Discover the Best Escape Room Team Building Activities
Escape rooms are one of the most popular kinds of team building activities. They’ve exploded in popularity among companies since they first gained popularity with the general public in the 2010s. Much of the popularity of escape rooms is because they unite teams through a common goal while everyone has a great time.
Escape rooms, also known as puzzle rooms or exit games, ask participants to play as a team to find clues and solve puzzles to reach a goal in a predetermined amount of time. In physical escape rooms, this typically happens by finding clues that have been hidden around the room. If your team solves the puzzle in time, then they escape and win. If they don’t solve the puzzle in time, they remain trapped and lose the game.
Escape rooms combine elements from multiple sources, including scavenger hunts, haunted houses, and immersive theater, such as Sleep No More. Some people trace the modern version of escape rooms to early arcade games, such as Donkey Kong, in which the goal was to “clear the screen” to beat the level. All of the elements combine to make escape room games a fun, interactive experience.
Escape rooms first became popular in the 2010s. The first escape room opened in Kyoto, Japan in 2007. More escape rooms opened in Asia and Europe in the years that followed. The first escape room in the United States opened in San Francisco in 2013. As of 2019, it was estimated that there were more than 50,000 escape rooms worldwide.
Most frequently, the goal of an escape room is to “escape” the place where the game is set. Physical escape room games typically have a pre-set theme. This means that your options might be limited. However, virtual escape rooms have been gaining massive popularity since 2020. Virtual escape rooms are played online, typically on a teleconferencing platform, such as Zoom.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual team-building activities have increased in popularity by more than 2,500%. This includes virtual escape rooms. While you might think escape room games can only be played in person, virtual escape rooms actually have advantages that physical escape rooms lack, such as more variety in themes, the ability to include remote team members, location flexibility, extra boding for remote and hybrid-remote teams.
Virtual escape rooms work exactly like in-person escape rooms. Your team will be solving a series of clues in order to “escape” the room within a certain amount of time. In virtual escape room games, the clues are digital. However, they could include a large number of category types, such as virtual maps, video clips, audio clips, character descriptions, and on-screen puzzles. Typically, your team will work in mini-teams to race the clock using these types of clues of escape.
Virtual escape rooms can also have more flexibility in their themes. With physical escape rooms, the theme is usually predetermined by the design of the room. In virtual games, the themes can be anything you want, from popular television shows to holiday-themed to science fiction,
For example, you might be escaping the North Pole or the dreaded office holiday party in a winter holiday-themed virtual escape room. Or, your team’s goal might be to beat the Demogorgon and escape the Upside Down from the popular Netflix show Stranger Things.
Virtual escape rooms work exactly like an in-person escape room. Your team will gather on a teleconferencing platform, such as Zoom where the game will take place. The event will have a high-energy host who is tasked with keeping the game going, facilitating conversation, and supervising the event. This means that even management can join one of the teams.
Your team will break into “mini-teams" that will race against the clock and each other to solve a series of clues. In most virtual escape room games, the clues come in the form of virtual maps, character descriptions, and audio and video clips. For example, in a pirate-themed escape room game, the teams might receive a digital treasure map. Or, in a space-themed game, they might receive stellar maps and spaceship blueprints. Virtual escape rooms will also include character descriptions, like in Dungeons & Dragons, to more fully immerse themselves in the game experience.
At the end of the game, everyone will rejoin the host to share their experiences. This light casual conversation will give everyone on your team additional time to bond and get to know one another. If this is your first virtual team-building activity, then you might consider pairing it with a happy hour so everyone has more time to socialize at the end.
Benefits of Escape Room Team Building Activities
Escape rooms have surged in popularity since the 2010s. And, their popularity isn’t just with friends and family. Escape rooms have become one of the most popular forms of team-building activities, for both in-person, remote, and hybrid-remote teams. Due to the advent of virtual escape rooms, their benefits can be harnessed by any kind of team.
According to a peer-reviewed article published in Cureus Journal of Medical Science, “escape rooms afford learners the opportunity to engage in an activity that rewards teamwork and effective leadership through experiences.” This kind of experience parallels the kind of work done by work teams. Your team has the chance to practice the experience of working together in a low-stakes, fun environment. This could lead to everyone developing stronger soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and critical thinking. They can also lead to stronger inter-personal bonds among your team, which is critical for any team, but especially remote ones.
One of the reasons that companies love escape rooms for team-building activities is because of all the benefits they offer. Your team will be communicating, collaborating, and problem-solving while having fun and getting to know each other better. These are all of the soft skills and outcomes that you want from a team-building activity. These kinds of bonds can be especially important for remote or hybrid-remote teams that don’t have the opportunities to interact casually that in-person teams have.
Setting up fun and growth-encouraging team-building activities is a great way to bridge the virtual gap. It can also be beneficial to your team’s mental health, engagement with their work and team, and feeling of recognition within the company. Putting voices and personalities to Slack avatars and emails is a great way to bolster these feelings of belonging.
While remote work was necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like it is here to stay. As more and more teams work remotely and from long distances, the challenges they face change. The mental health challenges for a remote worker differ from those of employees who regularly go into an office. The challenges they face are related to feeling isolated, lonely, disconnected, and not engaged with their work or the team.
21% of remote workers report feeling lonely on the job. This could lead to reduced job performance and overall productivity loss for the team. Smart managers know that engagement is a critical factor to a successful team. Team-building activities and other initiatives that support your remote workers feeling connected to one another are a smart investment.
Soft skills are the invaluable contributions that can be harder to define, such as leadership, problem-solving, or effective communication. Even though soft skills are less noticed in the hiring stage, they are a critical part of being part of the kind of successful, dynamic team
Your team will leave the events knowing how to better communicate with each other, increased problem-solving skills, improved teamwork skills, and, yes, even higher productivity. Studies show that fun at work and increasing engagement leads to higher-performing teams.
Top Benefits of Escape Rooms: Better Communication
In the day-to-day grind of the work and personal lives, there are countless opportunities for miscommunication. Digital communication, such as email and text messages, are famous for their inability to communicate tone. All of these factors and more can cause your team to start miscommunicating with one another.
Or, your team might be unfamiliar with one another and unsure of how to best effectively communicate. This could especially be true when your team is remote or hybrid-remote. Their opportunities for communication will be more limited. Hosting virtual team-building events, such as a virtual escape room, could lead to more comfort, authenticity, bonds, and, eventually, the coveted camaraderie.
Schedule an escape room is an excellent way to improve communication on your team and your team’s individual communication skills. The time limit of the game forces everyone to learn to work together quickly. And, the fun and challenge of the game serves to break the ice. Your team will be communicating fast, which gives camaraderie a chance to develop naturally.
Top Benefits of Escape Rooms: Better Teamwork Skills
Executives at Fortune 500 companies cite “teamwork” as the most important skills a new employee can have. Escape room team-building activities are an excellent way to begin developing your team’s ability to work together. This can be especially useful for cross-functional teams that don’t typically work together, remote or hybrid-remote teams that don’t work in the same place, or a team that is new to working together.
Within the game, they’ll be asked to work together to accomplish a common goal. There will be no way to escape without vigorous and effective teamwork. In most virtual escape room games, teams break into mini-teams to solve riddles and puzzles. You can select who will be on each of the mini-teams for maximum teamwork building.
Top Benefits of Escape Rooms: Better Problem-Solving Skills
Pressure has been shown to increase problem-solving skills. Escape rooms apply the pressure of time and puzzle-solving to help boost your team’s problem-solving skills. These are the kinds of skills that they will take out of the game and into the office.
Since escape rooms include a series of puzzles and clues, your team will have multiple chances to increase their problem-solving skills. As the pressure mounts, they’ll get more and more creative. This gives management a great opportunity to observe how the team works under pressure. They could gain invaluable insight in how to move the team forward once everyone is back in the office.
Top Benefits of Escape Rooms: Higher Productivity
While many might dismiss activities like escape rooms as “just fun,” they have been shown to increase productivity. According to Harvard Business Review, having fun at work is one of the best ways to increase productivity and reduce turnover. Employees that report working in a fun environment show higher engagement, higher productivity, and are more likely to stay with a company longer.
Escape rooms offer several features that will lead to higher productivity among your employees, including boosting morale, increasing engagement, fighting burnout, and encouraging fun at work. All of these things have been shown in studies to have a direct, positive impact on productivity. Companies with happy, healthy employees have happy, healthy bottom lines.
The morale boost from the event will have everyone chatting in Slack, offering more creative suggestions, feeling engaged with their work and each other, and seeming happier and more invested overall.
Top Benefits of Escape Rooms: Building The Coveted Team Camaraderie
Camaraderie is the end-goal of team-building. You want to move everyone beyond awkward and polite to create the kind of dynamic team that leads to real innovation. This can take time and effort, but there are informed initiatives you can take to speed the process along. Scheduling team-building activities, such as a virtual escape room, is one excellent way to do this.
There are five levels of team development: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. A good manager will want to create opportunities to move their team to a higher-level of development. Team-building activities are a fast, fun, effective, and economic means of getting everyone to a higher level of trust and bonding.
Top Benefits of Escape Rooms: Opportunities for Management
The benefits of escape rooms don’t just apply to your team. As already discussed, scheduling team-building activities can increase your team’s productivity and ability to meet financial targets. Escape rooms can also have benefits for management, such as identifying leaders and creating bonding among cross-functional teams and management teams.
One benefit for management is that it will grant them better insight into their team. Managers will have a unique window to identify team members with leadership skills or understand how to more effectively communicate with team members. You might see someone step up with creative ideas during the escape room game and decide to include them in more brainstorming activities.
Top Escape Room Team Building Activities
Virtual Escape Room: The 90s
Are you ready to come back stronger than a 90s trend? In this virtual escape room, your whole team will be traveling back to the last great decade, the 90s. You can make it a Blockbuster night and fire up your dial-up modem to log on to Virtual Escape Room: The 90s. In this 75 minute escape room game, your team will find themselves trapped back in the 1990s.
Get ready to sing along with Alanis and chant “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!” because the only way your team can escape is by solving a series of 90s-themed puzzles. A host will guide everyone through the game using a sequence of clues, including audio and video clips, virtual maps, and character descriptions. All of the clues in the game are 90s themed: from naming all the Friends to finishing the lyrics to "In Bloom” by Nirvana. Everyone will be breaking out their flannel and chokers for a Nancy vs Tonya style competition.
Virtual Escape Room: The Office Holiday Party
This escape room game is one of CourseHorse’s most popular group events. It makes an excellent virtual holiday party or team-building event. Your team will work together in mini teams to save their holiday vacation in Virtual Escape Room: The Office Holiday Party.
Everyone finds themselves trapped at an incredibly boring holiday office party filled with stuffy music, tasteless food, and awkward, stilted conversation. You’re starting to think it’s impossible for this party to get any worse when suddenly … everyone’s employee ID badge is deactivated! Everyone is trapped inside the office against their will. Even worse, you’re unable to take your beloved holiday vacation. Your team will compete in mini-teams to solve a series of puzzles in 75 minutes and escape the dreaded holiday party.
Virtual Escape Room: Murder Mystery
Who doesn’t love a good mystery? Thrill the true crime fans on your team with this immersive crime solving game. Your team will join the CHPD (CourseHorse Puzzle Detectives) and race the clock to solve a murder in this murder mystery-themed escape room game, Virtual Escape Room: Murder Mystery.
A high school reunion turns deadly when the star quarterback turns up dead and everyone attending finds themselves locked into the gymnasium … with the killer. Your team will race the clock to find the murderer from among the crowd in 75 minutes. They’ll do this by receiving a series of puzzles from a high-energy host. Clues might include character descriptions, audio clips, virtual maps, and video clips.
Please note: if you’d like to schedule this during a lunch hour, or want to play a shorter version of the game: You can also schedule a 45-minute version of this escape room game: Virtual Escape Room: Murder Mystery (45 minutes).
Virtual Escape Room: The Final Frontier
Space. The Final Frontier. Get ready to blast off into the Universe with this science fiction themed escape room game, Virtual Escape Room: The Final Frontier. You’ve been training for decades for this moment and it’s finally time for blastoff. T-minus…10…9…8…7…6…
It’s been ten years since the planet Pluto went missing. It just disappeared and it’s your job to find it. Your team will break up into mini-teams to race the clock and find the missing planet of Pluto in 75 minutes. Everyone in your group will be provided with virtual maps, audio and video clips, and character descriptions that work as clues to finding Pluto.
Virtual Escape Room: Escape from the 2000s
Which boy band do you prefer: Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, or 98 Degrees? Which Sex and the City character are you: Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or Miranda? Do you remember losing your mind along with the carbs on the Atkins Diet? Do you still remember some of your away messages from AOL instant messenger?
If you find yourself nostalgic for the glitz and flip phones of the 2000s, you can travel back to the glory days in Virtual Escape Room: Escape from the 2000s. Your team will be pulled back into the 2000s through a very strange Sims game gone wrong. Once there, your team must race against the clock to escape by solving a series of puzzles using a series of clues, such as virtual maps, audio and video clips, and character descriptions. Throw on your low-rise jeans, grab your copy of Order of the Phoenix, and start blasting “Since You Been Gone!”
Virtual Escape Room: Pirate Treasure Hunt
Arrgh, Matey! Who doesn’t love a good pirate treasure hunt? Grab a parrot, a peg leg, and an eye patch and get ready for some shenanigans on the high seas. Your team will compete as pirates that race the clock to find buried treasure in Virtual Escape Room: Pirate Treasure Hunt.
A high-energy host will introduce the game which begins as your team finds themselves as shipmates on a pirate ship in a tavern. A pirate comes in with a battered map to buried treasure. Everyone will compete in mini-teams to solve a series of puzzles and locate the buried treasure before the clock runs out. If the clock runs out, everyone will end up in Davy Jones’ Locker.
Virtual Escape Room: Jumanji
It’s a jungle out there. Your team will work in mini teams to solve puzzles and escape in Virtual Escape Room: Jumanji! Your team will have 75 minutes to solve a series of puzzles based on the popular film starring Robin Williams, it’s a board game gone wild.
After a great day at the zoo, you visit the gift shop, where you find a dusty old Jumanji board game. When you get home and open the box, you’re sucked in! Now, your team plays as mini teams to solve a series of puzzles and escape the Jumanji game.
Virtual Escape Room: The Arctic Circle
You’ll work with a team of explorers to solve a crime before freezing to death in Virtual Escape Room: The Arctic Circle. Your team is on a Groupon trip to the North Pole when their private plane crashes. Everyone finds themselves stranded in the Arctic Circle with little food or supplies. How did this happen? Was there foul play involved?
Everyone plays in mini-teams to solve a series of puzzles and escape the Arctic Circle before the clock runs out. They’ll have 75 minutes to navigate their way through a blizzard full of penguins and polar bears to escape before time runs out and they freeze to death. This game could be played as a winter holiday event, or anytime of the year when everyone needs to cool down a little bit.
Virtual Escape Room: Monsters & Ghouls
This spooky game will have everyone talking and is perfectly themed for a virtual Halloween office party. Your team will compete as mini teams to escape from a haunted mansion full of monsters and ghouls in Virtual Escape Room: Monsters & Ghouls.
It’s the night before Halloween, and Madame Grim is hosting her annual monster ball. Everyone has come to celebrate, even a creep or two. In the middle of the party, the Crimson Crystal, which holds the Spirit of Halloween, is stolen. There will be no Halloween without the Crimson Crystal. Your team has 75 minutes to work together to solve a series of puzzles to outrun monsters and ghouls to find the missing Crimson Crystal and save Halloween.
Virtual Escape Room: Marvel Avengers
Have you ever wished you lived inside a Marvel movie? Are you crazy about Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor? Do you wish you had a magic hammer or could Hulk out whenever you want? Everyone can play as their favorite superhero in Virtual Escape Room: Marvel Avengers.
It’s your chance to save the world. You’re leaving the latest release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when suddenly you find yourself pulled into it. It’s now your job to save the world. Grab your mask and cape - because you’re the superhero now! Your team will compete as mini teams, gain superpowers, and solve puzzles in this 75-minute Marvel Cinematic Universe-themed escape room game.
Virtual Escape the Upside Down
Fight the Demogorgon and solve puzzles in Virtual Escape the Upside Down, a Stranger Things-inspired escape room. It’s 1983, and you’re playing Dungeons & Dragons, drinking a Pepsi Clear, and eating Pizza Hut with your friends. When someone rolls a natural 1, the Demogorgon is summoned and opens a portal to the Upside Down. Your whole team finds themselves sucked into this strange new world.
It’s time to develop telekinesis, eat some Eggos, and steal Steve’s hairstyle as everyone competes as mini teams to solve a series of puzzles to escape the Upside Down in 75 minutes. This game is great for “geeky” teams or anyone who loves Stranger Things. However, no familiarity with the show is required to play.
Virtual Escape Room: Inflation
Everytime you go to the grocery store, it feels like a slap in the face. With prices going up, morale is going down. Who wouldn’t love to escape the always rising gas, food, and rent prices? Give your team a gift they’ll truly appreciate: a chance to exit this economy in Virtual Escape Room: Inflation.
The year is 2022, and prices for everything just keep rising. The same salary keeps getting you less and less. In this 75-minute escape room game, your team will compete as mini teams to see who can escape this economy the fastest. They’ll escape by solving a series of puzzles using clues, such as virtual maps, character descriptions, and audio and video clips.
Virtual Escape Room: Villainous
Are you bored of stories in which the hero always wins? Do you always seem to root for the bad guy? Are you crazy about Joker, Maleficent, and Snape? Based on the popular board game by Disney, Virtual Escape Room: Villainous allows your team to play as the villains of the story.
Playing as villains adds a fun, creative twist to the game. Your group will split up into mini teams and have one hour to escape the room and make sure the villain wins every once in a while. While much of the game will be played in mini-teams, there will still be opportunities for whole-group interaction.
Other Competitive Team Building Activities
Competition is a great way to build team bonds. Especially if the game is fun and low-stakes. It gives members of your team a chance to work on a common goal outside of their typical job responsibilities. This can bring out surprising leaders and create long-lasting connections.
Virtual Brick Building Challenge
Virtual Brick Building Challenge is one of CourseHorse’s most popular competitive team-building activities. Your team will compete both individually and as teams to build unique Lego structures. Each participant will receive their own Lego kit in the mail prior to the event. Then, they’ll compete in several rounds of different Lego-building challenges. Example challenges include building the tallest tower, creating a Lego self-portrait, or creating a Lego zoo animal. May the best Lego builder win!
Private Virtual Trivia
Your team will have a blast and be challenged at Private Virtual Trivia. This 60-minute trivia game incorporates four rounds of different types of trivia: a traditional trivia round, a music round, an image round, and a surprise round. Your team will be quizzed on a lot of different topics, including music, movies, history, ice cream, pop culture, sports, food, dogs, and more.
Virtual Googling History
Virtual Googling History is a whole new kind of trivia: instead of knowing or guessing the answers, you will race to see who can use Google to find obscure information the fastest. The game has three rounds: an image search round, a scavenger hunt round, and a debate round, in which team members pick a side on a controversial topic.