Escape rooms — an immersive, physical adventure in which players are locked in a themed room and must use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit — are popular venues for friends and family members to socialize.
But they are also growing in popularity for corporate outings, as corporate managers and HR departments can see how escape room experiences actually benefit corporate teams in a number of ways.
A team leader or employer can watch the experience to get a first-hand view of how a team works under pressure. Whether or not it's a new team or an experienced team that's been working together for a while, putting team members in an unfamiliar environment and a pressured situation exposes personality and work-style traits that might not have been seen before.
Alpha males/females or the known "leaders" may excel or, do the exact opposite, if they are out of their comfort zone (they may be at a total loss about where to start or what to do next). This latter scenario often opens the door for others who may not previously have been the team leaders to take the reins and suddenly show leadership initiative, as well as the ability to organize and delegate. Supervisors may also ultimately witness unique traits among team members such as the ability to follow direction and be supportive of their team or, contrarily, the desire to work and produce results on one’s own.
By their nature, escape rooms are challenging so no one can be right every time. As a result, how people handle being wrong may come to light. Some will try to enforce their will on the challenge, puzzle or lock or even their team. Others will actually seek team input to derive a solution.
Escape room experiences can reveal who has good communication skills and can offer positive reinforcement. They can also reveal the other side of that coin, i.e. the inability to work together, take direction, admit mistakes or ask for help from others.
I urge corporate clients to dine locally immediately after an escape room experience. During activity the team is working together in a very intimate setting which opens the door to a debrief after the event where they can discuss their successes and failures in a comfortable atmosphere. People that don't normally speak up suddenly find themselves chatting more easily. This may ultimately open future doors to communication which could lead to greater productivity and an improved work environment.
Jeffrey Berkman is the game designer and creator at Escape Room NJ with locations in Hackensack and Madison.