Tips for remote teams to help break the ice
The first time your virtual team meets in a shared online space can be awkward. The most common solution is making a video call or holding a scheduled meeting.
There is another solution — icebreaker games and tips you can use before scheduled meetings, during remote brainstorming sessions, or as a sparring activity between two remote colleagues.
This article will present our favorite ice breaker games and tips to help you create a strong, enjoyable, and cohesive team.
What are a virtual icebreaker and its advantages?
A virtual icebreaker is a game or activity that helps people get to know each other and break the ice in a business setting. It can be used for meetings, conferences, training programs, and more.
The games may be as simple as guessing what another person’s favorite color is, or they could be more involved, like playing a trivia game.
Virtual icebreakers offer some unique advantages over traditional face-to-face ones:
- They’re convenient – You can play them at any time, wherever you are.
- They’re fun – You don’t need to worry about getting embarrassed or self-conscious while playing them!
- They’re cost effective – There’s no need to hire an expensive facilitator or rent a venue; you only need a computer and an internet connection.
- They build trust by creating a personal connection with your team or clients.
In a case study of Skillenza, a data-driven skill acceleration platform, after the COVID-19 breakout, Trivia’s instant quizzes helped their employees connect and engage with their new teammates quickly.
6 Tips to use virtual icebreakers smoothly
Keep these tips in mind if you want to run virtual icebreaker games with your team successfully.
Apply your emotional intelligence and sensitivity
Virtual icebreakers are like real-life ones – they are meant to start a conversation. You need to be sensitive enough to know when someone is not interested in talking or when they need time to warm up before chatting further. You should also be able to read between the lines and understand if someone is being polite or genuine while they reply back to you.
For instance, e-team meeting icebreakers like Song on Repeat will help apply your emotional intelligence and sensitivity.
Ask team members to share music recommendations by sharing the songs they have on repeat lately. This will encourage them to discuss their interests and allow others to get new music recommendations.
Always have a plan B
Don't rely on a single method of getting people involved in the conversation — have several options in mind, and be prepared to switch if your first choice doesn't work out.
Know when to move on to the next session
When you’re leading a chat, it can be challenging to determine when people have had their turn. Long silences are uncomfortable for everyone, and it can be hard to tell if someone actually has something to say or if they just don’t feel like speaking up.
Ideally, virtual icebreakers should last anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. One solution is to use a timer so that you know when the session will end.
At the same time, don’t cut the chit-chat. If people are having fun and getting along well, don’t hesitate to extend the session.
Divide large groups into small ones
If your group exceeds 15 people, consider subdividing it into smaller groups. This allows participants to get to know their fellow participants more efficiently while still feeling part of the larger group.
As a test, three professors from UCLA, Penn State, and Chapel Hill found that two people could assemble a LEGO structure in 36 minutes compared to four who completed the task in 56 minutes.
Don’t forget to thank your employees
One thing that many managers forget when using virtual icebreakers is thanking their employees. This doesn’t have to be elaborate — just saying “thank you” at the end of every meeting can go a long way toward building trust between employees and their managers.
You can also write them a note and send it through email or text. It doesn’t have to be long, just something short and sweet that makes it clear that you appreciate them.
Even statistics suggest that 60% of employees think that the crucial factor while analyzing a job offer is whether the management appreciates employees.
Avoid using icebreakers too often!
Virtual icebreakers are a great way to break the ice in your online courses.
However, there is such a thing as overdoing it. If you use virtual icebreakers too much, they lose their impact and become just another part of your lesson plan. To avoid this problem, it's important to use virtual icebreakers when they really count: at the beginning of a new project or while onboarding new hires.
Online icebreaker games for virtual teams
Here are some fun icebreaker games you can play with your team members. These can be performed anytime, anywhere, and no matter the distance! Let’s get right into the fun!
1. Quick questions
Ask everyone in the group a quick question; for example, “What's your favorite movie?” This can help people get to know each other better and make the call more fun.
Here are some more examples of quick questions:
- Show us your office space!
- What is the best piece of advice ever that you got?
- What do you want to be remembered for after you die?
- Dogs or cats?
2. First light
Ask your team if they would strike the match, light the lamp, or light the candle if they were alone in a dark cabin with only an oil lamp, one match, a fireplace, and a candle.
Allow your team members some time to think and share their responses, then ask them to explain the reasoning behind their answers.
3. Take a picture of…
This game is great for getting your team members to talk about themselves and their interests. The goal is simple – take pictures of things representing each person on your team (or in your department).
For example, you could ask each member to take a picture of their workspace, the view from their office, their pets, their favorite places, etc.
4. Virtual water cooler
According to the latest remote work statistics, 17% of respondents said communication is one of the biggest challenges associated with remote work. A virtual water cooler poses a great opportunity for everyone on your team to get involved in the conversation.
A great idea is to schedule a meeting with your team members to discuss their break schedules. Then, plan out a break time or two, send them a meeting link, and interact casually via video call while drinking coffee or eating lunch together.
5. Show and tell: pet edition
Ask members to share their pet photos and stories. They can talk about the name, breed, a quirky thing about their pet, the story behind buying or adopting it, and so on. If someone doesn't own a pet, they can talk about an animal they wish they could have.
6. Guess who
This is a classic game, but it can be adapted to fit your team. You can assign each team member a photo or a description and have everyone guess who they are.
7. Play to your strengths
You can play a game called “What’s on Your Happy List?” Ask each member to make a list of ten or more things that they love to do. Ask them to think about their strengths and how those strengths are connected to these activities.
Then, ask them to note any interesting connections between those strengths and the activities they enjoy. This will help them remember why they love what they do.
8. What, where, when?
This game is an extension of trivia, and you will need to ask questions throughout the game. For example, you could ask your team members what’s been the most exciting moment of their life so far.
You can play this game with support from twinkl. There are prompt cards for visual support and to aid with answers.
This game can even help in understanding workplace responsibilities better.
9. The view from my office
Ask each person to describe their view from where they sit (or stand) in the office, including any other people who might be visible from where they work (if relevant).
Then ask them to describe their workspace/office/desk/etc., as well as any objects that might be visible from there (again, if relevant).
10. Gartic Phone
When playing Gartic Phone, choose a character and invite members to a voice call using the right communication tools like Zoom or Slacks. You will be given a bizarre sentence to draw and try describing this drawing to the other players.
11. Say it with an emoji
At the start of your meeting, ask each member to submit an emoji that best describes their present state of mind.
Pro Tip: Use tools like Slido's word cloud for this game because members can type in their own emoji.
12. Team photos
Team photos are a great way to get the group together, even if they're virtual. A group photo through a video chat could be fun. Ask members to make funny faces or bring in their pets.
If you're working with remote employees, consider taking photos of your office space and sharing them with your team. You could even organize a virtual scavenger hunt by sending out photos of different locations around your office and having teams take photos of each spot for points.
13. Donut friends
In a survey, 33% of remote workers said they felt disconnected from colleagues or missed social interaction. The Donut game will pair up two employees for coffee or donuts to encourage one-on-one time between team members.
This is how Donut pairs our team members – Beatrice and Phoebe, in a video call to have a lovely chat and get to know each other better.
Breaking the ice with remote team members is easier than you think!
Sometimes your coworkers may be in an entirely different city, state, or even country. This often makes it challenging to meet them and have conversations outside of the typical introductions done over email.
Virtual icebreakers are a fun way to let new remote team members get to know one another without leaving your desk. These games will help you build trust, increase morale, and bring everyone out of their shells a bit when they need to start interacting with one another.
Despite being in different locations, people are still people; we all have those eccentric tendencies that make us just a little distinct from others.