My company, Arkadium, is full of people who love to solve challenges. Our office is filled with gamers -- the classic arcade machine in our kitchen might be a giveaway -- and, as a group, we enjoy both regular game nights and fun day-trips out of the office.
But, our most recent team-building outing was far from a game. It was extreme, strenuous, but most importantly, brought us all closer together in ways we'd never considered.
CEO did what?
When an employee sent a company-wide email inviting us all to create a team for an upcoming endurance relay race, I immediately thought about how much I hated running.
But I wanted to challenge that self-limiting belief. So I committed, along with 11 of our employees. Most of us had no idea what we were getting into - an endurance relay race that took place over two days and one night with little to no sleep, let alone showers.
Up and down hills. Over bridges. Through sunrises and sunsets. Through mountainous terrains, we all combined to run 36 gut-wrenching legs en route to the finish line more than 100 miles from where we started.
Each team member runs several legs of anywhere between two and twelve miles, and when you're not running, you're cheering on your teammate from the team van or trying to catch 15 minutes of sleep.
It was grueling. But by stripping us down to the rawest versions of ourselves, we left the race closer than we could've imagined going into it.
Many companies have flat organizational structures, making for less formality, but during the race there were truly no junior or senior employees and no single person whose opinion mattered more than anyone else's.
In that environment, where everyone is both physically and mentally drained, you're all teammates, focused on helping each other out. And it was fascinating to see our team rise to the occasion.
One employee in particular, who tends to keep to himself in the office, became one of our most vocal leaders and volunteered to run extra legs for teammates who were too tired to do it themselves.
There were many other instances of our team growing closer and rallying around each other, like the people who chose to cheer on a runner instead of sleeping.
Plus, it was a next-level lesson in teamwork as we learned to eat and sleep in close quarters over 36 hours.
How it translated to the office
For me, the biggest surprise was realizing that, in many ways, it felt like the best parts of work.
Before the race, we set a team goal -- just like we do at work every quarter. Every member of our relay team supported each other in training and carrying out that goal. Most importantly: Crossing the finish line wasn't a singular accomplishment. It was a team achievement that each of us was responsible for, which is how we treat our objectives in the office.
Any time you share an intense experience with a group of people, it brings you closer together. And when we all returned to the office, there were tangible ways that this translated, including a greater sense of camaraderie and team work.
We'd all seen each other in entirely new ways, and learned how each of us reacts to grueling, stressful situations in the real world. Ultimately, our extreme experience was remarkably positive. So much so that it's become an annual event.