How Escape Rooms Can Help Your Team

- Communication

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by Julia Gain

Team building consists in turning a group of employees working individually into a group of people collaborating as a team in order to accomplish their tasks and goals. To do so, there are many activities you can organize, ranging from role playing games to races or obstacle courses.

What are they supposed to have in common? Fun, to start. Overcoming obstacles through games improves learning and autonomy. This brings us the second important thing about team building activities: They are meant to foster communication through problem-solving in order to learn to function as a team. Team building activities boost motivation thanks to games and increase productivity in the long run.

What are escape rooms?

An escape room, also called escape game, is a role play game in which players collaborate to find clues, solve puzzles and enigmas in order to accomplish a final goal, often escaping from the room they’re in, in a limited amount of time. Players can choose from a broad variety of scenarios: pirate ships, prisons, haunted castles, laboratories, etc…

Before becoming real life games, escape rooms were video games. Crimson room, released in 2004 by Toshimitsu Takagi was adapted to a live-action role playing game in 2007, making it more immersive. The concept quickly expanded world wide. As of February 2021, there are 2,080 escape room facilities in the United States and escape rooms have become a new trend for team building.

Why should you use escape rooms for team building?

According to Dave McDermott, director of sales enablement at Kelly Services, “gamification is finding the way to incentivize the behaviours that you want your team to have.

“Escape games are role playing experiences that take communication and problem solving further, by offering actual problems to solve. Opening locks and gathering clues are tangible obstacles to overcome, as is the final goal: Getting out. This also adds challenge and motivation, compared to traditional escape game activities.

Escape rooms are especially designed to foster team work. The only way to win is by self-organization. Employees have to decide for themselves who does what in order to be the most efficient possible. This makes escape rooms a great way to discover new skills. Roles can be completely redistributed in the heat of the moment. Maybe that shy person is a great problem solver thanks to observation? Maybe they’re a great leader? These are skills you can definitely use outside of the escape room and in the work place.

Escape rooms also take communication a step further. Playing an escape game doesn’t only encourage communication, it makes it necessary. All the different tasks people are doing need to be shared at one point, because all the clues work together to solve the enigmas. For example, the key someone found works to open a box three steps ahead. Finally, escape rooms are more inclusive than team building activities relying on physical strength, like obstacle courses for example. Physical activities can lead to stress and discomfort, especially when employees want to keep certain health issues private. Except for a few sports-oriented escape rooms, the vast majority do not involve running, climbing or anything sports-related at all. Escape rooms also fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act and are thus wheelchair accessible.

How to make sure your escape game experience leads to more productivity?

There are a few things you need to know to make sure your escape room experience is positive for everyone and leads to better collaboration as a team.

First, if you notice any problems related to the way people interact with each other, such as someone being left out for example, address that matter after the game. The point of this experience is to enhance communication and team work to the office. If something is wrong during the game, it’s probably happening in the workplace, too. Take advantage of this new knowledge to talk about it and find solutions.

Second, no stress! Escape games can be stressful for many reasons. Everyone isn’t comfortable with being timed or even role playing games. Make sure to reassure your team. Above all, it’s a game, not an exam. You should make it loud and clear that you’re not going to judge them on their performance. They didn’t find the code? Who cares!

Finally, not everyone appreciates problem solving games and practices and pressure to have fun can also be stressful. Tell your team it’s ok if it’s not their thing. Trying is great, but no need to be over enthusiastic if they don’t like it. Create an open environment to talk about it, which means listening to why they didn’t have as much fun as the others, This is a great first step to getting to know them better and choosing your next team building.

Photo credit Samuel-Elias Nadler via Unsplash

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