Trapped with your coworkers: Escape rooms offer unique team-building

Colorado has the most escape rooms per capita in the country, with 80

Imagine you’re trapped in a room with a bunch of your colleagues, and there’s only one way out: Work together.

As a team-building exercise, few experiences can beat “escape rooms,” hour-long games in which participants solve puzzles and perform tasks to free themselves. Today’s escape rooms are immersive experiences with themes such as time travel, espionage, archeological ruins or rescue. Many have technology for sound and visual effects to provide a video game feel.

Given Colorado’s booming economy and highly educated and skilled workforce, it’s not surprising that escape rooms are super-popular here. According to the blog Room Escape Artist, there are 2,350 escape room facilities nationwide, and Colorado has the most per capita, with 80.

The first escape room in Denver opened in 2014, says Kurt Leinbach, owner of Rabbit Hole Recreation Services in Louisville. The industry grew as people experienced escape rooms in other cities, then opened a version in Colorado. “Commercial real estate prices were reasonable at the time, and there were many properties available,” he says. “Prices have since skyrocketed.”

Colorado’s science and tech companies supply an audience of well-paid workers who enjoy problem-solving tasks. Other players enjoy the games too, Leinbach says, and area employers like to use escape rooms to create camaraderie.

Corporate groups make up half the customers in November and December, says Jolie Beth Boudreaux, who with her husband, Kris Maloy, owns Q: The Live Escape Experience in Loveland and Greeley. “Sometimes they are having a holiday party and they want something everyone can participate in,” she says.

Q offers corporate groups a post-game debriefing. Participants discuss how coworkers interacted, who took leadership positions and who excelled at spatial puzzles or word-based logic.

There are caveats to using escape rooms as leadership tests. “Escape rooms are an amazing way for teams to bond, to enjoy one another,” says David Spira, president of New Jersey-based Room Escape Artist, which tracks the industry. “They are designed for having fun. As soon as you feel like you’re being judged, people’s behavior starts to change.”

Spira says Colorado is at saturation, and there will be mergers and closures as companies reach the end of their leases. Still, there are some high-quality escape rooms in Colorado. “We were just in Denver, and we played 31 games in four days,” he says. “We saw far more above-average rooms doing interesting things than we expected.”

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