The advantages & disadvantages of escape room team building; plus a few tips on how to select the best escape room for your group.
Search for team building ideas near you or the best team building activity in your city, and there’s a good chance some of the top results will be escape rooms.
If you go through the listicle-type results, whether they’re 10 best team building activities in your city type blog posts or lists generated by directories like TripAdvisor, you’re sure to find escape rooms appear in the list.
So, the popular verdict as revealed by Google’s (and Bing’s, #underdog) algorithms is that escape rooms are a good team building option.
But you probably knew that.
And you’re still going through this blog post.
Which means that you’re not sure whether an escape room team building event would be appropriate and effective for your specific business and your coworkers/workers.
I get that.
And I want to help you make an informed decision on this.
Which is why I’m publishing this blog post on the pros and cons of escape room team building, plus a few tips on how you can organize an especially effective TBg (team building, getting tired of repeating the phrase over and over again) event at an escape room.
The pros and cons of making escape games your team building activity
Let’s start at the basics of an escape room - a group of players enters a themed space in which they have to achieve a certain goal within a set time (usually 60 minutes).
They have to do stuff like solving puzzles, decoding ciphers and finding concealed objects to find out how to proceed.
Where does the team building come in?
Well, good escape room games are designed to get the group to pool their efforts, sharing findings and insights to solve puzzles and spot clues quicker, which improves the team’s chances of escaping before time runs out.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of making escape games your team building activity.
5 main pros of escape game team building
Escape rooms bust stress
Let’s face it: with work comes stress. Targets and deadlines are a given, but there’s also tribalism (between different groups of people), perceptions that others are being favored over oneself, a fear of one’s efforts not being recognized or credited and so on.
An escape room, being a fun activity that players enjoy taking part in, is a great way to forget looming responsibilities and relax while still cooperating with the others over a shared goal (teamwork).
This is what makes escape rooms pretty efficient as stress-busters.
Explore our escape room games to see what I’m talking about.
Escape rooms boost productivity
To begin with, less stress = higher productivity.
When a group takes part in an escape game, they find that working together to achieve a shared goal can be an enjoyable experience. That in itself increases the efficiency of the group.
Furthermore, remember how I mentioned players having to do stuff like decoding ciphers, spot hidden objects and so on?
All of these put important life skills like observation, pattern recognition and quick thinking to the test.
In a sense, this gamifies skill building which again improves productivity.
Team members develop empathy and respect for one another
Watching teammates struggle or breeze through tasks at the workplace breeds contempt or envy. That’s because of the tense environment.
On the other hand, in the fun and relaxed escape room environment, team members will develop respect and empathy for one another.
Players shed inhibitions and communicate freely
Communication is absolutely crucial in any workplace environment, especially when you're talking about tasks and deadlines.
But with everyone under pressure there’s every incentive for folks to desist from communicating their opinions, fears and wishes clearly to others.
I think you can see where I’m going with this…
An escape room challenge on the other hand, is a fun activity which shrinks inhibitions people have about telling others about a clue they’ve found or a brainwave they’ve had!
They create that killer instinct
With interesting backstories, narrative-driven game design and props & special effects, an escape room challenge gives participants a huge incentive to put their full efforts into winning the game.
This drive to win will carry over when they resume work.
5 main cons of escape game team building
They are a continuous process
In other words, they aren’t a magic bullet. You can’t do it one time and hope the results to stick forever.
For the team benefits to persist, you need to host these events periodically.
Which some might see as time being “wasted” on such events when it could have been used more “productively”.
FIAB Insight: As I see it though, an escape room team building session isn’t so much time being wasted or spent, but rather invested to improve team morale and performance.
Some folks may not want to engage
They could see it as a “day off” rather than an opportunity to engage with their colleagues.
Sure, they’ll show up, but you might find them standing in a corner or just looking plain bored.
FIAB Insight: While there’s no way to put a complete stop to this - this isn’t kindergarten that you can give people time out - you could talk with everyone beforehand and try to find out who isn’t on board with the escape room team outing idea…and just give them the day off.
Not everyone will benefit equally
The variety of people on a team makes it impossible for any single activity to benefit everyone equally.
And the fact that each person has their own interests, skill levels and personalities only adds more complications when trying to decide what will be fun or interesting enough!
It’s challenging to assess their efficacy
Being a continuous/constantly ongoing process, the success of escape room team building can be difficult to assess.
At work, tangible results may take some time before they show up.
On the other hand if your team happened to deeply enjoy solving puzzles together it could lead to higher productivity levels that'll fade over weeks or months.
Not everyone may enjoy them
Not everyone has the same level of enthusiasm for solving puzzles. The participants who are more into it might disengage or actually get bored and stop trying, while other people will be having fun with these complex challenges
Some tips and tricks to choose an escape room experience that actually works for your team
Ask your friends and acquaintances from other organizations about their escape room experience.
Go through reviews. Search on Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp.
Visit the facility beforehand, or better, book one personally and check it out first hand.
Make sure you know what your options are if you have to cancel suddenly.
See whether they offer a specific team building package.
Such a package should contain options like a separate popup room to accommodate larger groups, food and drinks packages and useful and actionable feedback on your team’s performance.
For reference, we at Fox in a Box work with an organizational psychologist to provide a more in depth and partial day retreat or conference for your team.
Featured image by Jason Goodman on Unsplash.