Corporate Team Building: It’s Changing Now

Trust falls. One of the first things to come to mind whenever there is mention of ‘team building activites‘, bringing disdainful opinions and distaste from co-workers across the globe. In acknowledgement of that negative opinion, however, such team building endeavours have changed up the rules.

New forms of team building activites are now popping up, such as escape rooms, co-worker competitions in the vein of Survivor, and improvisation training, among others, are turning team building into exciting, and, presumably, effective endeavours, from the once-dread outings they once were.

A recent example, was in Chicago, wherein a team of United Airlines employees went  to a Chicago escape room, wherein the typical corporate structure was temporarily cast aside, with an intern successfully taking the reins of leadership and leading all the employees, managers included to freedom.

How a simulated jail break scenario successfully handled translates to improvements in the workplace, however, remains a mystery.

According Eduardo Salas, an organisational Psychology Professor at Houston’s Rice University, people love these activities because it is outside of work, but when they return, the same conditions in the office remain, so the long-term effects of team building activities remain unknown.

Team building is a series of exercises, aimed at encourage cooperation, and good will amidst co-workers, which leads to increased productivity. But team building has long been in question. The image most people come up with when the term ‘team building’ is mentioned is the trust fall, someone closing their eyes and falling back, confident that their colleagues will be there to have their back.

Experts say that, while team-building facilitators were always somewhat common and safe in their business, the old ways of team building rarely worked as intended.

Wendy Bowell, one of University of South Florida’s Assistant Professor of Organization Psychology, said that team building didn’t really improve performance.

In response to their current reputation, team building activites, have made their shift into more engaging and exciting ways to make co-workers band together. Escape rooms, wherein teammates are locked in a themed room and made to escape within a time limit via teamwork, puzzle-solving and thinking, have now become the go-to team builder exercise. According to Bedwell, these new activities, which make people work together, think critically and find ways to solve problems are far more beneficial than a mere trust fall.

The United Airlines team building escapade was led by an intern, Justin Booms, who took charge of the situation using his experience in dealing with escape rooms. He says that, since everyone was thrown into the same boat, there was no hierarchy, merely someone taking command and leading the team to the goal.