Can VR improve workplace wellbeing?

To close Mental Health Awareness Week, Octopus Group unveiled a new ‘mindfulness pod’, complete with VR headset. It’s a fun and original new initiative that we’re hoping will have a positive impact upon employee wellbeing.

De-stress and refresh

We’ve always considered OG to be a great place to work – but equally we know that stress can be a problem in our industry as a whole. We even did some research into it, with our 2017 Tech Heads report, The Breathless Business, which found that 77% of marketing and comms execs described themselves as stressed, and that they routinely worked longer than their contracted hours.

The mindfulness pod is set in a secluded cubby designed to be a calm and immersive area, and includes a virtual reality (VR) headset. Octopedes are encouraged to put on the headset and take part in a guided meditation, while accompanying visuals portray naturalistic scenes of jungles, beaches and even the northern lights. It’s a way of temporarily transporting ourselves from the office environment.

The NHS recognises mindfulness – a term frequently bandied about these days but one that basically means being mindful of one’s body and the present moment – as being beneficial for mental wellbeing. In its ‘5 steps to mental wellbeing’, it says:

‘[Mindfulness] can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.’

And that it: ‘helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better’.

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In pod we trust

So far, the reception towards the mindfulness pod has been great, with Octopedes trying out the headset throughout the day.

Pete Hendrick, MD at Octopus Group, says: ‘In agency life – even ones with a great culture like OG – life can get frenetic and a little stressy. The VR pod was the tonic to help me zone out for 15 mins and reset for the day. A total revelation!’

However, we’re not just going to leave it at that. Head of Talent at Octopus Group, Ellie McCluskey, is determined to measure the effectiveness of the mindfulness pod, and is looking at different methods for tracking employee use and any positive effects on productivity, creativity and overall performance.

She says: ‘Mindfulness not only plays a role in alleviating the symptoms of stress and anxiety, but also improves concentration, creativity, communication and productivity, to name a few…

‘My ultimate intention is to create a working environment where employees can perform at their very best, so to me the mindfulness pod is as important as a ping pong table, free yoga or Friday beers! And my intention is to prove this by tracking its usage, and showing in six months’ time how it has improved staff performance and wellbeing.’

The mindfulness pod is one of several initiatives that Octopus Group currently has in place to improve employee mental wellbeing. We’re also encouraging good physical health with access to free, healthy food options and exercises classes. Outside of the office, we focus on enabling authentic connections between employees via regular get-togethers and social activities (not just the pub!); and try to ensure that they always feel they’re learning new skills. Plus, we regularly encourage charitable giving and volunteering throughout the year. It all contributes towards our effort to create an environment in which people feel more fulfilled, and are therefore less susceptible to stress, anxiety and other issues.

We plan to continue to try new things and see what makes a difference. One thing’s for sure, we’re all very excited by our shiny, new VR pod!