Although the last time you played an ice breaker might have been at summer camp, they still have a great role to play at work. They break down barriers between members of remote and hybrid teams. You'll learn more about each other while bringing people together with mutual interests. These activities can bring a quick burst of fun to get everyone on the same page and working together.
An ice breaker is an activity designed to ease into the introduction of a difficult conversation or discussion. They're usually silly questions or games that break down barriers among people in a group. Once your group is more relaxed, it's easier to begin conversations and work with one another.
Ice breaker activities can be done in-person or virtually with a remote team. Here are some ice breaker ideas for you and your team to try.
Even if you've only done ice breakers with a group of people right next to you, it's possible to do it virtually as well. Just fire up your video conferencing platform and get your team together to start your activity.
One activity that takes advantage of your presentation set-up in use is to ask remote members to show pictures that represent them. This could be made in a slideshow format or posted in a company-wide Slack channel. Include prompts like, "Show us something you love to do" or, "Show us any pets or kids you have." These answers give your coworkers deeper insight into what your hobbies or interests.
Some of the best ice breakers involve a meal or drink, but that can be hard when you're in a remote or hybrid team. This can still happen with some virtual tools like Donut! Donut helps integrate team members through a virtual get-together. It randomly pairs two coworkers so they can meet. You'll have personal conversations and ice breakers with multiple people without any heavy lifting.
The Time Machine is another unique ice breaker idea. Ask team members where they'd go if they had a time machine. Use follow up questions about why they chose that time, if they would try to visit anyone in particular, or if they would stay in that period. Based on their answers, you'll get a better understanding of what they find interesting, and gain a unique perspective of your team.
Asking questions with a group is one way to get more comfortable with everyone. Focus on questions instead of activities when you're looking to get comfortable quickly. It less of a hassle than setting up a long game or task. Asking questions about your team members is a good way to get a deep understanding of those around you.
In a business setting, you'll want to keep your questions professional. Don't get too in the weeds, as it can leave those getting to know your team out of the loop. Some practical questions include:
A good question would be something you'd ask one of your friends about their job. Getting answers to these questions will show you where your team has been and what everyone enjoys about their colleagues.
Ice breaker questions in meetings should strike a balance between topical and lighthearted. Diving into details about the meeting can throw some colleagues off, while being too casual can make folks lose track of what's being discussed. Questions like these strike a good balance to help you get ready to talk while keeping you ready to go over details.
Questions like this get folks to reflect on their work while building team camaraderie. Once this ice breaker is complete, discussing your meeting subject will be a breeze.
If you're looking to be a little lighthearted, questions that are funny are the way to go to get a laugh out of everyone. Some of the best include:
Moments like this help bring your team closer together by emphasizing that you're all people with funny experiences. When teams realize they're made up of real people just like them, they can focus on getting work done in a relaxed way.
Sometimes games are more impactful than individual questions with team members. Games are more relaxed than questions and can be reserved for dedicated ice breaker time. You most likely won't hold an ice breaker game in a meeting, but they work well on their own.
Ice breakers for small groups should strike a balance between detail and speed. They should be detailed enough that the group learns a lot about each other, but quick enough to get you to your next task at hand.
One classic ice breaker for small groups is Two Truths and a Lie. Each person in the group writes down two true things about themselves and one lie before the papers are shuffled and passed out. Each person will go in turn and guess which person's fact is a lie.
It's a great test of intuition and reasoning, and you get to learn something cool about your team that you wouldn't have known otherwise. Avoid this in large groups, since the game requires a bit of thinking for each turn that can add up.
Another ice breaker that shows off your creative flair is Six-Word Memoirs. You'll write down a sentence that describes your life story in six words, and teammates can ask why you chose what you did.
An example could be, "The best experiences can happen randomly" for the time you met your favorite actor at a restaurant. It's a creative way to simplify your best experiences that make your coworkers want to know more.
This last ice breaker is made to show everyone's unique backgrounds; it's a game called Most Unique. Your goal is to find something about you that no one else has in common. It could be a vacation you've been on, an award you've won, or a hobby no one's heard of before.
The group says one-by-one something they think is the most unique, and others will speak up if they've also done that. Once someone finds their own most unique fact, it moves on to the next person. At the end of the game, you should have new facts about everyone, and great conversation starters to ask about at another time.
Larger groups can still play some of the games mentioned above, but they can take too long to be effective. Games for large groups should be quick so everyone can play a part and meet each other. You can form smaller teams within the large group for some games, so everyone is doing the same activity while getting to know a core group of people.
This game is a classic from your childhood that still can be used today: Simon Says. Although it might seem silly at first, games like this get people moving and ready for further ice breakers.
For those that don't know, Simon Says works like this. One person leads the group of people into following their movements, but only if they preface the movement with, "Simon says". As the movements become faster, people forget to follow along only if they hear that phrase and become "out". The last one standing is the winner. You'll break down barriers team members, and get you more comfortable to talk with each other.
This game works well in large groups, but you'll want to debrief within smaller groups. The object of the game is to find ten people in the room with some things in common with you. You can try to find others who went to the same college as you or love the same type of movies. The best part about this game is that it requires you to talk to everyone else in the room to find out what you both have in common.
This can be more difficult than you think! Once you find ten things you have in common with others, come back to your smaller group to report. Doing this allows you to hear what other members have in common with those you might not have met yet. You'll still get an understanding of what everyone else in the room is like and what they're into.
This icebreaker is best for in-person teams, and might be the most challenging out of the bunch, but it provides some of the best team-building experiences. Divide the room into groups, and give them 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of tape, and a marshmallow. The goal is to build the tallest structure possible without it falling in 20 minutes.
Although it sounds easy at first, building a tall structure with these materials is challenging. Team members must work together to build the structure and should assign roles along the way. Working together is key, and members must play to their strengths to get things built quickly. You'll develop team chemistry and learn more about your team's leadership styles. All the values gained from this activity are easily applied to your workplace.
These games and questions might just sound like games, but they'll bring your teams closer together. Breaking down barriers at the office facilitates more effective work. You'll learn more, and have fun along the way!
Once your list of ice breakers is complete, its time to learn how to support your remote and hybrid team.