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How VR can help to support communication in the wake of Gen Z’s entering the workforce?

by Anthony Weaver

Data shows un-manageable work stress affects almost a quarter of young workers 

New virtual world platform, Rethinkly, enables staff to communicate anonymously without fear of judgement or bias 

Speak with co-founders, David Tinker and Andrew Jackson, about how providing the time and digital solutions to help Gen Z talent is a necessity

Hi Anthony,

I hope you’re well. If you have any questions regarding the below or would like to speak with the founders of Rethinkly, David Tinker and Andrew Jackson, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Subject to an upheaval of traditional working patterns and thrown into a world of virtual orientations, refrained from in-person interaction, Generation Z has been posited as the most stressed cohort in the modern workplace. According to Cigna International Health’s 2023 survey, an alarming 91% of 18-to-24-year-olds share this sentiment, with almost a quarter (23%) of Gen Z respondents reporting an inability to cope with work-related stress. Crucially, where the young workforce is regarded as a demographic of ‘tech-natives’, well acquainted with the likes of social media platforms and digital services, there appears a glaring opportunity to augment the power of virtual experience to support Gen Zs with what can be the most daunting part of working – communication.

To this end, co-founders of Rethinkly – a virtual world platform designed to tackle workplace and mental health challenges – David Tinker and Andrew Jackson, discuss how digital solutions can be used to support communication difficulties in the workforce. Entering an alternate reality, free from real-world distractions, staff can anonymously express their true feelings about a given situation, alongside their colleagues, using neutral avatars. 

Despite being subject to a raft of scrutiny by their older counterparts, businesses need to acknowledge the influence and value of Gen Z staff due to their expertise in social and cultural affairs as well as their digital know-how. However, being plunged into a corporate environment where their abilities can be overlooked and overshadowed by acute anxiety, there lies a disparity in communication between managers and peers – perpetuated by increasing levels of fear and burnout.

Three in 10 employed Gen Zers report having received no workplace training, resulting in a knock-on effect in productivity and perpetuated by a lack of adequate training. Jackson and Tinker call for the efficient use of tech to fulfil necessary requirements for anyone entering the workforce – especially those who are doing so for the first time. Specifically, VR can help businesses to create an immersive learning experience that’s particularly advantageous for tasks that require a practical application. Going beyond this, Rethinkly, the new platform powered by ProReal, addresses the novel barriers in communication that come with a new generation entering the workforce. 

How does Rethinkly work?
By design, the software removes all real-world references creating a neutral, virtual space that is solely designed to inspire autonomy of expression. In this context, users are able to create avatars that can express emotion and gestures, enabling detachment for reflection and transparent communication. By utilising a virtual world – the platform reframes problem-solving and communication in the workplace and beyond, in scenarios where people may feel uncomfortable expressing their feelings or opinions out loud. As such, the power of imagery and visualisation prevails where words fail, with Rethinkly combining the most effective principles of storytelling, psychodrama and coaching to address the issue at hand. 
Understanding the power of images, the NHS has been relying on the software for years as a tool to help patients express themselves when they otherwise couldn’t, alongside corporate firms such as IBM which have integrated the software into employee development and coaching initiatives. Crucially, the software can either be used under expert direction – which may be appropriate for particularly complex issues including the mental health sector. Users can be taught how to use the software within minutes, making it a scalable solution, especially for teams within businesses. Research on the use of virtual realities in these settings is constantly evolving, and Rethinkly uses a combination of insight from practitioners, academia and case studies leading to one of the most sophisticated tools for addressing communication issues worldwide.

Co-founders of Rethinkly Andrew Jackson and David Tinker comment on communication in the workplace, with a focus on Gen Z:

“As the first generation of digital natives who would rather text than talk on the phone, we often mistake this as the whole story, when really statistics show that 72% of Gen Z prefers in-person communication with their boss and colleagues.

“Connecting the dots between the digital world and creating strong working relationships is a huge opportunity for organisations as we move back away from the virtual into the office. A Deloitte survey found that stress and anxiety for Gen Z remain at heightened levels post-covid. Providing both the time and digital solutions to help your Gen Z talent becomes an HR mandate. Both to cope with this shift as well as empower stronger communication skills which will only strengthen organisations and help them get ahead of the curve as this diverse complex segment of their workforce grows.

“The metaverse is a space and place you can visit. This ability to drop into a Rethinkly world and start to visualise and process what is happening to you unlocks possibilities that you couldn’t get just by “thinking” or “listening”. The brain works predominantly visually, so by giving people a visual tool that is 3D and has space and context, the process is more powerful. Our work in mental health settings and with young people showed that tech can be used for good. Helping people build real world.

About Rethinkly 
Founded in 2013, Rethinkly powered by ProReal is a unique development and coaching visualisation tool that provides a safe digital space for ambitious teams to explore problems, relationships, conflicts and dynamics. Based in the UK, Rethinkly is helping organisations to build the skills and cultures needed in today’s dynamic business environments. 
We have been developing and improving the ProReal engine over the past seven years, combining insights from academic studies with feedback from our clients and practitioners. 

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