“Skyrocket Your Team” takes remote teams to new heights

“Skyrocket Your Team” takes remote teams to new heights

The project awarded first place for efficient teamwork in the "#EUvsVIRUS" hackathon provides engaging learning experiences for remote teams such as an online escape room.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed millions of people out of the office and into remote work. Over the past months, we have seen once unimaginable reconstructions of the workplace and consequently, teams that have physically worked together for years might now lack meaningful connection and shared experiences.

A new and unknown digital workspace can be overwhelming, and there’s a pretty high chance that communication will suffer. The consequence – miscommunication, which is an easy way of losing the team feeling. “Skyrocket Your Team” aims to counter these problems by providing an engaging learning experience for businesses with remote teams in the form of an online escape room and a debriefing afterwards.

Hackathon winners

The initiative emerged from the “#EUvsVirus” hackathon” – a joint event of the European Commission, EU member states and civil society. In April 2020, thousands of international participants collectively developed digital prototypes and solutions for technical, political and social issues in the fight against the coronavirus. Overall “#EUvsVIRUS” created 2,164 multi-disciplinary, multi-nationality teams with innovative solutions, “Skyrocket Your Team” being one of them.

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In collaboration with private and public partners from Europe and beyond, the “#EUvsVirus” Hackathon Jury identified the best solutions to support Europe in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. After a time frame of just 48 hours to build their answer, “Skyrocket Your Team” has been awarded first place in the challenge efficient teamwork from the category Business Continuity which was supported by the Vodafone Institute.

Teambuilding via an online escape room

The MVP of “Skyrocket Your Team” is an online escape room for four astronauts, trapped in a damaged spaceship. The astronauts need to solve several challenges and puzzles together to fix their ship and get back to earth. Getting back to earth and therefore getting out of the escape room takes around 80 minutes in total. Moreover, the experience itself can be adapted to the specific team sizes and no special equipment is required for participating.

By solving these different sets of problems, teams learn how to communicate effectively. The participants develop skills such as problem-solving, efficient communication, leadership or getting used to a virtual environment in the first place. The game was, therefore, not only built for fun. The strength and the uniqueness of “Skyrocket Your Team” lie within its design, which is shaped by the principles of adult learning.

Interview with “Skyrocket Your Team”

“Skyrocket Your Team” is a truly European project with team members from Estonia, Russia, the Netherlands and Spain. The members have known each other for years and have been working together remotely in several international projects.

Their very uncommon and at the same time, very fitting background and experience have uniquely influenced their work during the hackathon as well as the final solution of an online escape room. That is why we have caught up with the team members to learn more about their challenges, their learnings as well as the goals and the future of “Skyrocket Your Team”.

Why did you decide to enter the “#EUvsVirus” hackathon?

We thought this was our best chance to quicken our idea’s development, get fast feedback and see whether we could make the impact we envisioned. The results, as you now know… went above all our expectations!

Piecing together efficient teamwork and online escape rooms is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. How did you come up with the idea of an online escape room?

We all met seven years ago in AEGEE / European Students Forum — an international student organisation where we all had international roles. We have worked together online on different projects and became friends for a lifetime without even living in the same country. When COVID-19 lockdown began, we started participating in weekly quiz nights from our organisation, and after a couple of weeks, we started looking for different experiences. And then we found an online escape room.

We felt that online escape rooms could have the potential to help millions of people working remotely to feel connected with their team. Using our professional backgrounds and non-formal education expertise, we came up with a unique experience design and approach that differs us from all existing solutions, and that will bring your team to new heights.

How has your experience of working together as an international remote team, influenced “Skyrocket Your Team”? 

Our experiences have influenced it in many ways. Thanks to being an international remote team in different settings, we’re able to understand the situations that millions of people are facing right now in terms of working online and remotely.

As a first thing, we set up our communication channels – both for work-related talks and a place to chat and send memes to make sure we have everything set up for the ride ahead. We believe that finding the right people, working on the team and finding the key connections between each other is the best base for a good idea to be turned into a great product.

What has been the greatest highlight, and what has been the biggest challenge within your hackathon experience?

The greatest highlight definitely was when we could share our first prototype with our great and supportive hackathon mentors, who were the first ever to get out of our escape room. Imagine: You’ve built this new experience with your friends from Friday to Sunday, you had great mentors guiding you along the weekend, and now they get to try your solution. Excitement. Nerves. Your mentors are now four astronauts trying to get back to earth.

They’re all in a call, and you’re in the background listening to their reactions, and in a parallel call with your team, and cheering for them to get it right. They make it, and then they highlight the great potential of what didn’t exist 48h before. It was the best part of the hackathon! Right after that came the biggest challenge: putting our whole weekend of hard work, experiences and late nights, into a 2-minute video. We actually saw the sunrise together pulling an all-nighter and submitted it at 9 am.

What is your number one advice for people that have now very suddenly been pushed into remote work?

We can recommend being open about availability, tasks, feelings, challenges in life and actually about everything. Communication is key to having a well-connected team, and in the online world, with so many channels and without the physical presence, it can get even more complicated. Make sure that you’re not just doing tasks all the time but that you’re also catching up with your team and developing your skills.

After the hackathon what are your next steps, where will “Skyrocket Your Team” be in five years?

Right now, we are testing our first escape room in order to improve it and get it ready for the market, which is what we expect in a couple of months. The next steps include creating new challenges and new learning experiences.

About the “#EUvsVirus” hackathon

#EUvsVirus” was a joint event of the European Commission, EU member states and civil society, inspired by the German “#WirVsVirus” predecessor. It has offered international participants an opportunity to collectively develop digital prototypes and solutions for technical, political and social issues facing the coronavirus pandemic. Six challenge categories ranged from Health & Life to Remote Working & Education and Digital Finance. From the 24-26 April 2020, participants built solutions within the challenge areas via online platforms. The Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications and the Vodafone Germany Foundation have supported the #EUvsVirus hackathon awards in the challenge awards of efficient teamwork and mitigating fake news.