As a member of a remote team, the opportunities you have to become comfortable and friendly with your teammates do not look the same as if you all worked each day from desks a few feet apart from one another. When you all work within arms reach, there are many natural occurrences for you to grow closer as a team. However, as remote team members, you often have to create your own opportunities for bonding.
Whether you have been working fully remote for your organization for years or you’ve recently found yourself a member of the work from anywhere movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, chances are you’ve participated in a virtual icebreaker activity.
Virtual meeting icebreaker activities are a great way to strengthen your bond as remote teammates, create camaraderie amongst new coworkers, and kick off a remote meeting with a creative flair.
No matter the location your meeting attendees are joining from, they will be happy to participate in a meeting in the open, connected environment created by your icebreaker activity.
If you haven’t participated in one yet, a virtual icebreaker activity is a team-building exercise conducted at the beginning of a meeting with attendees that are not in the same physical location. They can also be an activity you set aside time for to build virtual team morale. Virtual icebreakers are intended to add a human connection aspect to remote relationships and are especially useful at the beginning of meetings where the attendees do not have previous working relationships with one another.
Virtual icebreakers loosen up meeting attendees and can lead to more comfortable, productive remote meetings.
To keep camaraderie amongst remote team members high and to smoothly introduce new remote coworkers to one another, it is smart to kick off remote meetings with virtual icebreakers until all team members are well acquainted with one another. Without utilizing virtual icebreakers, your remote teams may never get the opportunity to feel completely comfortable with one another. So, to keep your company culture intact or build a new company culture from the ground up, use virtual icebreakers and team building activities to help acquaint your remote employees with one another.
Remote team building comes in many shapes and sizes. From quick, silly icebreakers at the beginning of team meetings to monthly virtual happy hours, there is no tried and true rule for how and when to do remote team building exercises, because every remote team is different.
First, evaluate your remote team to determine which type of team building exercise best fits their collective personality. For new remote teams, have them fill out a quick questionnaire to determine their team building activity history or preferences. New recruits might have a favorite icebreaker that they’d prefer to do at the next team meeting to get better acquainted with their remote teammates or maybe full remote teams have a preferred method of team building that they do on their own, you won’t know unless you ask. So, take the time to let your remote teams tell you what works best for them, and go from there.
Before deciding on whether or not to do a remote team building exercise or which icebreaker to use, decide what your expected outcome is from the exercise. Then, once you know your goal, you can work backwards and choose the most appropriate remote team building exercise. For example, if the majority of your team is made up of new hires and your goal is to help them to become more comfortable working together, you will want to choose an icebreaker that takes them out of their comfort zones.
Virtual icebreakers are any activities that help your team bond and can strengthen communication, build trust, and help managers better understand their direct reports. Virtual team building is applicable across industries from healthcare to startups and everything in between.
To get you started adding icebreakers to the beginning of your remote meetings, here are ten of our favorite virtual icebreakers.
Ask each team member to come up with two truths and one lie about themselves, and have the rest of the team members guess which is the lie for this quick and silly icebreaker.
Take a few minutes to have everyone on the remote team write a miscellaneous question (For example, What is your favorite movie of all time? How many cousins do you have? What is the name of your childhood pet?) and add all the questions to a Google Doc. Before each meeting, pick one question at random to ask at the top of your meeting for an easy, fast icebreaker.
Have each team member pick the three movies or books that they would bring to a desert island for this fun, classic icebreaker.
This icebreaker is ideal for fully remote teams. Take a few minutes at the top of your next team meeting to show off your home office or work from anywhere space to get the full picture of where your remote coworkers work from.
Have each team member summarize their week so far in one word. The person whose word has the highest Scrabble score gets to pick the icebreaker for the next meeting!
For icebreakers at the beginning of lowkey or more casual team meetings, have every team member hit play on either the same synched up jam or their own dance classic and bust a move! The perfect icebreaker to get blood pumping, even moving as small as head nods count as dancing!
For an early morning team meeting, do a coffee mug catwalk for your icebreaker. Each team member can show off their strong mug game while taking turns to say their ideal coffee order.
For text-only virtual team bonding, have each team member send 1 emoji that expresses how they feel that day for a quick, cute icebreaker.
Ask your remote team a prompt question that can be answered visually, have team members draw their answers, and have the other team members guess what they drew. Questions like “Who is your favorite fictional character?” or “What is your spirit animal?” are perfect for this icebreaker. The less artistically talented your team is, the better!
For an icebreaker that requires teamwork and fosters camaraderie, have your remote team work together to determine 10 things that you collectively have in common. Starting with “we are all wearing jeans” seems easy, but soon it can grow to become a fun challenge.
Breaking down barriers at the office facilitates more effective work. You'll learn more, and have fun along the way! Once you get comfortable with regular virtual icebreakers, explore more ways to support your remote and hybrid team.
Editor's note: This post was originally published on March 30, 2020. It has been updated and republished for thoroughness and accuracy.