Escape rooms build community while pople work remotely

UCSF Staff stayed connected during lockdown with virtual team building events like virtual escape rooms

“It was fun.”                                                                                       

“It was so great to be with the people I work with since we’re all working at home.”

“It made me happy.”

“We’re so glad we won.”

“We’ll be back.”

These are just a few of the comments shared by faculty and staff at the University of California, San Francisco, after joining forces with colleagues to compete in a campus-wide virtual escape room facilitated by UCLA Conferences & Catering.

The first two events were held in 2021 and a third is planned for February, said Jennifer Mannix, assistant director, wellness and community, at UCSF, where she is responsible for creating opportunities for her campus to create connection and foster community among students, faculty and staff.

As with organizations across the globe, COVID-19 sent the campus community home in March 2020 and Mannix had to find a creative solution to help employees maintain their sense of togetherness while living with a pandemic. 

“All of the traditional activities we’d been used to organizing, like outdoor events, game nights and live music on campus, all those things came to a crushing stop, and I really wanted to figure out a way that I might be able to create community.”

Mannix saw a flyer promoting UCLA Conference and Catering’s new menu of virtual meeting, conference and team-building options that were created at the onset of the pandemic, and thought this might be a great solution for UCSF.

“Escape rooms seemed to be ideal,” said Mannix, adding that these events have been “out-of-this-world successful” with roughly 400 participants in total – playing in teams of 6-8. “That’s extraordinary for any sort of event.”

Mannix said that once the event is booked, she has very little work to do beyond promoting it to her audience.

“UCLA is a great partner,” said Mannix. “They have wonderful team of people who are on that call greeting players, facilitating the game and  guiding the players through the challenges and clues.”

Pivoting to virtual events like this was critical for UCLA Conferences & Catering as their bookings for live events and catering came to an abrupt halt beginning in March 2020, said Shannon Terhune.

“We know how important it is for people to stay engaged and connected with one another and we were committed to finding affordable solutions that would make this possible,” said Shannon Terhune, catering and events sales manager in UCLA Conferences & Catering. “Our team-building events have been a real hit. Not only do we offer escape rooms, but we also have game show platforms and a program that features a magician. They’re a lot of fun and they bring so much joy to people. I’ve really loved seeing the positive impact these types of activities have had on people, especially during these incredibly challenging times.”

To learn more about planning your own virtual team-building events, contact Terhune at 310-825-5305 or