Ice Breakers For Remote Teams
This article is part of a series we are doing on remote work, a relevant topic in today’s times. With social distancing becoming the new normal, social isolation will also start to take place, especially when it comes to team building. When you are forced into remote work, you might find yourself with a lot of questions. You might have many things you feel like you need to do, and very little time to get it all organized. This article will focus on a simple part of this process – getting your employees familiar with each other through some simple team building introductions.
For more topics on how to best run a remote team checkout these articles…
This article will hopefully give you the tools so you can have your team working together like this…
When it comes to coordinating remote team members, often the most difficult part is getting them on the same page. This all starts with the introduction. This is a very simple part of any working relationship, but is more important than you may think. First impressions are everything, and if people feel connected to their virtual team from the start, they will be more willing and motivated to hold themselves accountable to the standards of their co-workers.
In this article, we will cover some fun ice breaker questions and games for setting up your remote workers. These team ice breakers for remote team will get your employees introduced the right way. These are fun activities, which are easy to introduce, and will hopefully help things progress into a great working relationship. Let’s get started.
20 Ice Breakers For Remote Employees
Tell Us About Yourself
I know, this one’s a little boring, but it’s also by far the most common team building exercise, so good to get it out of the way first. A basic introduction probably is composed of “tell us a little bit about yourself”. We know, it might not be what you came to this list for, but it’s still a basic, effective and important introduction. If you just want to keep things simple and straightforward, consider this one.
Two Truths and a Lie
Maybe the second most common introduction game, this one has stood the test of time because it’s so fun and engaging. In this one, the participant tells two truths about themselves, and one lie, and the others guess which is the lie. This is great because it involves interaction with all the participants, which really makes them remember what the other person said. On top of that, these are fun icebreakers and often hilarious. If you really want to get these details drilled into people’s memories, consider this game.
Here’s a simple question that surprisingly opens a pretty real discussion. Simply asking people about their favourite food or restaurant, you create an instant common ground, as well as some friendly competition. You’d be surprised just how much food can connect people, and since it is something that everyone is passionate about, it is a great question to ask off the bat. Immediate team bonding over common interests.
Would You Rather?
Always have a fun list of “Would You Rather?” questions on hand for virtual ice breakers (safe for work of course!). These questions are funny and really get people thinking. Keep it simple, because you’d be surprised just how entertaining the responses can be! Additionally, it encourages others to chime in with their thoughts, and laugh along.
A unique factor with distributed teams is that everyone can be in a very different place in the world! That’s why simply asking where someone is from can be a fascinating exercise with remote teams. People will be very interested to see that they might be communicating with others all over the world. From there, you can get into deeper discussions about the favourite part of their hometown, and they can find some common ground with others from all around the world.
Have You Ever?
In this game, you ask some simple, interesting questions to the group, and anyone who has done it will stand up. It’s easy, and best of all it basically hands the interaction to the group. No one really has to think about anything besides whether they have done it, and the whole group will learn something new. This is a great way to learn about people in a quick, organized manner. For remote teams, you can use video conferencing and have your team raise their hands instead of standing.
Music is another one of those things that connect people, similar to food above. You can learn a lot about someone by their favorite band, song, or genre. These building activities will instantly connect people, and have them feeling some common ground with other people who may be miles away. To mix it up a bit, you can ask “Who was the last artist you searched for on your music streaming service of choice?”.
Tell A Joke
Keep it safe for work of course! A joke can be a great way to break the ice. Have someone share their favorite joke, and see if you can get the team laughing. You can even start out with a joke before everything gets started, to loosen tension and break the ice for everyone. When it comes down to it, nothing unites people like some laughter.
Another simple way to get people talking is to ask them about two similar objects (like ice cream vs. pizza) and ask them what their favorite is. This is a great game because it’s easy, but also generates a lot of healthy competition as people defend their favorite things. People find common ground amongst some healthy rivalry, while learning about each other as they go.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
How about a quick rock, paper, scissors tournament to get things started? Have everyone play, with the winner advancing. It’s a fun game because everyone knows how to play, and you can get the remote team building started with some healthy competition as well.
If you tell people to have a note taking pad and paper handy, it can be a fun start to have people draw their favorite animal (or any other fun ideas you can think up). The results are relatable, and often quite hilarious. It’s a really fun way to get things started and to have a shared, interesting experience.
Another classic question, finding out something about a person outside of work is always a great place to break the ice. This gets people talking about something they are truly interested in, instead of just jumping right into work. It also helps unite people, and lets them know a fun detail about the people they are working with.
This one is simple, first one to laugh loses. It can be a great way to break the tension that is almost always present upon first meetings. It is also easy because it doesn’t require anyone to speak, simply give them a fun game before they get started.
What Is Your Role?
This one is a bit more organizational focused, but with remote teams it often can get confusing who even does what. By starting off by allowing everyone to explain their role, everyone gets a chance to introduce themselves, but you also get a way for everyone to understand which role on the team each person plays.
Share a Photo or gif
Everyone has smart phones these days, so why not give them a chance to share a photo on their phone that they really like. It can be of anything, and they get a chance to explain to the group why it is so special to them. Of course, it’s important to make sure everyone is comfortable with the game beforehand, and can sit out if they like.
How’s the Weather There?
Another fun game to play with remote teams is simply to ask how the weather is there. Because everyone might be in such different locations, it can be fun to compare what it’s like outside and this really helps to show how varied remote teams can be. When it’s snowing somewhere and sunny and warm elsewhere, that can be a real conversation starter!
Who’s Your Team?
Sports is another way in which people find common bonds and playful rivalries. Asking about their favorite sports teams is a great icebreaker activity to open discussion. If they aren’t sports fans, they can always say something about the city they’re from. It’s a great way to let people get a gage of where everyone is from, and understand the truly “remote” nature of a team.
We don’t want to risk any ice breaker questions sounding too much like an interview, but asking people about their past experience can be a great opening question so people can learn about each other.
5 Quick Facts
Sometimes you can even send the participants a quick list of questions beforehand. You could send them 5 of any of the questions above, and have them rifle off 5 quick facts about themselves at the start of the meeting. This is a great way to quickly learn a bunch about the others, and they can figure it out beforehand to avoid being on the spot.
We saved the most basic for last, the open ended “introduce yourself”. A classic question that is surprisingly broad. Give people the chance to say a few short things about themselves, and see what happens. Sometimes the most classic ice breakers are the ones worth pursuing, especially when you don’t know the dynamic of your team yet.
Often the icebreaker that you choose is really more dependent on the situation at hand. There are various types of virtual groups, and various levels of professionalism you might expect from your team. This makes it difficult to know what level of sharing people are comfortable with right off the bat. We think these three key considerations are very valuable in choosing whether you want to err on the side of humor or professionalism:
Is This The First Time Meeting?
Not all ice breakers take place on everyone’s first time meeting. Maybe this is simply their first time working remotely, or maybe many of them have shared experiences before. Regardless, it is often the case that everyone loosens up a lot more when they have met each other before.
For this reason, you might want to avoid some of the more humorous ice breaker games and questions when it is everyone’s true first time meeting each other. This is for the simple reason that it might make some uncomfortable. When in doubt, pick a game you are sure everyone will enjoy.
How Old Is Everyone?
The dynamics of a group will often change a lot depending on how old everyone is, or more specifically, how familiar is everyone with remote technology? Of course, we aren’t meaning to make broad generalizations on age, but it is often the case that people aren’t as comfortable joking around when there are large age differences. Your primary concern is finding an icebreaker that keeps everyone comfortable, so considering the different generational dynamics is often important.
What Is Your Industry?
Simply put, different industries often have different standards of professionalism. Often, people enter meetings (especially first meetings) with an idea of keeping things quite professional. This is especially true in more “serious” professions that involve higher stakes. Keep this in mind when deciding on an icebreaker. They can be a great way to loosen tension, but don’t pick something that is inappropriate for the situation.
A final issue is time constraints. Depending on the size of your team, it may affect how simple or how complex you may make your icebreakers. You have to consider how long it will take everyone to answer, and you don’t want to run the risk of anyone losing interest, or of running out of time to get to the heart of the meeting. We included several options on our list which run a range of time to complete, and you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
Overall, you just need to pick the icebreaker that you think fits the situation. Evaluate the dynamics, and decide what you want out of your remote group’s initial meeting. So take some time to sit down and really figure out what you are wanting out of this meeting, and pick an icebreaker to match. We’re confident you can find one in our options above.
Thank you for reading our list of ice breaker games for remote teams. Remote teams present a special issue in getting everyone acquainted, as you often don’t get the opportunity to meet them in person. But with a good icebreaker, you’d be surprised how quickly everyone can come together!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: How do you make a team call fun?
A: Turning a virtual call into a fun activity for a team member can be easily done by incorporating the ice breakers included in this article. Pick one and start off your next meeting or call with it!
Q: What are your top tips for team building with remote teams?
A: Incorporate an all-hands meeting every morning with your team, especially if the majority of your employees are working remote. Within these you can include the ice breaker ideas above multiple times with everyone – having your colleagues learn more about themselves brings everyone closer together and keeps people on their feet for every meeting.
Q: I’m not great at coming up with ice breaker questions. Do you have any good examples I can use?
A: Of course! Here’s some great group icebreakers to improve communication and build an overall better company culture:
If you had to delete all but three apps from your smartphone, which ones would you keep?
You can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what is it?
How would you change your life today if the average life expectancy was 400 years?
What would you be found doing if the police unexpectedly breaks into your home in the day?
If you could be in any movie, what would it be and what character would you play?
If your life were a hero’s journey, who would be your antagonist and what’s stopping you from winning?
If you had to eat only one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?
If you could choose any historical figure to be your imaginary friend, who would it be and why?
If you could choose to remain one age until you die, which age would you choose and why?
If you could choose any person from history to be your imaginary friend, who would it be and why?
If you can go back to college again, would you take the same course that you finished or try out a different one?
If you could live anywhere on this planet without having the leave anyone or anything behind, where would you live?
If you could add a word to the dictionary what would you add and what would it mean?
If you had to identify one person who completely changed your life, who would it be?
If you could go back to your younger self, which age would it be, and what would you say?
If extraterrestrials landed on earth and offered to take you with them, would you go?
If you can go back to any of your younger selves, at what age would you choose to go back to?
If you could travel to and live in any time period in history, where and when would you live?
What is something that you believe in that most people probably don’t believe in?
If you could visit anywhere in the world, regardless of budget or time it took to get there, where would you go?
If you could commit any crime and get away with it what would you choose and why?
If you could have the power of teleportation right now, where would you go and why?
Use a word that begins with the same letter as your first name to describe yourself and why?
What’s something that someone has said about you that has really stuck with you?
If you could buy any .com domain, what would you buy and what would you use it for?
Tell us a book or movie or video you’ve read or seen lately and which you would recommend?