As workers around the world have grown accustomed to working remotely, they’ve come to rely heavily on technology to make distanced interactions and hybrid workplaces possible. But these interactions don’t occur as naturally as those in face-to-face settings. That’s where virtual team icebreaker ideas can come into play.
Managers and others who find themselves leading and facilitating group interactions online have found that coming up with ideas to break up the monotony, offer opportunities for socializing, and simply have some fun aren’t just “nice to do’s”—they’re “must do’s” for virtual or hybrid workplaces.
Particularly in situations where new team members may be joining the organization remotely, the ability to bring them into the team and help them to get to know their coworkers, even in an online environment, can boost engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity. Virtual team icebreakers can even have a place in onboarding remote employees. Your workforce doesn’t even need to be entirely remote to take advantage of the teambuilding power of icebreakers—they work well in a hybrid workplace model too.
Here we take a look at “5 Virtual Team Icebreaker Ideas for 2021 Workplaces.”
1. Break It Up for Better Team Building Via Zoom
Joan Alavedra is the co-founder of Onsite.fun, a corporate wellness platform of curated team-building activities for remote teams. She recommends mixing things up to generate more interest and team building for standard types of meetings. “At this point, probably everyone knows about the onboarding, the monthly team feedback, the sales pitch and so on,” she says. “But something that people are not expecting is to prepare an activity alongside the dynamic with one facilitator.”
For instance, she suggests: play Escape Room before onboarding or have a painting workshop before a quarterly session. This, she says, can “add some fresh air to well-known and sometimes monotone dynamics.”
2. Add Show and Tell to Your Virtual Team Meeting
Joelle Tolifero is the founder and CEO of Your Care Collective, which supports independent workers and remote organizations in increasing their overall well-being. Tolifero recommends sending small groups into breakout rooms at the beginning of a team meeting and asking them to engage in a quick show and tell. For instance: “Today we are in one another’s homes without physically being in their homes. This quick activity pulls back the veil in a way where employees still have control over what they share while embracing the reality of working from home.”
Meeting participants have control over what they choose to show and tell and everyone gets a better sense of who their coworkers are by seeing a slice of their real lives. You could also incorporate a theme around your show and tell icebreaker activities.
- Show us your favorite part of your house.
- Show us your most prized possession.
- Show us one of your early childhood photos.
Ask team members to come up with their own ideas for show and tell and take turns leading the icebreaker.
3. Change Up the Scenery for Your Virtual Team Meetings
“If you want to get your team into a creative headspace, the best way to do that is to change up the scenery,” says Europa Stein, who is the founder and CEO of Hyre, an employee scheduling software firm for the shift-based workforce.
This might mean shifting your team’s virtual icebreaker to a game-like environment, having a “share a meme” activity, or asking meeting participants to join the meeting with a background that represents their dream vacation setting.
“Set a day each month to try out different platforms and see what your team likes,” Stein suggests. She points to some examples like Mozilla hubs, which provides an opportunity to choose from a variety of game-like environments, or Mibo, a freemium app that offers a virtual island with a stage for company announcements and a tavern for a “virtual beer o’clock experience.”
4. Incorporate a Virtual Recess Into Your Virtual Team Meeting
Nostalgia is a great way to build connections. Incorporating a “virtual recess” into your team meetings can help to share a sense of nostalgia while having fun – and even getting fit. Ryan Wilke, co-founder and president of Throwback Fitness, says that a virtual recess can be used by teams before they dive into discussing business topics. “It serves as an effective way to break the ice, so individuals are more willing to participate and share ideas during the meeting.”
Wilke says that his events are hosted through Zoom and include unique games that take a spin on childhood classics, TV game shows and some of their own creations. His firm has worked with companies like Salesforce, Brooklinen, Spotify and others to help break the ice and build engagement among remote team members.
5. Welcome New Team Members With a Little Fun
Onboarding on-site and remote employees during the pandemic has presented some unique challenges for organizations, but many are finding ways to ensure that their new employees feel welcome and quickly become part of the team. Virtual team icebreakers can certainly help here and can give a sense of the company’s culture and personality.
One popular icebreaker used in settings where people don’t know each other well is Two (or Three) Truths and a Lie. The idea behind this is to have participants write down three or four statements about themselves—but one of the statements is false. They then share the statements with the rest of the team which tries to identify which statement is “the lie.” It’s a fun activity that also serves to build camaraderie and, in the process, reveal interesting facts about colleagues’ interests and backgrounds.
Icebreakers have always played an important role in various types of corporate activities. In 2021, though, virtual team icebreakers can play an even greater role in helping managers of teams of all kinds and sizes find ways to better engage employees on- and offsite. Breaking up the typical virtual meeting routine with some fun icebreakers is great for morale, team building and productivity.