A Beginner’s Guide to Online Escape Rooms and Team Building

April 15, 2022 by Nate Martin

What are Online Escape Rooms?

Like traditional in-person escape rooms, online escape rooms bring a team together to solve a series of puzzles and “escape” or complete a mission in a set amount of time, just over the internet. Online escape room team building is an increasingly attractive and widely available team-building option to those who work remotely. These virtual rooms offer a shared challenge and opportunity to build teamwork and communication skills in a unique and fun environment. 

Escape Rooms are a Problem

A problem that is sweeping the nation. 

Fortunately, if you like puzzles, escape rooms are an excellent problem to have, because you can gather your friends to solve it as part of a unique experience – and generally in an hour or less!

Even with no real locked door to escape through, the “room” is just the beginning. Every remote escape room experience will center around some kind of problem your team must solve, perhaps a mystery to explore or a challenge to overcome. 

In traditional escape rooms, puzzles are limited to tangible things. While playing on virtual platforms, though, the whole internet is at a team’s disposal as they work through mental challenges, riddles, puzzles, and more. Whether your team is going to save the world, solve a crime, or travel around the globe, everything happens online. 

By going virtual, escape rooms also offer a much more flexible team-building option, because the ability to join from anywhere via internet access allows for a much easier participation process. Virtual access makes getting into these escape rooms as simple as clicking on a link. 

Players can join from the office, at home, or on the go. It’s even possible to join on a smartphone or tablet, depending on the technology available. Join up and play remotely with friends around the world, regardless of time zones!

Why Team Building is Still So Important

As Covid-19 continues to keep people at home, remote working options have exploded in necessity and popularity. Programs like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and more allow teams to continue working together from safe distances, and many people have found advantages in this: easier commutes, more efficient work time, more flexible schedules, and so on.

However, there are also downsides to remote work. One of those most commonly felt is the loss of an office environment. The loss of a shared hub location can damage the relationship potential between teammates. When a project is broken up into virtual tasks, it can feel impersonal and like less of an accomplishment once completed, and without in-person meetings, the friendships that naturally develop can vanish.

This is sometimes called the “Remote Work Paradox.” The extra employee efficiency found from working at home can come at the cost of increased levels of loneliness and risk of burnout from poor work-life balance. The extra hours and focus spent on work are the same that might be spent developing social circles and sharing ideas and inspiration around the office.

Your team could be happier and more effective working alone and virtually in the short term, but their sense of greater organizational belonging can suffer if not taken into account. 

Fun from the Comfort of your Computer

Team-building exercises likely seem like the obvious solution. But those trying to find ways to virtually improve team dynamics might quickly find that there aren’t many options. Gathering people who constantly work online to do more online work – even that which may be fun and social – is a challenge in and of itself.

Online escape room team building makes gathering a team as easy as possible. Without needing to commute anywhere and balance travel and schedules, remote escape rooms can be a great option for people in any hybrid office setting.

If you’re part of a global organization whose team members aren’t only across town but also oceans and time zones, you may be rethinking the need for travel, like many others in 2022. Online escape room team building can be a perfect way to mix up remote work practices, build better teamwork, and help your teams make friends and have fun all at the same time. 

Break Out From Workplace Monotony

These programs’ flexibility also offer a break in the middle of the workday. People can tune in from a work computer, instead of having to drive across town or worry about making their next scheduled meeting on the way back. 

By shifting to a remote puzzle adventure, a team also has a unique chance to learn things about each other and share experiences that would never arise in a typical work environment, such as a mission to travel around the world using internet map services, during which team members might start a discussion about where in the world they’ve traveled. 

Virtual puzzle events like this still heavily focus on problem solving and teamwork, which are the core of many employees’ daily work. Coworkers will keep their minds active and communicate with their team to win, but by introducing a fantastical situation and goal escape rooms can help make the “work” part of “teamwork” much more fun and reinvigorate a team.

Create Some Healthy Competition

Motivation can be further boosted by introducing an element of competition into your online escape room. Depending on the experience, a large team or group of employees can be divided into smaller groups and play simultaneously or track their performance times to see which team has the true Escape Masters. 

Introducing prizes or even just the promise of bragging rights is a great way to boost camaraderie between the teams competing. It’s even possible to encourage rematches or ongoing leagues of puzzle rooms as an ongoing source of fun for employees to look forward to. 

Online Escape Rooms and Team Building

Whether virtual or in-person, many people have never participated in a challenge like an escape game. It’s common to feel some apprehension before getting started, particularly if one doesn’t consider themselves to be particularly good at puzzles. There is one crucial thing to remember, regardless of a team or player’s level of experience.

Escape rooms are designed to be solved.

As escape rooms become older, game designers gain more experience, but even the first rooms shared a core design principle: create an entertaining challenge that a normal person can solve. It may not be easy, but with a few tips and a willingness to work together, most teams will be able to solve even the most difficult rooms. 

Escape room regulars and puzzle fans will see patterns emerge. Many escape rooms integrate existing codes, ciphers, and puzzle conventions. For example, someone who has memorized morse code may find that they have a great tool for solving some puzzles. 

You can also use the internet. 

It may not be everyone’s style to search for the answer for a puzzle, but when it comes to cracking something like morse code, being able to search online is a perfectly valid solution. Technology can be a big advantage, and many virtual escape rooms take this into account by utilizing the internet and computer skills people use every day. 

Even if you aren’t a code-breaking mastermind, if you can use the internet you already have some useful skills.

Planning Your Virtual Escape Room

A good virtual room should work well on multiple platforms – to the point where anyone with internet and a web-browsing device can access it. Some puzzles may work better with a larger screen or faster computer, but teammates can still participate with just a smartphone. 

Online escape room team building events can play out differently, depending on the type of video conferencing or communication platform a certain group prefers. Zoom has come to the forefront as a free and easy-to-use option. 

It’s only becoming more ubiquitous with remote work and is a major support tool for fully remote work teams and hybrid work teams. Learn how Zoom Can Be Your Best Friend for all of your hybrid meetings this year. Some remote puzzles use Zoom to share the game content, while others may use it to communicate while the game itself is played through a different tool. 

Ultimately, a team just needs a reliable way to communicate digitally while being able to see the puzzles on individual devices. If Zoom isn’t a preferred method of communication, Puzzle Break can support alternate business communication systems such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or WebEx.

Examples of Online Escape Rooms for Team Building

Puzzle Break has all kinds of experience designing interesting puzzles and was one of the first in the United States to adapt to a remote environment during lockdown. Now, Puzzle Break actively operates and develops both in-person escape rooms and online escape room team building programs to fit many different themes and preferences. 

Regardless of your meeting platform, all of Puzzle Break’s games are operated by a game master who introduces the scenario and puzzles and guides a team with hints and support when needed. Most in-person escape rooms have a game-master who offers behind-the-scenes guidance, but in a remote setting there can be an even greater range of available support, depending on a team’s preference. 

These are examples of the virtual rooms that a Puzzle Break Game Master might guide you through:

Working with a Groovy Lead Investigator to dance your way through DISCO DETECTIVES

With your fellow funky crime fighters, you’ll explore an intricate virtual museum that just so happens to be the scene of a mysterious heist – where the culprit might be under your very noses. This retro experience blends some disco fun with a modern internet browser to create a remotely accessible investigation that emphasizes exploration, multi-tasking, and collaboration. 

Joining an underground resistance to save the world with HACKFILTRATION.

This remote puzzle room will see a team drawing on elite computer hacking skills to join revolutionary allies at the Red Warren Resistance. No real hacking skills are required, but this game might be especially fun for those used to coding. It will take your team through all sorts of unique puzzles focused on active collaboration, attention to detail, critical thinking, and pattern recognition.

Putting your espionage skills to the test with SCHOOL FOR SPIES

In this final exam, you’ll have to work with your team of hopeful secret agents to travel around the world and find points of interest (and of course puzzles) that will help lead you to your A+ grade. More importantly, it will help your team build their communication abilities, research and reference skills, and memory through puzzles that require a host of different skills and group cooperation. 

Accessing your Online Escape Room

All these games are unique but share certain core similarities. Each is specifically developed to work over online video conferencing software, and its puzzles are designed to work best with teams of 4-6 players. Larger groups can divide into breakout rooms or multiple online escape room team building activities.

The most competitive aspect in these rooms is the clock. An hour is the standard for most escape rooms, and Puzzle Break builds that 60 minutes of puzzle time into what is typically a 90-minute experience for players. Puzzle Break can work with groups to offer longer, more intense experiences that focus on team building and skill development, or shorter, more succinct games to fit into a 60-minute frame.

If an hour seems too short or too long, it may be worth reaching out to Puzzle Break to create a custom setup. However, the time limit makes these experiences exciting. Each room features a problem for a team to solve within the time frame. It might be your final grade, or it might be The Fate of the World Itself

Why Pick an Escape Room for Team Building?

Here are five clear advantages why these events can offer your team a fantastic experience. 

  1. Easy to book.
    • Online escape rooms require no extra considerations for scheduling or location. If your team can find even just one hour to take off, everyone can play. 
  2. Adaptable for any team.
    • Whether it’s a small close-knit team, a large group of multiple offices, or a group of new people being onboarded to an existing team, online escape room team building events are scalable in size and format for any needs.
  3. Skill development
    • Escape rooms are fun but also productive. They offer a chance to develop relationships as well as critical thinking, logical analysis, creative problem solving, and more.
  4. Easy to manage.
    • The operations for these events are incredibly simple. As long as a team has the link to join and an internet-enabled device, they just need to show up and get started!
  5. Unique!
    • Online escape rooms are a fun and interesting form of team building that many people have yet to try. They are a fantastic way to introduce something new and exciting to a team, whether the team is brand new or has been working together for years. 

If you worry your team might be in need of an exciting break in their schedules, an online escape room team building event may be the perfect option for you. There are many great variations out there, so start looking around. You’ll be impressed at how fun they are and may very well find that they become a common part of your remote work team’s routine. Check out the virtual escape rooms mentioned here (and more) at Puzzle Break!

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