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Zoom Layoffs: A challenge for the manager, too

Having one-third of the workforce turned into remote work, meetings have turned digital accordingly, and so did layoffs. It was already a challenge for most managers to announce to an employee that s/he is fired, now this has to be done with the awkwardness of a screen. In a recent article, we read that managers need to get prepared beforehand- it is not a task one can complete spontaneously. A script and many rehearsals are needed, more than one could imagine. The author of this article proposes a direct look at the camera and an empathetic yet determined tone of voice. Managers need to be focused and calmed before announcing a layoff.

Here enters Solas Vr- the breathing space in particular. Focus and a calm mind call for breathing exercises, and/ or a short meditation session as well. Taking breaths in the forest – actually the VR forest of Solas VR- can prepare the mind and the body for stressful situations and allow them to remain focused yet decisive. On the same token, a short meditation could be of use after the meeting, in the case that the manager feels overwhelmed by the tension of the meeting or the reaction of a fired employee.  A microbreak before or after this discussion can bring outstanding results for both sides. Because, as we discussed in a previous blog post, good leaders are mindful. So let’s be!

Also read: What to do in times of lay-offs, from the side of the employee

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Some Frequently Asked Questions about our app

Solas VR app is already a success amongst managers, especially in organisations that care about corporate wellness. There are many reasons why they have selected our app, but the main one is that there is no risk: literally, there is no reason not to buy a business subscription and watch your teams perform better and enjoy stress-free workdays. During our meeting with the decision-makers, we noticed some recurring questions, reflecting concerns about the resources and effectiveness of the service. Here are the most frequent of them:

Do we need to train our staff to use it?

Absolutely no. Solas VR environment is very simple and friendly. They only need to enter the experience and Solas VR does the rest. The users have the freedom to select among different settings and durations, in the most simple and intuitive way. It can’t get any easier than this.

Do the experiences take a long time?

No, the impact is instantaneous – that is the power of VR – It transports the user to a meditation space. In fact, Solas VR boosts the power of microbreaks, which are the perfect practice for better performance, according to an Organizational Behaviour Journal publication.

Can all staff use it?

The Nature-based experiences appeal to people of all ages, cultures or religious backgrounds. 

Are there many benefits to it?

Yes, research shows that mindfulness and/or breathing exercises improve our concentration levels, our ability to absorb information and our decision-making.

As we work with new managers and corporations, we will update this FAQ list, to make an easy decision, even easier!


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Setting 2023 Goals: Dealing with Burnout


Burnout could have been the word of the years 2021 and 2022 if it hadn’t been for covid and the metaverse. This situation is defined by WHO as :

“a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

This new definition highlights burnout as a serious matter that needs to be professionally addressed, removing the stigma of behaving as a spoilt kid as “you overreact, it’s just stress”. In fact, as we read in the “State of Burnout” report by Infinity Potential, dealing with burnout is an urgent priority as the latest years have induced lifetime high-stress levels, due to unmanaged workload and the struggle to maintain a work-life balance. The same report explains the fundamental causes and effects of burnout, as follows:

Source: State of burnout report- Infinite Potential 

These five points highlight the importance of empathetic leadership and a well-structured organisational support process that will allow the employees to feel secure and trust between employees and employers to be restored. Now it’s the time for managers to show that they care about their teams’ wellness and to introduce new practices that will actively help employees deal with stress. Here comes Solas VR meditation app as a tool designed for the hybrid world, tailored to destress through short, yet powerful breaks, that allows the mind to unwind and focus again. As a stand-alone solution or as part of a corporate wellness process, our app responds to all  aspects of the above key findings:

  • It is focused on well-being, while directly addressing burnout symptoms.
  • It can become the founding stone of an organisational support program.
  • Microbreaks are a proven solution to a lack of focus, especially when they are related to sessions of mindfulness.
  • VR technology is an important player in the hybrid world conversation
  • As a result, Solas VR meditation app becomes a powerful people-first initiative, as it highlights the empathy of management and it drastically supports employees’ efforts to cope with stress and current challenges.
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Productivity during enegry crisis

Every change is a big change; turning the office light off while still working might seem minor, yet it makes us lose focus, or irritate us. And while we were still wondering how to push the camel of productivity through the eye of the needle of shrunk time and hybrid workplaces, an energy crisis comes up, threatening our well-being. So, in the question of how to remain productive in this fast-changing context, we propose two answers, one of each perspective- the company and the employee.

What businesses can do to keep productivity levels high.

Adapt, adjust and overcome. There is no room for adhesion to established patterns and mindsets. Classic leadership styles- transactional, transformational and so- are already outdated; now it’s the time for empathetic leaders to thrive (you can read more here). The debate about corporate wellness is fueled some months ago, and it now emerges as a strong productivity tool, as an adjustment that might preserve success and KPIs rates. 

  • New leaders are called to empathize with their teams’ challenges and invent new ways to help them overcome stress. They need to consider that employees find it hard to remain focused and calm when key market players announce massive layoffs daily and when new imperatives juggle their routines. Here is where mindfulness enters the conversation. Spending some time every day for inside calmness and stress relief is a good practice, in more than one way:
    •  After a short break for mindfulness exercises, focus can be restored along with an inside-out optimism, that things can actually go well. A calm employee, freed from anxiety and concerns can better focus on work, hence keeping their productivity levels high.
    • At the same time, the company reveals this much-discussed empathetic face, soothing the fear of layoffs and imbuing confidence and safety.

What employees can do to keep productivity levels high.

Staying focused and immune to change is a hard task, especially- but not exclusively- for those working in hybrid environments. Employees need to find new ways to cope with stress and to feel that their employers understand and support this new situation. Either for their personal inner balance or as a tool for better work performance, mindfulness exercises are the key to a better work and/or life. A microbreak every couple of times per day is proven to restore inner calm, and allow the mind to unwind and cope with stress.

According to the projects we are working on, a large majority of companies have already accepted this new imperative, and are working with us to design corporate mindfulness programs. As we see the benefits in action, we are more and more confident to support that the answer to how productivity can rise through turbulent times and challenges is a clear mind and a calm soul- and we can help you get there.


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The power of microbreaks

A Microbreak is a short break you take from work (or anything that calls for your unhindered attention) in order to help your mind refresh and improve performance. Working for many hours straight, without a break or at least some stretching doesn’t signal a hard-working professional.

On the contrary, there is academic proof now that our brain ceases to focus after a while; so we stop being productive or creative. This condition is called The Troxler Effect and it is like we stop seeing something after paying continuous attention to it. In the same way an item disappears from our view, new ideas and solutions disappear from our minds when we stay focused for too long. Taking a short break and allowing the mind to let go of the project and engage to anything else is an excellent way to regain focus and boost creativity.

Are all microbreaks equally powerful?

Chatting over the water cooler, having lunch, or taking a breathing exercise, do they all result in the same creativity boost?

While microbreaks per se are always beneficial, the brain responds better to certain activities rather than others. A 2016 research published on the Journal of Organizational Behaviour tested the effect of different types of microbreaks – lunch, relaxation, cognitive tasks, social activities – on the relationship between work demands and negative affect. What they found is that performance actually increases only after microbreaks that included relaxation, social activities or nutrition intakes, with the exception of caffeinated products or cognitive tasks which actually aggravate the negative effect. Additionally, a Stanford University research stresses the importance of letting our eyes wander for a while during the microbreaks, feeding our brain with new visual stimuli.

A short walk in nature may be the ideal microbreak, but how feasible is this option for people living in big cities (or under lockdown)? VR technologies provide us with the perfect alternative because Virtual Reality triggers the mind to react as if it is experiencing the real thing. A short VR meditation in nature has the same effect on the brain as an actual walk, while the eyes wander among trees and rivers, without having to leave the office. Guided Meditations or breathing exercises create space in the mind, multiplying the effect of the microbreak. It only takes a few minutes for the brain to refresh and reboot.

Download our free e-book on corporate mindfulness and allow your team to be more.

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Defining productivity in a hybrid world

According to a newly published survey, the new, hybrid workplace is pressing us to redefine productivity and how we measure it. Obviously, when working from home new KPIs are called for we cannot measure productivity by the number of emails sent. To do so, managers need to observe and understand what motivates remotely working employees and, mostly, what are the major challenges this new status brought up. Based on a case study running at Microsoft, the “hybrid paradox” revealed that employees tend to work more when at home than when they were in the office. And, while one might think that this is a boost in productivity, looking a bit further in the future proves this wrong.

As the levels of burnout skyrocket and social isolation deeply impacts our mental health, staff well-being is a matter of retention and sustainability. The research findings propose 3 tiers of initiatives for the newly defined productivity:

Well Being

We have talked about it a lot and we keep return here, as management scholars place tremendous focus on practices that secure employees’ mental health. The role of the manager, today, shifts from monitoring performance, to motivating home workers to set boundaries and adopt new habits to keep them calm and focused. Rather than joggling between the laptop and the kids, employees should have the freedom to choose their working hours and make the most out of the flexibility that remote work allows us. From Solas VR point of view, gifting a subscription to our VR meditations is active proof of this shift of focus. Note that microbreaks emerge as a major productivity booster, so inviting your staff to meditate for few minutes during the workday will bring visible results, as empirical and research findings support.


 The same case study at Microsoft shows that “the biggest reasons employees want to go back to the office are collaboration and social connections”. Yet, since it not sure when (or if) the whole team will finally return to the office team bonds need to be strengthen otherwise. What the researchers propose is to enact team rituals for everyone to participate. So, starting the day with a meditation on our app or entering a virtual meeting room are definitely some ideas tailored to the new needs.


This is one way we can monitor productivity nowadays: the levels of innovation as a result of “people getting together to exchange and prototype ideas and brainstorm solutions, balanced with time for individual focus and reflection”. In other words, innovation is the outcome of well being and collaboration. Having said that, the approach of Solas VR to productivity is a synergistic solution, producing results in the two aforementioned areas but also help team members to stay focused and keep an open mind.

New circumstances call for new measures and a new mindset towards productivity and corporate standards.

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Lifelong learners: The future of the workforce

The processes, the values, the training focus, everything has been affected by the Covid pandemic. Recruiting processes have been no exception, especially since Ms Teams interviews are not easier not equally anthropocentric. Additionally, employers all around the world –and HR teams- focus on different skills, such as adaptability to the digital era, willingness to learn, resilience and interpersonal competencies.
If you ask someone “How do you learn” and the answer is “I only learn what is needed” probably this candidate is not ideal for a modern workspace. What we all need now is lifelong learners, individuals that keep reading, listening, asking, practising, not because they must, but because they want to. Through this process, an ecosystem is formed where managers, employees and all stakeholders as evolving, inventing new ways to be creative and productive.
An interesting “game” promoting the lifelong learning culture could be a quick answer to a daily question like “What did you learn today”? just before they turn off their computers. Or anything that would constantly highlight the priority level of training within the organization. From this token, new methods, like VR training, and/ or corporate wellness initiatives cultivate this value system and materialize the idea of innovation and evolution. Additionally, by incorporating stress-relieving practices- like Solas VR short meditation session, managers can prepare the mind to absorb new information and to put stress aside, for more focused and effective training sessions.
What is evident from scientific and empirical studies is how lifelong learners become a source of competitive advantage for organizations. Yet, the managers and team leaders are those who have to “practice what they preach” via their personal choices and forward thinking decisions.

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Team Mindfulness: Together we go further

Mindfulness is the most recent checkpoint any company and every team leader/manager should focus on how to run a healthy business. As already discussed, a few mindful minutes reduce stress, improve focus and productivity, increase resilience and overall job satisfaction.

Yet, recent findings stretch the importance of team mindfulness, and how it exponentially multiplies the outcomes. As an old saying says “alone you’ll go faster but together we’ll go further’’ and that is the whole meaning of team mindfulness. It is not enough for a single employee to try and be mindful while coping with stress, workload and tight deadlines. If more than one individual –ideally everyone- become more self-aware, less judgmental, and more of a team player, then the team is actually working as a team and thrives more. If more than one is concerned about the wellbeing of the others, and if the tasks and goals they share are being addressed by everyone in the room, that will change the whole dynamic of the organization.

We take as a given that work satisfaction results to better performance and an overall empathetic attitude towards the company. The pandemic outburst came to underline the importance of engaged employees and the value of job security. From this perspective, it is now the company’s turn to prove itself as a caring and empathetic employer.

The benefits of team mindfulness

Three are they key aspects of individual mindfulness that apply to team mindfulness too: allowing, inquiry and meta-awareness.

Allowing  can be otherwise called “accepting whatever comes without saying if only”. When a difficult situation, a problem, a mistake arises everyone’s first thought is “why God is this happening to us? Who is to blame?” This mindset, though, will not take us anywhere. The new framework of team mindfulness, yet, allows everyone in the team to just accept whatever happened, proceed with what they have, don’t try to blame one another, but instead work together for an immediate solution.

If every time something bad happens the whole team work to surpass it together, then every individual will feel safer and trusted in the working environment and probably will be more open to speak his/her fears, feelings and thoughts. So yes, team mindfulness facilitates better communication and problem solving.

Inquiry is about stopping for a moment and just grasp the atmosphere in the room. Are your colleagues seem bored or indifferent? Do they get in a call but don’t even spell a word? In other words, have you noticed how often we are not really present in the moment? The obvious role of mindfulness here is to teach everyone how to stay focused and live the moment with all senses. Even in a dull call, there is always something new we can learn or feel, or something interesting to notice. Yet, an extra “bonus” especially for meetings is to introduce a ritual that nurtures the sense of community and team: ask your team members to put on their headsets, select the same landscape and sounds and meditate together for few minutes.

Meta awareness is thinking outside of the box. Outside of yourself and outside of the company –as if you were a customer and not an employee. It is so common to forget how customers feel about our services and this where the gap between perception and reality lies. This is a soft skill that can be learnt, but it is based to an open, not biased mind- exactly the state mindfulness brings us. As allowing gets established through team mindfulness, meta-awareness can become the source of competitive advantage for a team or even the whole company.

As managers, authors and researchers shift their focus to team mindfulness, we are happy that our VR app is the exact answer to this new inquiry. Our latest collaborations with training platforms and the constantly updated content of the app address -in an ideal way- the new subject of team mindfulness.

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Employer support has a direct impact on the health and resilience of employees, according to a Mercer survey

  • The pandemic has had a material impact on the mental, financial and physical health of employees.

    • Over half of US employees report feeling some level of stress in the last year, nearly one fourth say they experienced mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, a fifth are financially worse off, and nearly a fifth feel less physically healthy or fit.
  • However, 53% of employees feel their employer has provided good support during the pandemic – and, compared to those who have received little support, they are less likely to have experienced the pandemic’s impact as mostly or entirely negative. 
  • 45% of employees who feel they have received good support from their employers during the pandemic say they are less likely to leave their company as a result. New York, September 13 – As the pandemic continues to unfold, the ability of employers to have a positive impact on employee health and resiliency cannot be understated and is one of the most important findings of the latest Mercer “Health on Demand” survey released today. Since the onset of COVID-19, when employers stepped up to provide essential support, it made a difference.  Employees who say they received good support from their employers are much less likely to view their personal experience of the pandemic as mostly or entirely negative compared to those who received little or no support – 25% vs. 49%.  And almost half (45%) of those receiving good support say they are less likely to leave their job as a result.Survey results confirm that the pandemic has had a material impact on the mental, physical and financial health of employees. Over half of US employees feel some level of stress in the last year; nearly a fourth of US employees say they experienced mental health issues such as depression or anxiety; a fifth are financially worse off; and nearly a fifth feel less physically healthy or fit. Low-wage earners were more likely to experience each of these negative impacts – and less likely to feel supported by their employers during the pandemic.  These findings reinforce that employers have room for improvement when it comes to understanding the diverse needs of their employees and providing resources to support the well-being of the entire workforce.

    “There is nothing more important to the health of a business than the health of its people and the communities in which that business operates. COVID-19 challenged our global healthcare system, but the ability of employers to have a positive impact on employee health and resiliency is one of the most important findings from our 2021 Health on Demand survey,” said Martine Ferland, President and CEO, Mercer. “The research is clear – employers that place health and humanity at the center of business transformation will build a more energized and adaptable workforce that is better able to persevere through periods of crisis.”

    The 2021 report lays out several key findings and implications for supporting employee health and well-being:

    Provide varied and valued benefits: Well-being is at the core of an employee’s relationship with their employer. The amount of support, type of support, and ability to personalize that support matters. The ability to customize a package of benefits to meet individual needs is highly or extremely valued by 55% of employees. Variety matters as well: the more benefits and resources that are offered, the more likely it is that each employee finds something of value.  Of employees offered 10 or more health and well-being benefits or resources by their employer, 52% say that their benefits are a reason to stay with their company, compared to only 32% of those offered 1-5 benefits or resources. In addition, employees receiving 10 or more benefits are more confident that they can afford the healthcare they need – and more likely to agree that their employer cares about their health and well-being.

    Enable digital access to healthcare: COVID-19 necessitated that healthcare be delivered indifferent and innovative ways. One-fifth of employees used telemedicine for the first time during the pandemic, and another 23% increased their usage. Of those trying telemedicine for the first time, the great majority – 72% – intend to keep using it.  The survey also registered a sharp increase in employee interest in other digital health solutions, ranging from apps that help find healthcare providers to virtual reality tools for self-care.  Compared to the 2019 Health on Demand survey, a greater percentage of employees in the 2021 survey found digital solutions to be highly or extremely valuable. The ability to access care virtually has gained momentum and become a valued option for employees. Survey results reinforce that employers need to plan for a future in which most healthcare journeys include virtual visits and digital healthcare supports.
    Reduce stress and anxiety: Notably, US employees are more stressed than those in many other countries. While 59% of US employees say they feel some level of stress, one-quarter report being highly or extremely stressed. That’s the highest percentage of the 13 countries included in the survey.  In the UK, for example, only 16% of employees feel highly or extremely stressed.  With 48% of US employees rating employer support for mental health as highly or extremely valuable, employers that provide robust mental health and counselling benefits will foster greater loyalty and create a stronger bond with their employees.  However, 40% of employees say it is difficult to find and access quality mental health care.  It’s even harder for some employees: among low wage earners, that number rises to 47%.  Employees identifying as LGBTQ+ place the highest value on employer support for mental health – 61% say it is highly or extremely valuable, but nearly as many (58%) say quality mental health care is difficult to find and access.
    Clearly, employees have unmet needs when it comes to mental health care. Half (49%) of all US employees say that programs that reduce the cost of mental health treatment are highly or extremely valuable.  Employers looking to provide affordable mental health care support should note that many employees would highly value virtual counselling via video chat with a therapist (42%), virtual counselling via text with a therapist (38%), and even virtual mental health advice via AI-powered text chats, with no human involved (31%).

    Tackle healthcare inequities: Healthcare inequality persists, with higher-earners better able to access medical coverage, income protection and mental health counselling than low-earners. Participants with household income (HHI) at or below the US median are significantly less likely to feel confident they can afford the healthcare their family needs (60%) than those with HHI above the median (83%).
    Unfortunately, the people who need support the most are the least likely to receive it. Those with HHI above the median reported having better access to benefits through their employers: the survey revealed a gap of 21 percentage points in access to employer-sponsored medical coverage between those with HHI at or below the median and those with HHI above the median and a 19-point gap in access to life insurance.   Employers should consider a strategy that targets benefits to the groups that need them most. In a time of labor shortages, a strategy for achieving greater equity may also give employers a competitive advantage.
    “Every good leader knows that when employees feel they are treated well they are more likely to stay, be engaged, and flourish,” said Kate Brown, Mercer’s Center for Health Innovation Leader, “With significant shifts in attitudes towards mental health, sustainability and digital healthcare over the last year, employers must evolve their health strategy to reflect a modern workforce that prioritizes flexibility, choice, a caring culture, and digital access to support their health and well-being.”

    About the survey

     The 2021 Mercer Health on Demand survey asked 14,000 employees across 13 countries across the globe about what they want when it comes to their health and well-being. Country and regional results were weighted to the true sample, with 2,000 in the US. The resulting report captures the voice of the employee to inform debate about employee health and wellbeing preferences, digital delivery of benefits, inclusive and environmentally-friendly solutions that meet ESG agendas and mental health solutions.


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Good Leaders accept reality

It is your turn to present the area’s sales results, and you already feel stressed. You know that you are far behind your target, but you also know that you and your team did your best, given the pandemic situation. The problem is that forecasts haven’t been adjusted to this new situation; Hence in this meeting, there is not one area manager having reached their goal. You take your turn, you present the results; the sales director interrupts you, screaming “I don’t accept these results. You have all been incapable to do your jobs. Clear the room, I need to think about how to deal with you all.”

In this not-so-fictional scenario, we witness a series of bad decisions: first, the meeting is too stressful for team members, hence their decision-making skills are tainted. Secondly, at some point in the past, someone failed to accept the -harsh indeed- situation of the pandemic and didn’t update the forecasts. The sales team was trying to reach unrealistic goals, amidst a stressful setting. And, finally, the director, during the meeting bursts in screams “not accepting” these results.

What we have here is a failure to accept reality. At some point in our lives we all need some time to cope with changes, but, when it comes to business, accepting reality becomes a leadership skill. Otherwise, we delegate failure, jeopardizing the morale of the team and the performance of our company at large. A good leader has the clarity of mind to separate hopes and wishes from real situations and the power to deal with them. After all, denying to accept what is going on will not change it. Neither will our persistence in denial make things right. Good leaders can take a step back, take a deep breath and look at things bravely and as they are.

The manager of our example couldn’t control himself. He was resisting reality, and he projected his frustration to the team. In the end, nobody was happy. Accepting reality takes courage and sincerity. A good leader knows how to calm themselves and avoid panic or aggressive behaviours towards the team. They can separate their thoughts and emotions and give time to their mind to create some space between thinking and acting.

In other words, good leaders are mindful.