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Escape Rooms: The 21st Century Teambuilding Experience

Teambuilding Experience

Employee in corporate teambuilding obstacle course

''This seems... unnecessary''

C orporate teambuilding has been around in some way, shape, or form since corporations began. Whether it`s a work-sanctioned (or unsanctioned) happy hour, an executive retreat (where the corporate elite plot to take over the world, or not, I`ve never been to one), or a trip to the local bowling alley, ''teambuilding'' events have been a favorite of corporations to improve work morale and teamwork for decades, if not centuries.

Here`s the thing: most corporate teambuilding activities either do help foster teambuilding but are horrifyingly boring (trust falls and rope courses, anyone?), or are entertaining but don`t do much to help foster teambuilding and teamwork.

Soldier in military teambuilding training

''This is your idea of a team build experience, Frank? Get your legs out of my face''

This is where the ideal, 21st century teambuilding experience comes into play: escape rooms. Escape rooms force a team of coworkers to work together in a challenging, fast-paced atmosphere that encourages and even requires teamwork to succeed, all under the guise of having a blast. In the 21st century, we have seen the gamification of everything from schoolwork to real work, with incredible results. Escape rooms excel by nature in applying gamification to corporate team-building. The pressure and time limit of beating the challenges and puzzles in front of you forces your team to work together, efficiently and accurately, and in its exhilaration, forges bonds among your team in the process.

Innovators Use Escape Rooms As Team-Building Exercises

Employees posing with corporate teambuilding retreat award

''Yay... We won the 213th Corporate Team Building Cardboard Cup award''

Escape rooms as corporate teambuilding experiences have been hailed by everyone from Forbes to the Chicago Tribune to the Los Angeles Times. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other innovative tech companies have all taken their employees to escape rooms for teambuilding events. Google has even gone so far as to create a virtual escape room in Paris for their employees where players must use Google apps combined with the clues in the room to solve the puzzles. Microsoft partnered with an escape room to show off its mixed reality headset. We at Situation Room have combined virtual reality with the escape room environment to give you innovative team-building experiences as well.

Washington Post even has an article on how escape rooms can help you and your significant other find out if you're compatible with one another for long-term relationships (and for later, even gender reveal parties; you can't make this stuff up).

The University at Buffalo even created an escape room to teach their nursing and pharmacy students teamwork. And UB is not alone in studying the effectiveness of escape rooms as a gamification of team-building in the medical field: a joint team of researchers from Thomas Jefferson and Stony Brook universities found that escape rooms and emergency departments have an astounding number of similarities, conditions, and required individual and team skills.

Escape room corporate team building event in Macon, GA

Escape Rooms Show Your Team's True Colors

''This is SO much better than the obstacle course''

Escape rooms are fantastic teambuilding experiences for several reasons, but perhaps the biggest reason is that escape rooms force teamwork and problem-solving as a team, but do so in a fun and thrilling way that your team not only learns how to work better together, but bonds as a team from the pressure, fun, and exhilaration that are part of escape room experiences.

When an escape room begins, your team faces an ongoing and mixed set of problems, puzzles, and challenges. Often, in order to advance through the escape room, different puzzles and problems must be solved together, which form the solution to a bigger problem. All the while, the clock ticks and the pressure builds. It not only encourages, but forces organization, constant communication, compromise, and trust. Different puzzles and the escape room as a whole utilize different skills. One puzzle might require proficiency in math, the other reading comprehension, and still another spatial visualization, One small puzzle may require micro skills, but the bigger picture may require macro skills, No one person can solve all of the problems themselves (well, they can try, but it won't end well), because the puzzles often require clues from each other to solve them.

In order to solve each small puzzle, the whole puzzle, and keep track of the clues and solutions, players must fill roles both at the beginning and on the fly, Flexibility, role assignment and reassignment are often necessary as the challenge changes and evolves the more you advance through the room, Utilizing each team member is vital, and if members of the team hog puzzles or yell over each other, the team as a whole is likely to lose.

As the team beats the puzzles and advances through the room, the team feels its chemistry and momentum build through the thrill of its accomplishments, You may find your typically quiet team members come to life and shine, and your assertive team members concede to the problem-solvers, Escape rooms are like prisms that often show the true colors of the personalities of your team members.

Whether your team beats the room or not, they will emerge with a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie. They will remember what they learned about themselves, their team members, and their team as a whole. That communication, organization, and group problem-solving will absolutely carry over to work, as will the inevitable team bonding. As they come out of the room, you will see your team more excited, closer, and with more morale than ever, and they will see and learn sides of each other and themselves that they didn't previously see before. And the next time they face a difficult obstacle or assignment as a team, they will remember what they were able to accomplish as a team. If you were to put all of the puzzles of an escape room together, or in a pile, they would look nearly impossible to one person alone, especially when given only an hour of time. But it is absolutely and always amazing to see what the combined skills and teamwork of one team of very different people can accomplish.

Corporate employees working together as a team in an escape room exercise in Macon, GA

Escape Rooms Are Real-Time Team Problem-Solving Simulations

''Frank, I solved the puzzle. When do I get promoted?''

As if there weren't a strong enough case already as to how escape rooms are the best teambuilding experience in the world, it gets stronger: managers and team leaders can use the escape room team-building experience as a real'time evaluation of their team's problem-solving and teamwork skills that bear a striking resemblance to real-world obstacles and conditions.

Using escape rooms to evaluate teamwork, problem-solving, and communication isn't just a claim escape room owners make to target companies for teambuilding exercises. There is science behind it. ''Most people do escape rooms for entertainment, but they are also an objective way to evaluate teamwork and communication, something that we've struggled to do in our simulations,'' said Dr. Kelly Foltz-Ramos, a professor and director of simulation in the UB School of Nursing, who we previously mentioned uses escape rooms for their nursing and pharmacy students.

Escape rooms, as mentioned before, often put a team's true colors, strengths, and weaknesses on display, in ways that are difficult to see in real-time in the corporate or educational setting. Escape rooms are a real-time catalyst and demonstration of your team's skills, personalities (their real personalities), and cooperation. You will be able to evaluate each team member's communication, work style, learning style, and strengths.

And it isn't only you as the manager who will be evaluating and learning your individual teammates skills. Your team will learn more about each other's strengths as well. Escape rooms ''teach students to appreciate each other's strengths,'' Dr. Kelly Foltz-Ramos said. She noted that different team members in different roles have different sets of compartmental knowledge on the job, and this translates to the escape room environment as well, Your programmer might be very good at identifying pieces of the puzzle, while your HR person might see how different smaller puzzles work toward solving the bigger puzzle. Your sales person might be great at getting the team to work together.

Or, perhaps equally likely, it will be the opposite of whom you would expect to fulfill these roles. And your team members might even surprise themselves and each other too.

But one thing is no surprise: the bonding experience that your team develops, the things they learn about each other, and their confidence as a team will carry over to work in ways that will even surprise themselves.