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Use common sense(s): Six tips using sensory immersion to engage your organisation’s hybrid community

Updated: Jul 28, 2022



Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. There’s nothing like full sensory immersion to create a memorable experience. For example, I want you to Imagine a glass of water. Got it? Good.


Now I want you to imagine a smooth glass that reflects sunlight off the side. I want you to imagine when you pick it up, it’s ice cold as if you placed your hand in the winter sea. It smells fresh, clean and relaxing. When you hold the glass it's not as smooth as it looks and it feels like freshly poured concrete. When you take a sip, it tastes slightly sweet even though it’s plain. You can feel it trail down your throat and you can hear yourself breathe a sigh of relief, you must've been really thirsty.


Do you see the difference? You can be in the presence of something or you can be in the presence of something and experience it. The glass of water can be anything. For example you can turn on your computer for a meeting, or you can see your team members, listen to them speak, and touch the reaction buttons. The point is that to optimally engage people, you need to stimulate as many senses as makes sense.


Hi, welcome back to this series on community inspired by Sympa’s Future in HR event. Last week we focused on memory design, specifically application of emotional engagement to improve the experience of your organisation’s community. I was inspired by blog posts form Denise Hampson for this series, so following her flow, this week I’m going to focus on sensory immersion and explain what it is and offer new ideas to incorporate this into your hybrid working practices with a focus on improving virtual meetings and events


I’ll start by breaking down sensory immersion. Sensory immersion in memory design has two components. Engaging multiple senses at once and eliminating distractions.



With sensory immersion in a workplace community, virtual is obviously more difficult engage the five senses in than in person events, so if you have the chance to have important meetings or events in person, definitely choose this option. However, if your team is virtual in nature, your organisation is aiming for a more sustainable approach, there are still ways

you can stimulate the five senses.


At my company, we’re required to do three days in the office a week. There are some weeks where I go into the office more often than others. It’s nice to have a place to go every day of the week when I feel lonely. I think hybrid working is a great thing for me, but in this new landscape of digital and physical connection and a lot of moving pieces, it can be more difficult to engage people on days where they’re tired at home versus tired in an office.


For example, today, I feel really tired. I’m so happy to not be in the office today. I’m so happy to not have to talk to anyone but my flat mate Opri, my concierge and the people at Pret who keep me steadily caffeinated. If it were a Monday or Thursday where I knew everyone would be in office and I was missing out, I might feel differently, because on Monday there’s free breakfast and on Thursday everyone said they were going in, but I don’t think I’ll miss out on anything important being at home today. It’s nice to have the option to stay home two days a week, it adds an element of relaxation to the week. I only have two meetings today, and for my first one I was camera off on the couch before getting up ten minutes in and going to my kitchen table because I realised I was half listening.



Virtual workplace events and meetings, the biggest challenge is you can’t control whether someone is immersed or not. You might not even be able to see them so it’s up to them whether they’re engaged. They can choose to be distracted at almost any time. To make sure people stay immersed, it’s crucial to have engaging elements to make sure everyone feels like they’re a part of a virtual event. If you’re doing a fun event around something like a pub quiz or a wine tasting, it’s easier to keep people engaged. For presentations and meetings, make sure you're asking the audience questions and encouraging use of chat functions, and ask people to put their cameras on whenever possible. You also need to stimulate as many of the five senses as you can if you want your event to be memorable and successful.


When it comes to community building, another element that virtual events have trouble creating is the feeling of togetherness. Engaging the senses can be useful for doing this if experiences are shared. For example, virtual teams can still all smell their cups of coffee, or enjoy the same presentation at the same time with the same information.





For virtual events/ meetings to utilise sensory immersion and encourage engagement I’ve put six new ideas below:

  1. Sending a kit to employees whether that be a paint set or a wine tasting (could stimulate smell/ taste/ touch)

  2. Having a Spotify group session everyone can add music to (sound)

  3. Use visual tools (like Miro board) for meetings

  4. Ok this one is out of the box but you could send everyone a scented candle and have it lit during some meetings. Call it Hygge (smell, sight and sound if it crackles)

  5. Encourage cameras on whenever possible

  6. Engage teams in real time asking questions or by doing polls/quizzes like Kahoot


I hope you found this information and these new ideas exciting. Follow me on Linkedin to be notified next week for the application of novelty to improve your hybrid organisation’s community.


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