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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.

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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.

    Source: https://www.mercer.com/newsroom/2021-health-on-demand-survey-released.html

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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.

Collaboration

 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.

Innovation

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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How virtual reality can help to recruit and train staff

Source: BBC.com

By Bernd Debusmann Jr

For many who leave the military, entering the civilian workforce can be a shock, with an office culture devoid of the routine and chain-of-command that shapes a life in uniform.

“There’s a loss of structure, and a loss of all those things that held daily activities together,” recalls Tristan Carson, a US Marine veteran. “In the military, your days are dictated for you. You know what you’re going to be doing.”

To make matters worse, the culture shock that often comes with this transition from military to civilian life is compounded by a communication problem.

For instance, many employers outside of the military cannot comprehend the myriad of acronyms soldiers may initially struggle to stop using in their daily work. Some veterans may also struggle to explain how their experience can be applied in a non-military environment.

One potential solution comes in an unlikely form: virtual reality (VR).

For most people VR is nothing more than a fun gimmick to enhance the experience of playing video games at home however the technology is now starting to be used in some exciting new ways.

In Mr Carson’s case, he took part in a pilot scheme testing a programme called Artificial Intelligence Designed for Employment (AIDE). It was devised by Onward to Opportunity, a free career training programme created by the University of Syracuse for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF).

Using an Oculus Rift headset, which will soon be distributed at 19 military bases throughout the US, the initiative briefs soldiers on their transition to regular life as well as on how to conduct a virtual interview.

The technology includes a “jargon analyser” and examines its users’ speech patterns to detect things like nervousness and hesitation.

“It will tell you, for example, how much jargon and military terminology you used. [Participants] get a full transcript and feedback,” says Bryan Radliff, who spent 31 years with the US army and now manages the CyberVets programme, which trains veterans in IT skills.

“They need to know that they are explaining things adequately to a hiring manager so as not to create confusion,” he adds. “Then programme coordinators and transition specialists can sit with the individuals to talk about their experience, or work on their interviewing skills.”

This programme is just one of a number of initiatives that are using virtual reality to recruit or train workers on everything from job interviews to complex mechanical processes, and even wellness initiatives.

These programmes, in turn, form a growing part of the global virtual reality market, which Fortune Business Insights estimates will grow to $57.55bn (£40.19bn) by 2027, up from just $3.1bn (£2.24bn) in 2019.

Tom Symonds, the chief executive of online training platform Immerse, says the use of VR has a number of benefits for companies, such as giving them the ability to conduct training sessions or complicated assessments with employees around the globe, without the need to fly out personnel to do in-person sessions.

VR is also often better at maintaining the interest and focus of employees, Mr Symonds adds.

“Generally speaking, the accepted way of developing talent within an organisation has been some kind of classroom training-based experience and some kind of PowerPoint presentation,” he explains. “I think there is a growing awareness that this old blend can be enhanced by new technology.”

As an example, Mr Symonds points to multinational oil and gas company Shell, which uses VR to train and assess its widely-dispersed workforce, some of whom are located in remote offshore facilities.

“We see virtual reality as another instructional method that provides teams with a safe place to practise skills, and more importantly, fail within a safe and controlled environment,” says Brent Kedzierski, head of learning strategy and innovation at Shell.

“When learners are not in the classroom, they can continue to perform VR simulations to practise and reinforce intellectual and behavioural skills,” Mr Kedzierski adds. He says the “scenario-based training simulation exercises” are designed to be repeated at increasing levels of complexity, without the support of an instructor.

While the use of VR in recruitment and training pre-dates 2020, Mr Kedzierski said that the benefits were starkly highlighted during pandemic-induced travel restrictions.

Being able to familiarise new joiners with the company, anytime and anywhere has been a big advantage. “We’re able to give learners a physical orientation to our assets when they don’t have the luxury of being in the actual control room, mess hall or sleeping quarters.”

However, industry insiders warn that the VR technology still has limitations.

Sophie Thompson, the co-founder and chief operating officer of VirtualSpeech – a UK-based VR education platform which focuses on skills such as interview technique, sales and public speaking – says that while the firm’s revenues grew 300% in 2019 and 2020, “user habits simply aren’t there yet”.

“It’s quite a jump from looking at a computer or phone and observing the digital world, to then becoming an active participant right in the middle of it,” Ms Thompson says.

“People aren’t used to putting a headset on their face and being completely immersed and teleported to another location or experience, and some people feel vulnerable doing that,” she adds. “This is already starting to change as the headsets become more sophisticated.”

Kevin Cornish, the chief executive of Moth + Flame, a VR company that has partnered with the US Air Force to provide training aimed at combating suicide and sexual assaults, said that “once people adopt this training, it’s tough to go back to computer-based training”.

“This is just so immersive and engaging that companies will definitely be adding this to their overall training solutions,” he says.

Mr Cornish adds that the fact that younger employees in particular are quick to pick up headsets, and feel comfortable, bodes well for the future of VR in the workplace.

“As these generations move into positions of management and leadership that will likely accelerate the adoption of the technology, but we are seeing a lot of enthusiasm for the product with Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers,” he says.

Immerse’s Tom Symonds, for his part, says that much of the future growth of VR will be a result of companies turning to the technology to help them manage the wellness and mental health of their employees.

Already, Immerse has partnered with meditation app Solas VR to create a library of VR meditations aimed at boosting mental wellbeing and brain productivity. The partnership include a selection of 360-degree videos featuring idyllic Irish nature scenes to relax in, as well as breathing exercises and other features.

“The technology has the ability to transport you to a different place, take you out of your daily work stress, and put you in an environment that allows you to be calm,” he says. “That’s a brilliant use of the technology.”

“Its great quality is the ability to focus you on something 100%,” Mr Symonds adds. “Once you are in the headset, you are focused.”

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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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Businesses after the pandemic: how priorities change

There has been a lot of discussion about the after Covid-19 era and how businesses will need to adopt and adapt as society and value systems change. This pandemic is expected to define a whole generation, the way 9/11 did, as a deep shock in terms of what we thought it was given.
The corporate world has been challenged, also. Remote working, grieving employees, stakeholders, at large, that didn’t care about consumption while their world was falling apart.

Now that the storm calms down, managers and CEOs are called to revisit their priorities and practices. As Hubert Joly, former CEO of Best Buy recently put it: “The profound multifaceted crisis we are facing has made it even more obvious that business and society cannot thrive if employees, customers, and communities are not healthy.” But, as we were forced to learn during the previous year, health is not only about fever and cough; stress levels and burnout incidents skyrocketed and a massive explosion of depression diagnoses is expected in the near future. Humans reached their psychological and emotional limits as they experienced, many of them in first hand, the harsh reality.

These voices preaching about the value (or even necessity) of mindfulness as a habit are finally heard. Each one of us needs to find some inner peace that will become the fuel and the refugee in this effort to cope with the new reality. Taking some time off- even some minutes off- letting the noise go and focusing on our mere existence through breathing can restore our faith to life and make every day easier. At work, corporate wellness practices emerge as higher priorities, as security empathy and understanding are becoming key leadership practices.

What we read, what we learn and what we believe converge at this: we (as members of a society) have given far too much attention to what happens outside. Now it’s time to take care of our minds and souls and find new (or very old) ways to cure our wounds. After all, there is always a calm, safe place in our minds. Perhaps now it’s the time to visit it.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

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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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Immerse partners with Solas VR to bring wellness to the remote workforce

Wednesday 7th April, London- Press Release

Enterprise virtual reality (VR) software provider Immerse has today announced its new partnership with Solas VR, a leading meditation app. This partnership will enable organisations to access a library of VR meditations that can be easily integrated into the Immerse Platform and deployed to employees across organisations. 

Virtual Reality is enhancing human performance in ways that were once unthinkable. Today, it is transforming the way we learn, explore and interact. With a global customer base and customers such as DHL, Nestlé and bp, the Immerse Platform creates an all-in-one solution for enterprise organisations. This partnership is part of an ongoing initiative from Immerse to build an ecosystem where the Immerse Platform will empower and enable organisations to embrace the future of training in the workplace.

The past year has been particularly challenging not only for businesses but workforces too. Mass homeworking has left employees struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance, with the additional stress of the pandemic bringing its own challenges too. Solas VR has developed an innovative meditation app to boost mental wellbeing and brain productivity through meditation, which will be hosted on the Immerse Platform. Drawing from solid scientific data and empirical studies, this synergy aims to multiply the effectiveness of training, through better focus and open-mindness, achieved via mindfulness. The partnership will empower organisations to enhance employee engagement and performance, providing a new approach to mental health and job satisfaction. 

The initial library of Solas VR experiences to be made compatible and available through the Immerse platform include:

  • The meditation space: A wide selection of 360 videos capturing the nature of Ireland, that can be used in different meditation experiences. The user selects the duration, the voice of preference and the background sounds, to create a personal and unique mindfulness journey. 
  • Weekly Wisdom: An area dedicating to reflection and self-discovery. This unit is updated regularly to provide the audience with new stories and discussions to guide them into their self-improvement pathways. 
  • Breathing space: Breathing exercises for all levels of experience. 

Tom Symonds, Immerse CEO comments: “The Immerse team are excited to be working with Solas VR to help encourage mindfulness in the corporate environment. We understand the importance of having a healthy and happy workforce, and the capabilities of virtual reality will allow those who receive the content to incorporate it more effectively than traditional methods. Partnering with Solas VR is a great step in our endeavour to enable businesses to capitalise on the opportunity offered by immersive technology in multiple ways.” 

Stephen Pitcher  Managing Director at Solas VR adds: “We’re very excited to be working with Immerse to help bring meditation, and subsequently a better sense of wellbeing, to as many people as possible. The last year has been difficult, but employers who prioritise corporate mindfulness will gain a sustainable competitive advantage as looking after your employees is more important than ever.” 

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Mindful Training: making the best out of our brainpower

It is amazing how quickly VR training became popular and it tends to become a mainstream solution for businesses. Starting from hard skills training, and expanding  to soft skills, the VR experience changes the game in training performance. The image brings together the most important findings an extensive PWC case study on the application of VR techonoly in training in general and in soft skills training in particular.

What we also know well, from dozens of scientific publications, is that meditation, breathing excercises and mindfulness clear the mind and boost focus and concentration. When these are applied on a training environment, it is only natural that trainees will be more receptive to knowledge, more focused and eager to accept new concepts. This is how we decided to team up with VR training platforms, in a synergy based on the power of VR technology, enhanced by the power of an open, focused mind.

Download our fact sheet for more information and stay tuned for our updates!