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July 21, 2023

Why you should(n't) use escape rooms as team building activity for your team

It’s known that escape rooms are popular and commonly used as team-building activities for companies seeking to enhance collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills among their employees. These immersive experiences challenge your colleagues to work together to solve puzzles and escape from a locked room together, as a team. 

While escape rooms are effective training tools for companies who want to strengthen the ties of their teams, they may not be suitable for everyone. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of trying to escape with your colleagues so you can make the best decision.

Reasons why you definitely should use escape rooms as a team building experience: 

Escape rooms improve collaboration

Escape rooms require their participants to collaborate and communicate effectively to succeed. Team members must work together, sharing their skills and knowledge to solve puzzles and unravel complex challenges. This collaborative environment encourages team workers to step out of their comfort zones, rely on each other's strengths, and promote a sense of unity, just as they would do in their working environment.

Develop problem-solving skills

Escape rooms provide a platform for teams to practice critical thinking and problem-solving in situations that sometimes require focus and cause stress. 

Players must analyze clues, think creatively and make quick decisions to overcome obstacles and escape the room. These experiences can help coworkers develop their ability to think outside the box, approach challenges from different angles, and remain calm under pressure.

Team building: Improving communication skills

Communication is the key to success in escape rooms and in the working environment too! Players must articulate their thoughts clearly, actively listen to others' ideas, and exchange information efficiently. 

In escape rooms, there is no time to waste and everyone’s ideas are important. These scenarios can expose communication gaps within teams and encourage individuals to improve their interpersonal skills, including active listening, concise articulation, and constructive feedback. 

Discovering new sides of your colleagues

You may think that the manager of your team is going to take the lead in solving puzzles or crack codes faster than others, but you might be surprised. You’ll see that strengths and weaknesses get exposed very quickly in escape rooms and new talents are very likely to shine. 

While cyphers might be an easy task for some of you coworkers, others might just be masters of agility puzzles. You never know!

A bunch of maps are laying on a table, some open, some folded, all in muted brown colours.

Why you might want to think twice before booking an escape room as a team building activity with your company:

Competitive atmosphere

While competition can be healthy in certain contexts, the highly competitive nature of escape rooms may overshadow the team-building aspect. In this context, acing the room and winning no matter what isn’t what matters the most. 

Some individuals may become overly focused on being the first to solve a puzzle, leading to a fragmented team dynamic rather than fostering collaboration. This hyper-competitive environment can undermine the cooperative spirit necessary for a successful team. 

However competition fuels motivation and drives your teammates to push their boundaries. It’s all about finding the right amount! 

Limited transferability

The skills developed in escape rooms are sometimes hard to translate into the workplace. The puzzles and challenges in these games often involve specific, isolated scenarios that may not reflect the complexities and dynamics of real-life work situations. 

While the players may improve their problem-solving and communication skills within the escape room context, applying these skills to the daily work may not be straightforward. This is where you need to use your imagination! Creative thinking can be applied almost everywhere.

Think about what the player in you would do. 

Unpredictable group dynamics

Escape rooms are here to help people better their collaboration, but they can also reveal and amplify existing team dynamics. 

However, if there are underlying conflicts, communication issues, or power imbalances within the team, the pressure of the escape room scenario may exacerbate these tensions rather than resolve them. 

It’s generally a good idea to assess the readiness and dynamics of your team before engaging in this type of activity. Everyone should start playing on the same level to avoid power imbalance between teammates.This is where escape rooms are great, they identify areas for growth!

Short-Term success

Escape rooms are typically designed with a specific objective—escaping the room within a given timeframe. This emphasis on immediate success may overshadow the long-term objectives and dynamics that drive effective teamwork.

The only focus of solving puzzles may quickly neglect important aspects such as relationship-building, trust-building, and strategic planning, which are crucial for a sustainable team performance. 

Think of escape rooms as a stepping stone rather than a final destination, this type of activity can be a solid foundation for  long lasting success!

Escape room as a teambuilding activity? In conclusion…

While escape rooms can offer a thrilling and engaging experience for team-building activities, their suitability as training tools depends on various things. It’s crucial to consider your team's dynamics, goals, and the desired outcomes of this type of outing. 

Escape rooms can be effective for promoting collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills, but they should be viewed as a complementary component of a comprehensive team development program. 

Don’t take it too seriously! Integrating escape rooms with other training methodologies and tailoring the experience to your team's specific needs can help maximize the benefits while avoiding the potential limitations and problems. 

Remember, the key to success is finding the right balance between fun, engagement, and tangible skill development for your team!