How do your new employees get to know their new colleagues and how do you foster workplace connection? What is your strategy to improve team bonding and collaboration? Especially when working hybrid, team icebreaker activities are essential to break down walls and make your staff feel more at ease in person and online.
These games are also a fun and simple way to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of coworkers. Therefore, it helps them both socially and professionally as they can use this information to work better together.
This article gives you a variety of icebreaker games for work that you can play with your team in the office or virtually. But first, we will share the three main reasons why organizing these activities is essential. We have then selected different options according to the size of your workforce and their working location. Are you ready to discover new traits about your teammates? Let the games begin!
Why is doing team icebreaker activities important?
Get to know each other better
Starting a job and introducing yourself to new people can be intimidating. But welcoming a new team member can also be challenging. Forget about the old-school way of asking new employees to stand in front of everyone and tell them where they are from, their previous experience, and their hobbies. The best way to break the ice, from both sides, is to organize team icebreaker activities. While it might seem childish and informal, it is actually an efficient way to help your employees discover the personalities and skills of their colleagues.
Create workplace connection
Professional relationships play a major part in enhancing employee happiness, well-being, and job satisfaction. They contribute to positive mental health, motivation, and community building. Group activities are fundamental to building genuine relationships at work which can sometimes even lead to friendships. Why is it important? Isn’t having friends outside of work enough? Having work friends is meaningful.According to the article “Power of Work Friends” from HBS: “Gallup’s data shows that having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business outcomes, including improvements in profitability, safety, inventory control, and employee retention.”Positive and healthy social interactions at work are one of the three pillars of workplace connection which is key to helping your workers thrive.
Foster team spirit and facilitate collaboration
When you start a new project, you expect your employees to gather their skills to deliver the best outcome, right? Well, team icebreaker activities have an important role to play in this. How can playing a “would you rather…” questions game actually help with teamwork? Through the answers your coworkers give, you can better understand who your colleagues are and how their minds work. When aiming for success, taking people’s personalities into account is the best way to reach a goal. If Bryan is great at public speaking but Maria would rather spend hours collecting data than talking in front of people, you know who should be in charge of what.
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What icebreaker games for work can you do with large groups of employees?
Hometown Map is an icebreaker game for work that enables team members to get to know each other better. An employee might think they are the only one from a little German town and realize, thanks to the Hometown Map, that some of their colleagues actually grew up there too! It is also a great resource to initiate conversations. People might have been on holiday to their coworker’s hometown or are planning to go there and ask for tips. Lastly, we love the idea that it celebrates diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
How to play Hometown Map:
Pick a wall in an area of your office that everyone passes by every day.
Install a big world map on this wall and place Post-it notes, pens, and pins next to it.
Ask your employees to pin a Post-it note with their name on it where they are born.
In addition to learning about each other, Tic-Tac-Toe also fosters interactions between workers. The advantage of this team icebreaker activity is that you can play it multiple times and choose a different topic each time. For example, you can pick the “hobbies” theme and employees will discover what their coworkers like to do on their time off. Some common passions might arise and even lead to new friendships!
How to play Tic-Tac-Toe at work:
Team members first write down one hobby on each of the nine squares.
You then set a time limit of 10 minutes.
Participants walk around the room and share their grids with each other.
Once two people have a similar interest, it initiates each other’s grid.
The first player who gets a complete row wins!
Icebreaker Bingo is perfect to create a personalized team activity. If you don’t have time to come up with your own, many free Bingo template generators are available online! This game enables employees to learn more about each other in a super fun way.
How to play Icebreaker Bingo:
Every team member grabs a printed Bingo card and a pen.
Employees have five minutes to mingle and find colleagues who match the categories on their cards (they must talk to each other, of course!)
The first player who gets five boxes in a row (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal) shouts “Bingo!” and wins.
To make it even more entertaining, you can ask the winner to tell others about each personal prompt they’ve discovered on this row.
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Which team icebreaker activities are great for small groups?
Who Am I?
Who Am I? is a very easy and fun game to play with your team that doesn’t require a lot of organization. It might not help your coworkers to get to know each other more intimately, but the goal here is to break the ice, isn’t it?
How to play Who Am I?:
Each team member writes down the name of a celebrity, a cartoon or movie character, or an animal … on a piece of paper without showing it to others.
They stick the piece of paper on the forehead of one of their colleagues until everybody has one and without telling this person what is written on it.
One by one, players ask questions about “who they are” (Am I an animal? Am I tall? Am I funny? Etc.).
If the others answer “yes”, they can ask another question, if they say “no”, it is the next person’s turn.
The first team member that has the right guess wins!
10 Things in Common
10 Things in Common is a great team icebreaker activity when you want to enhance collaboration amongst your employees by learning about each other’s personalities and interests. It is also a fantastic exercise to help introverts to interact with others and make connections.
How to play 10 Things in Common:
Each of your team members partners with a colleague that they have never talked to or don’t know well.
By discussing various topics and getting to know each other, they need to discover ten things they have in common.
The pair that finds ten common things the fastest wins.
Everybody wins in this game. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Even those who don’t win still get the chance to meet a new person and build a new connection with that colleague. It’s a win-win for all!
The Marshmallow Challenge is one of the most famous team icebreaker activities and benefits workers in various ways as you can see in this TED Conference YouTube video. It enables your employees to share a fun moment while aiming at a common goal. This activity boosts team bonding, requires problem-solving skills, and helps workers discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
How to play the Marshmallow Challenge:
Divide your workforce into groups of three or four people.
You then provide them with twenty raw spaghetti, a long piece of string, some tape, and … a marshmallow!
The goal is to build the highest structure they can and to place the marshmallow on top within twenty minutes.
When the time is up, the team with the tallest standing creation wins!
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Which team icebreaker activities are great for a virtual environment?
Online team icebreaker questions
The upsides of hybrid work undoubtedly outweigh the downsides. However, integrating a new team member and maintaining a group connection when working remotely can be challenging. Online team icebreaker questions are a fun way to minimize isolation and improve employee interactions.
Here are some examples of questions you can ask in a virtual meeting:
If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
What’s your favorite movie or series?
On a day off, do you prefer to go for a hike or relax at home?
Would you rather cook or order a takeaway?
What are the top three things that make you happy in life?
If you are limited in time, you can also come up with only “would you rather” questions as they are quick to answer.
Digital speed networking
When working remotely, your staff doesn't really have the chance to meet during their lunch break or at the coffee machine to have a little chat and break the ice. Speed networking is a simple way for your team members to do what they would naturally do in the office.To avoid awkward situations in case your employees don’t know what to say to each other, you can prepare a batch of questions ahead. They can use them if they want to or just have a casual conversation to get to know each other better. Some online communication tools enable you to set up this activity easily. For example, Zoom breakout rooms allow you to split your team into 50 different sessions manually or automatically.
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Virtual group Trivia
Do you want to bring out your employees’ competitive side? This non-exhaustive list of icebreaker activities for work ends with a fun and all-time favorite game that remote teams can play digitally: Virtual Group Trivia.
How to play Virtual Group Trivia:
Pick a specific theme (or several for multiple rounds).
Prepare numerous questions for each theme.
Choose a host among your employees that will read the questions out loud.
Create different teams of players.
The team that answers the most questions correctly wins!
The number of team icebreaker activities are endless and can be adjusted to your company’s size, working model (on-site, hybrid, or remote), and culture. These icebreaker games for work are essential to break down walls, get to know each other, and foster strong and genuine relationships. If you are looking for more ideas, we highly recommend you read our article regarding the 12 best indoor team-building activities!
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Paulyne is a hybrid work specialist, who writes about sustainability, flexible work models and employee experience.