Could virtual reality meditation improve workplace happiness?

Champions of meditation in the workplace are growing in number. Now, with new immersive virtual reality technology becoming increasing available, at-desk VR meditation could be the next big thing with employees. Could VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift and Gear VR create a new tribe of virtual meditators, even in the most chaotic of workplaces? 

Why meditate in the real or virtual world?

Meditation is no longer at odds with the corporate world. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given the reported benefits of meditation for improved mental clarity, happiness and the easing of work-related stress.

The practice is fast becoming a fixture in varied workplaces. Global organisations have dedicated meditation rooms while innovative business centres are hosting taster sessions in mindfulness for busy entrepreneurs. 

Google, in New York, is said to have a dedicated meditation room and business leaders, including Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, and founder and CEO of Square, are known to practice the ancient art of meditation each morning.

It’s too early to say which business sectors are most likely to adopt mindfulness training in the workplace, according to a spokesperson for British organisation Namaste Culture. But they added: “All invitations to employees to take a break, no matter what the purpose, is likely to lead to happier more productive employees.”

Meditating amid chaos

Employees in fast-paced offices or claustrophobic start-up premises wanting to take meditation breaks have technology on their side. Thanks to virtual reality headsets and headphones workers can easily slip into a tranquil setting while sat at their desks. Meditation programmes on the VR market can take users from chaos to instant calm. SoundSelf, for the Oculus Rift and other 3D displays, for example, bills itself as a “collision of centuries old meditation technology with the video-game trance”.

SoundSelf developer, Robin Arnott, thinks that for most people learning to meditate is painful and boring. “But If modern technology can make learning to meditate easy and even fun, then the kind of equanimity that comes with a sustained meditation practice becomes more easily available to more people,” he says.

Read more: Five steps to better wellbeing as an entrepreneur

“Something easy to ignore is that meditation is, itself, a technology. And like all technologies, it's evolved and adapted over time. This is what we see happening today. Some meditation techniques inherently lean on an external stimulus, like a mandala or a singing bowl.

“Using a head-mounted-display and headphones is no different - it's just newer, with all the benefits the new and modern bring with it: contemporary electrically-powered technology guided by the modern neuroscientific investigation into meditation, is or at least can be more effective, more precise, more personalised, and make the initial learning curve easier. That's what matters.”

Portable, affordable VR devices for “staggering times”

Innovative development agency Cubicle Ninjas has launched its first virtual reality app: Guided Meditation for the Oculus Rift. This app offers users 10-minutes of zen and the tranquility of resting on a beach during a lunch break. Josh Farkas, founder and CEO of Cubicle Ninjas, backs the rise of virtual meditation in busy offices. 

When asked about the use of VR for workplace meditation, Josh said: “Companies know that happier employees are significantly more effective. Virtual reality allows employers of all sizes to provide wellness initiatives in-house, all from the comfort of a small, portable, affordable VR device.”

“At the moment we're still gathering research about the use of our Guided Meditation VR in both the clinical setting and in the workplace. But the amount of research proving viability of VR as both a meditation aid, pain reliever, and a tool for empathy, is staggering.”

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