Student Menno Brouwer develops Vital Forest that help staff relax

News 27 May 2019
HAS University of Applied Sciences

The Vital Forest not only has a positive effect on staff health, the employer also benefits indirectly.

The first genuine Vital Forest is now a reality. On Monday 6 May, the relaxation concept of Top-Class Business Programme student Menno Brouwer from HAS University of Applied Sciences in Venlo, was officially opened. The Vital Forest is an area where members of staff and students can take a moment for themselves, with the aim of reducing stress. Members of staff in ‘s-Hertogenbosch have been able to enjoy a Vital Forest for the past half year. But that was simply a pilot that Menno set up as part of the final-year project for his Food Innovation study programme. But now, it’s for real. Menno will graduate in June with the concept that he’s already bringing to market.

Work and wellbeing

Menno developed the Vital Forest based on his interests in the combination work and wellbeing. “I discovered that members of staff are able to relax in their own time, and that they create space to do this. But I found that this is much harder to do at work and the possibilities to relax are limited. People need moments to recover; also at work. Otherwise, you won’t be able to cope in the longer term. Research shows that 1 million Dutch citizens are suffering from burn-out-related complaints. I wondered what I would need to stay healthy, once I start working full-time. Based on this, I came up with the ultimate relaxation area, where all your senses can relax: The Vital Forest.”

HAS University of Applied Sciences

A moment for yourself

The Vital Forest offers every member of staff the possibility to escape from their work for a moment. A moment to yourself; to relax and to recharge your batteries. This means the Vital Forest not only has a positive effect on the individual’s sense of wellbeing and health, the employer also benefits indirectly, because sick-leave due to work-related stress is currently costing employers over 1.8 billion euros a year.
The small size of HAS University of Applied Sciences location in Venlo means for the Vital Forest can be used by both staff and students. Afterall, students also need time to relax and recover.

Combination of elements

Menno: “The moment you enter the Vital Forest, it feels like you’re walking into an actual forest. You can smell spring, hear nature, see the ivy on the celling and the trees on the wall, and enjoy the green ambient lighting. The area is cosy and immediately gives you a relaxing feeling. You can then sit on a massage chair for a massage programme of around 15 minutes. You can also enjoy a cup of herbal tea and a healthy snack. I first came up with these elements myself. Then I carried out research into which elements have been proven to help someone relax. The results confirmed my initial thoughts. This resulted in the first pilot version at HAS University of Applied Sciences in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and now finally the genuine concept in Venlo.”

HAS Hogeschool

Final-year programme

Menno spent the past few months writing a business plan as part of the final-year Top-Class Business Programme. He’ll use this to market the concept. He also used the pilot to carry out exploratory research into the effect of the Vital Forest, by means of a questionnaire and biodots. Members of staff seemed to come out of the relaxation area feeling better. Menno also developed a healthy snack that is good for digestion. He’s now busy carrying out follow-up research and holding discussions with potential clients.

Biofeedback

For the follow-up research, Menno is using biofeedback to measure breathing, muscle tension, skin temperature, perspiration and the heart rate of users. “These are determining factors for how relaxed or tense you are, and how easy it is for you to relax,” he explains. “This information helps increase your awareness of the importance of relaxation for your health. This is something I also want to offer as an extra service in the future. At the moment, you need to go to an expert to measure these factors. A GP doesn’t do this kind of monitoring. Even though it can give so much insight into your personal situation. I want to make this kind of research more accessible.”