Companies can improve trust and communication with team-building events.
Companies can improve trust and communication with team-building events.

After booking a team-building event with TreeRunner Adventure Parks, businesses have a chance to create specific programming for the goals of the experience.

As COVID-19 health restrictions ease, more and more businesses are turning to team-building events to help improve employee communication, motivation and confidence.

After two years of pandemic living and working, businesses that are slowly bringing employees back to an office or an onsite work environment encounter various challenges that team-building events may help solve. Many employees, especially those hired during the pandemic, may not have had a chance to meet in-person until recently.

“COVID-19 fundamentally reset how, where and even when employees operate,” explains Ann Arbor-based entrepreneur Ethan Linkner, co-founder and managing director of Mudita Venture Partners. “Developing relationships through team-building is an easy way to build trust, regardless of location or a face-to-face interaction.”

At TreeRunner Adventure Parks in West Bloomfield and Rochester, the goal is just that: to set the stage for employees to reconnect, grow their relationships and, most importantly, develop trust as Linkner says. Multiple times a week, both locations host team-building events at their forested adventure parks to integrate people back into the workforce and build cohesion.

Employees love the out-in-nature setting at TreeRunner.
Employees love the out-in-nature setting at TreeRunner.
Building Trust and Confidence in Nature

Jeremy Fishman, president of TreeRunner Adventure Parks, is no stranger to building teams. He was the director for the 2019 JCC Maccabi Games & ArtFest at the JCC of Metro Detroit. The Congregation Shaarey Zedek member says team-building events have been a core offering of their business since 2014, but that the need significantly ramped up during COVID-19. TreeRunner Adventure Parks, which operates four aerial adventure parks (three in Michigan and one in North Carolina), offers a safe and socially distanced outdoor activity that lends itself well to the pandemic and current times.

Jeremy Fishman
Jeremy Fishman

“We’ve built it up and grown it more since COVID-19,” Fishman explains, “because we saw the inherent benefit to a lot of office spaces and overall work dynamics.” 

So, how exactly do team-building events in a forested aerial adventure park setting work? There are two ways to go about it, Fishman says.

The first offering is a traditional team-building event where employees do fun and challenging ground activities that Fishman says help boost confidence and create new bonds. After the one-hour ground activity, employees have a chance to climb in the trees and connect with nature — a respite from the challenges of working in an office and other daily work stressors.

A second offering is known as team development, where one of TreeRunner Adventure Parks’ staff members works one-on-one with a group of employees on various exercises specific to the goals of that group, like improving trust. One way to improve trust, Fishman describes, is to do blindfolded ground exercises that rely on the guidance of others.

“One staff member will be blindfolded going through an obstacle with another person helping them through it audibly,” he explains.

Companies are turning to team building as people return to the office after the pandemic.
Companies are turning to team building as people return to the office after the pandemic.
Team-Building Can Work for all Businesses

All types of businesses and industries can benefit from team-building events, Fishman says. So far, TreeRunner Adventure Parks has seen a wide range of customers, from engineers to medical offices to Chrysler. The parks “really blow people away,” he explains. “They’re amazed at how wide-open and how large they are. You’re really in with nature.”

One team-building event in particular stands out to Fishman as a success story. Fifteen engineers from an engineering company who had previously only worked remotely and never met in person visited this past fall. “You could see an incredible and very quick shift in their team,” he says. “We had them play a name game right off the start, to really recognize one another and break down a barrier that they had in the relationship since working together.”

After booking a team-building event with TreeRunner Adventure Parks, businesses have a chance to create specific programming for the goals of the experience. They can choose to focus on communication, problem-solving or other goals as the core of their event. “Once we have that information, we can create a plan of action that our staff will work on with you to enact the changes that you’re hoping to see,” Fishman describes.

Even after COVID-19, Fishman says TreeRunner Adventure Parks has no plans to discontinue team-building events, and that there will always be a need. 

“We foresee team-building becoming more of a core part of our year-round business,” he explains, noting that events peak in warmer, summer months. “We can do this in the winter at the office space and try to elicit similar responses, even if it’s snowing outside.” 

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