Can an Escape Room bring your team closer together?

How an NYC Escape Room taught us the importance of teamwork

Since companies like Google or the Austin- and Portland-based start-ups of the world have become famous for their fun and liberal company culture, it seems that more and more companies are trying to jump on the fun train. Millennials continue to rank work/life balance and a positive company culture just as or more important than traditional perks like health insurance and PTO. The quality of work life has become a driving factor in choosing to work with a company. According to a new study by Fidelity, "On average, millennials would be willing to give up $7,600 in salary every year to work at a job that provided a better environment for them." All kinds of corporate team building activities have been growing increasingly popular, with some seeming more like a Michael Scott idea than a real one.

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Last week, a few members of my team and I decided to try our own hand at team building outside of the office and chose to go to a local New York City Escape Room called Exodus. Here's the premise of an Escape Room. You start with a team of 2-10 players and agree to being locked in a small room where you must work together to find a key that unlocks the door to get out in less than hour. If you don't make it out in 60 minutes, you lose.

Over the past decade, the interest in Escape Rooms has been steadily growing across the country. Not only do you get to test your analytical skills and puzzle solving capabilities, but your sense of patience and level-headedness under pressure are brought to light as well. Escape Rooms are a fun way to challenge yourself with a small group of friends, coworkers, or even strangers if you team up with other patrons. My coworkers and I formed an average sized team of five and had never done much more outside of the office than the occasional work Happy Hour, so we were excited and a bit nervous.

We had three rooms to choose from: Exodus is recommended for first timers, Hound of Baskerville is the next level up and Masquerade Manor is for the most experienced players. We went for Exodus since only one of us had ever tried an Escape Room before. The Exodus room had an Indiana Jones vibe and was set in a museum with Egyptian artifacts. The premise of the story is that we're in the New York History Museum and the ghost of the evil Pharaoh Ramses II has possessed the art curator and is devising the end of the world. We were given a brief introduction to the facility and a short list of rules, then the timer began and we were left alone to "escape the room."

Exodus Escape the Room

The experience that followed wasn't claustrophobic or stressful like I had anticipated, but instead taught me a valuable lesson about teamwork. We were working with each other and found ourselves repeating "leave no stone unturned" (seriously, we were fully embracing it). Every member of the team was contributing in different ways and it was entertaining to see how each of us worked under pressure. Because we were a team of coworkers, the sense of camaraderie was high and the trash talking kept to a minimum.

We made it out in a boastful 37 minutes and were surprised by the sense of accomplishment we all felt afterward. Getting to see where everyone's skills lie was fascinating and revealed that everyone on a team adds value. One person was looking more abstract, another person was looking more at details that most of us didn't notice, while someone else was re-reading all of the clues. The game revealed how different perspectives brought to the table can help solve a problem more efficiently. It was fun to see how we reacted to different puzzles and mind games especially with the pressure of the timer thrown in the mix. We didn't even have to ask for a clue! We felt a sense of accomplishment when we successfully "escaped the room," and we all agreed we'd do it again. The game was more fun and challenging than we had expected, and we were proud of ourselves for working together to make solve the mystery.

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