Thinking Outside of the Office

For years, business owners have been using innovative team-building exercises to improve productivity and increase employee motivation — organizing random potluck dinners or gathering co-workers for a Saturday softball game. But recently, more organized gatherings have replaced office scavenger hunts and water balloon tosses in the employee parking lot as “paint and sips” and other inventive studios are dominating the new corporate event planning landscape.

“Team building is how our whole company started,” noted Danny Graber, owner of The Amazing Escape Room in Westerleigh, which has been in operation for three years. “The concept of an escape room is all about getting team members to mesh together, joining ideas and making every effort to solve a problem. A lot of times we have different departments from the same company enlisted in our program with the goal of getting to know each other outside of the office setting — each event providing a sort of common ground and allowing co-workers to get a better look at how their office mates think and work.”

With scenarios like The Diamond Mine, Super Hero Alley, The Heist and The Detective’s Office, visitors to the Amazing Escape Room have 60 minutes to collectively find lost treasure, rob a bank, rescue a damsel in distress or solve the crime of the century. Estimating his corporate clientele at about 30 percent of his business, Graber said most company events are either followed or preceded by a smallish reception and many companies are now opting to host their holiday parties in his reality gaming space — all with team building in mind. The popularity of this idea even inspired Graber to open a similar concept in Freehold, NJ, called the Sipping Plant.

“It’s an arts and crafts studio where guests choose different containers and succulents and build a terrarium,” Graber said. “We stock between 10 and 20 different containers and clients can decorate them in any fashion — it’s a concept that is also being very well received by a corporate clientele.”

And Graber’s business is not alone in this new innovative team-building trend.

“We offer corporate event classes that are geared towards team building during which groups can create signs focused on an inspiring quote or team logo,” noted Monique Roiter, owner of the newly opened Board and Brush in Charleston, which allows patrons to create farmhouse-style wooden signs and home décor pieces.

“Our whole process is very team oriented,” Roiter continued, detailing her franchise, which has close to 200 locations throughout the United States. “So it’s a good environment for corporate parties and holiday gatherings that are focused on gathering your team together in a unique, fun setting that encourages teamwork.”

The DIY workshop features a gallery of 200 different projects, ranging from the hallmark wooden sign to centerpiece boxes, TV trays and personalized wall clocks. Each session features three hours of guided instruction and unlimited socialization.

“We do everything from holiday signs to meal planning boards and picture frames,” Roiter said. “A popular option for corporate parties is artwork built around an inspirational quote like ‘You Got This.’ What makes Board and Brush great for business events is the three-hour process — you can really get to know your co-workers as you work together on these projects. And if you hang the finished product in your office space it becomes a talking point.”

At Pinot’s Palette, corporate events account for at least 15 percent of business.

“If you are looking for a fun and different activity that will gather and unite your staff, something like a paint and sip event is definitely a good option to consider,” noted Dorothy Ferlanti, who co-owns the Charleston paint shop with Fred Fadell and Richard Barton. “It’s an activity that draws people out of their comfort zone and allows their creativity to take over.”

Pinot’s Palette, which has been open in the borough since March 2014, also specializes in creating unique designs for each individual business.

“We had one business come in and their new sales director wanted to create a project for her office that would help build her team,” Ferlanti said. “So we did a mystery puzzle painting and only she and our artist knew what the outcome would be. Each guest painted a different piece of the puzzle and when they assembled it, it was a gorgeous picture of the Verrazano Bridge, which they proudly displayed in their office.”

Ferlanti also helps businesses brainstorm, creating a unique logo for their brand in a single visit.

“We’ll open with a brainstorming session, allow the guests to break for dinner and when they return have a newly designed logo that they can paint and bring home to hang in their office,” she concluded. “It’s a really nice process and the fact that every team member is involved makes the redesign that much nicer.”