After two years of challenges navigating a global pandemic, employers now face a new hurdle: the hybrid work environment. While many are embracing the various benefits of remote work, others are chomping at the bit to get back to the collaborative advantages of being in the office. How can employers foster unity among their employees, encourage teamwork, and demonstrate a sense of equity among employees, regardless of where they choose to work?
The question troubling employers for the past two years has been: how do we bring employees together but make it fun and appealing enough that they don’t dread logging in to yet another video conferencing call? It’s no secret companies have struggled to translate in-person team building exercises and events into a virtual team building format. Employers have tried such virtual office activities as hosting holiday parties, coffee meet-ups, happy hours, and icebreaker games, with varying degrees of success.
It comes as no surprise that, after two years of staring at screens, we’ve all become prone to experiencing what researchers at Stanford University refer to as Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue (ZEF). Even a social activity over Zoom can feel like a chore for employees or, worse, a contributing factor to burnout. For a virtual team building event to be successful, employers must harness the digital tools at their disposal to host an event that encourages collaboration, promotes joy, and provides a sense of accomplishment while offering a break from the routine.
Getting employees excited to click “Join Meeting” and turn on their cameras is no easy task. Yet virtual team building will be no less vital in the new hybrid work landscape. A recent Gallup poll highlighted the importance of considering the needs of remote workers when planning team building activities, presenting new challenges for employers as they navigate our latest “new normal.” It will be incumbent on team leaders to find ways to ensure that remote workers aren’t left feeling isolated from or like an afterthought to their on-site counterparts.
Whether in-person or virtual, the most effective team building activities encourage problem solving and out-of–the-box thinking, improve communication between employees, and allow colleagues to get to know each other outside of their regular workload. There are few virtual team building options as well-suited to these competing needs as Puzzle Break’s virtual escape room team building experiences, which provide an innovative and creative way to get teams interacting and working together to meet a common goal.
First thing’s first – you’re not going to be trapped when entering an escape room, physical or virtual. Rest assured that you can come and go as you need for bio-breaks, work emergencies, child care, and pet attention needs. An escape room is a series of puzzles and logic games leading to a final goal, like a key to a door. Teams are given an allotted amount of time to work together efficiently and methodically to complete all of the game’s tasks and challenges.
At the start of COVID-19, Puzzle Break had to adapt to the shifting landscape along with everyone else and began offering virtual escape room experiences. The general concept remains the same for Puzzle Break’s online escape room team building events – only instead of searching for an exit in a physical location, you may now be asked to discover a magical phrase, find a missing professor, or recover a missing artifact in an online game format.
What can a virtual team building event by Puzzle Break bring to you and your office? For starters, we offer flexibility in scheduling. Have teams in different locations, on different coasts, or even across different continents? With Game Masters at the ready day and night, we’ll help you to schedule an event during a time that works for all employees’ schedules. Need to schedule multiple games across a day or week so workflow remains uninterrupted? We’ll help you determine the best way to meet the needs of you, your employees, and your clients.
Puzzle Break can encourage a sense of equity and collaboration among employees, no matter their role, title, or work location. A recent Forbes article on the challenges employers face in adopting hybrid work cultures highlighted the need for building authentic human relationships. It has always been difficult for employees to see each other as people outside of their roles, especially in work environments that have entrenched hierarchies and power structures. As employees increasingly expect their employers to have a focus on equity in their office culture, an event like this puts everyone on equal footing. A virtual escape room allows employees to come into a scenario with fresh eyes, without the constraints or benefits of their role or title, to work with a common set of information to complete a task. Working in this way allows employees to see their colleagues in a new light – how their brains process information, their strengths, their weaknesses, their humor, and, sometimes, their frustration. You can learn a lot about a person in how they face adversity – or a countdown clock.
Most importantly, Puzzle Break’s virtual escape rooms make team building fun. You’ll be expected to use your brain as well as your teammates’ skills to your advantage. From the moment customers enter the virtual meeting, they buzz with anticipation over what exactly they’ve gotten themselves into. During our multi-team events, a sense of healthy competition encourages collaboration within the individual teams in order to win bragging rights.
Virtual team building events also often allow previously-overlooked employees a chance to shine. As a Game Master, one of my favorite moments during a virtual team building event is seeing an otherwise hesitant or introverted customer start to come out of their shell, and the reaction that elicits from their teammates. By sharing in each others’ successes and struggles – and hopefully sharing some laughs along the way, too – remote teams leave the game stronger than ever.
Ready to see how a Puzzle Break virtual team building event can work for you and your crew? Read on to find out how to set your organization up for success!
At Puzzle Break, we understand that every customer’s needs are varied and unique. When you work with our customer service team, they’ll ask questions to determine how we can best deliver the desired outcome of the event. Do you want to bring people together from different departments who otherwise don’t get a chance to interact? Or do you want to give existing teams a chance to bond in a non-work environment? Do you want to challenge members of management to practice their critical thinking skills in a new and different way? Or do you just want to give your team a fun reward for working hard? We can accommodate any and all of these requests – no matter the number of participants.
The beauty of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and other virtual meeting platforms is there’s no limit to the event headcount. Whether you have a single team of 4-6 players or hundreds of employees that need to be split into teams, we will get things sorted! Our booking specialists will also check in with you in advance as to whether you want participants to be broken up randomly into teams at the outset (great for mixing and mingling folks who don’t typically work together), or assigned to specific teams (recommended for more tailored team building experiences). Think of us as your virtual team building event fairy godparents – your wish is our command!
Games can be scheduled to accommodate your team’s busy schedules, with convenience and efficiency in mind. With a large team of Game Masters at our disposal, we’re able to serve all time zones around the world – a must for multinational customers! Our typical experiences are 90 minutes long, but can be shortened as needed if you’re after a quick activity to break up the work day and get colleagues talking. Whether you’re looking for a workday breakout session, an after-work happy hour, or a celebratory event, we’ve got you covered.
On the day of your virtual team building event, your Game Master will act as your host, tech assistant, in-game lifeline, and troubleshooter extraordinaire. They will be on the line throughout the game, checking in at scheduled checkpoints and as requested to ensure your team always has the support they need. For our multi-team events, you will have multiple Game Masters ready to answer your call whenever you need assistance. Providing a great customer experience is our number one goal at Puzzle Break, as shown by our customer testimonials.
Our experiences typically combine a mix of word games, matching tasks, codebreaking, and visual puzzles so that all teammates have a chance to play to (and show off) their strengths. Many puzzles also incorporate a cooperative element that requires teamwork, communication, and efficiency – all skills that are transferable to the workplace. As your group progresses through the game, we’ll be as hands-on or hand-on or hands-off as needed. We want our events to be challenging, not frustrating, with the focus on getting your group to work together.
After the clock runs out, your Game Master will welcome your team back to the main meeting room and offer an optional walkthrough of all the puzzles, giving folks who don’t finish in time a peek behind the curtain. For multi-team events, we also announce the top three winning teams before handing over the meeting controls to the group’s organizer for any further debrief or conversation. Teams frequently exit the game smiling, chatting more than they did when they first entered the meeting, and with a newfound appreciation for their colleagues’ know-how and quick thinking. By participating in a Puzzle Break virtual team building event, work groups leave with an improved team-oriented focus and a greater sense of camaraderie that goes beyond their day-to-day tasks. And given the numerous options Puzzle Break has to offer, your group can always come back anytime they need a team building tune-up.
As we enter the next phase of our pandemic reality, creating a hybrid work culture that keeps all employees engaged and feeling appreciated will be essential to employee loyalty and retention. Employers must be careful to consider their employees’ need for flexibility, respect their autonomy, and acknowledge that individual employees know where and how they work best. Employers must honor these needs while ensuring that remote employees feel like they’re truly part of the team and not an afterthought for choosing to continue working from home. The most effective workplaces will use technology to their advantage to offer a common landing place for on-site and virtual workers to meet and collaborate in a new and exciting way. Virtual team building with Puzzle Break is ready to be one of the tools to help you achieve that goal.
By utilizing Puzzle Break’s virtual games as a team building platform, you’ll add an extra layer of interest to your next staff meeting, conference, or social activity. For many team members, this may be their first time ever participating in an escape room of any kind. Employees can participate from anywhere using existing technology, making it a seamless and cost-effective way of gathering co-workers regardless of their work location and schedule. By tacking on a happy hour to the end of the game, you give your employees a chance to share their experiences in the game with their “rival” teams – where they got stumped, who crushed what puzzle, and of course, the inevitable talk of “who beat who.”
If you truly want to take advantage of the event as a jumping off point for improved team effectiveness in the future, you can follow up the event with a group debrief on sticking points encountered, communication barriers during play, team successes, and what employees learned about their own work style or those of their teammates. By hosting a virtual team building event with Puzzle Break, you’ll beat back the “Not Another Zoom Meeting” dread that we’ve all felt at one point or another. That’s because an event with Puzzle Break is anything but just another Zoom meeting – it’s an adventure. A race against the clock. An escape into whimsy. A shot at victory. Put plainly, it’s something different. For too long now, we’ve all continued with “business as usual” while things were anything but normal – and we’re about to shift to yet another unknown with hybrid work environments. The best way to get your employees excited, attentive, and present is to give them something unlike any sort of team building activity they’ve done before. Our hosts look forward to seeing you in a room soon!
This blog post comes to you from Jenny Revak, long time member of the Puzzle Break team and Paralegal at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.