower the team morale in immeasurable ways.
VR mindfulness tools that don’t go the gaming route are more geared toward education, often providing instructions and even tutorials that provide benefits to the user, especially when it comes to stress management.
VR guided meditation is tremendously beneficial to employees, especially since common complaints about meditation in general include:
- Inability to concentrate
A VR guided meditation aims to assist a user in the meditation process by using sound and virtual imagery that will capture a person’s attention and interest, while guiding them into a more meditative state. Before an employee knows it, they’ve just completed a 10-20 minute guided meditation and get to experience all of the wellness benefits that come as a result.
Doing a VR guided meditation a few times a week or even once a day is a small investment in creating a new culture at any given workplace. Instead of asking employees to do it on their own time, employers can show some initiative and show a caring gesture by providing this sort of experience during business hours.
VR wellness technology is showing up in workplace wellness rooms for businesses that have the resources to construct an immersive virtual reality experience in their own offices. Otherwise, it’s much simpler and cost effective to invest in a few headsets that employees can utilize during down time. One thing is for sure, VR is a new and exciting coworker for many employees around the world.