Learning agility and innovation are in huge demand. As Worley and Jules point out, redeploying talent, establishing remote workforces and flows, building necessary capabilities, propping up distressed supply chains, contributing to humanitarian efforts, deciding between furloughing or retaining employees, and planning for reopening amid uncertainty are just a few of the challenges currently facing many organizations.
Tackling these challenges with a series of Zoom meetings is likely to exhaust individuals and teams, depleting agility and innovation at a time when they are needed most. During such times, virtual reality (VR) mental reset programs may be just the solution we need. As the chief scientific officer of Reulay, an immersive machine learning platform, I am witnessing firsthand the benefits of and scientific evidence backing VR.
So, what exactly does VR offer?
Mental Vacations On Demand
Being “present” is a big ask when people face immense social, political and biological chaos on a daily basis. In the past, vacations served as the mental resets employees needed. Now that few people are able to go anywhere, VR programs can offer a mental escape when needed. And the beauty is these solutions can be implemented at any time, in any place.
Vacations do not always reduce stress. However, when they are planned and designed to reduce stress – as VR enables – vacations can build the resilience necessary for agility and innovation. You may think you do not have the time to take off. However, one study found that people who took less than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period of time, whereas people who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus.
Mental Rejuvenation and Resilience
Spend 10 minutes walking through the woods, flying through the air or strolling across a desert while listening to music or an audio book. For those 10 minutes, your mind has a chance to recuperate and get back into gear to operate at a higher capacity.
Leisure activities promote physiological and psychological well-being, and naturalistic environments promote relaxation and well-being. Moreover, VR can stimulate brain regions that decrease stress and anxiety.
Freedom From Monotony
In the past, you may have been able to escape boredom and monotony by having a “home” and “work” life. Now, VR could be just the place that you go to for environmental diversity.
Especially when work feels monotonous or disengaging, the novelty factors of VR can boost cognitive functioning.
Time to Generate Ideas
When you daydream or relax by immersing yourself in a virtual environment, your brain is better able to connect thoughts and form new ideas. Being immersed in virtual environments can also help you discover new cognitive models necessary for navigating uncertainty and innovating. Daydreaming can also boost creativity.
While there are distinct advantages of VR, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. When employing VR, it is important to understand that some side effects can occur, especially with prolonged use. Cybersickness, resulting in symptoms such as dizziness and vomiting, is the most common side effect, and eyestrain and fatigue can also occur.
For these reasons, well-planned use of VR is important. Yet, when employed strategically, VR can boost learning agility and innovation by replenishing energy, stimulating interest and encouraging creativity as you daydream your way through a fantasy world designed to augment and enhance the reality of day-to-day work.