Work shouldn’t be just about work. Especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it has become clear that we need something to keep our minds off the current events and help us bond with the people we work with.
In an age where many of us work remotely, there are two excellent ways to do just that – office games and icebreaker questions. Today, we’ll show you what each of them is, examples of both and how you can use them to improve employee morale and just have some fun.
- Importance of team building
We don’t have to convince you too hard about the value of team building. No matter how skilled your employees are, it won’t mean much if they aren’t collaborating with each other effectively. The key to a well-functioning team is connecting the people together in a way that is natural and not forced. If you do need some convincing, here are a few statistics:
- Isolation in the workplace reduces productivity by 21%
- 75% of employers state that teamwork and collaboration are important
- 39% of employees in one major survey state that people in their own company don’t collaborate enough
- Companies with highly engaged people earn up to 2x the annual net income compared to those where employees are not engaged
- 86% of employees claim that failures at work happen because of a lack of collaboration
These and many other statistics show what we know already – a team that doesn’t collaborate cannot perform well. Two great ways to facilitate this collaboration are team-building games and icebreakers.
- Difference between Team Builders & Icebreakers
The aim of both activities is to encourage your team members to speak up, get to know each other, and collaborate. They may seem similar, but the two activities are different in nature.
Team building games:
- Take more time to set up and prepare
- Take more time to do
- The aim is to improve team relationships and collaboration
- Used with an existing group of people who already know each other
Ice breaker questions:
- Take little to no preparation
- Can be done in as little as a few minutes
- The aim is to lighten the mood and get people talking
- Can be used with groups of complete strangers, as well as people who know each other well
Which one should you choose? Nothing is stopping you from using both, but it all depends on your intentions. If your aim is to get people to get to know each other better and lighten the mood, icebreakers are the better choice. If you want your team to become better connected with each other and strengthen their collaboration, team-building games are the better of the two.
- What makes an Icebreaker an Icebreaker?
An icebreaker is a quick game or activity whose main purpose is to get the participants in a meeting to loosen up and relax. It is a question you ask to people who may or may not know each other in order to lighten the mood and make them more willing to engage in a conversation. Icebreakers have been around for a while as a great way to start meetings in front of people you may or may not know.
A great ice breaker has three main purposes:
- Calming the people who are new in a certain situation
- Setting the tone for the rest of the meeting/event
- Encouraging participants to talk about themselves
The research behind icebreakers
Any two strangers can talk, but it’s what they talk about that makes all the difference. In one famous research, people were put in pairs and one group made small talk, while others engaged in ice breaker questions and talked about themselves. Those who talked about themselves reported feelings of closeness, as opposed to those that just made small talk.
The scientific consensus is that icebreakers work really well in sparking feelings of closeness and intimacy even between strangers if they are done well.
Benefits of using Icebreakers
If you’re still not convinced about the value of icebreakers, here are some of the main benefits of using them in your meetings:
- Get to know the participants better
- Ease everyone into communicating with each other
- Engage the more introverted group members
- Foster empathy
- Improve creativity
- Leading into a topic
- Preparing the participants for a discussion
- Creating a feeling of unity in a group
Ice breakers improve productivity by getting participants in the “meeting mode” more quickly. Once you’ve “broken the ice”, you’re more willing to communicate and collaborate with the rest of the team.
The right way to break the ice
Just like all other group exercises, there is a right and wrong way to use icebreakers. Do it the right way and you’ll have people laughing and communicating with each other. Do it the wrong way, and the entire group will be sitting in awkward silence.
If you have a feeling that icebreakers don’t work, there could be several reasons. First, they feel planned out, which kills the very feeling of spontaneity you’re trying to invoke. Second, it may feel like a waste of time to talk about your favorite childhood pet when there is work to do. Third, the questions you’re asking for could be bland and require generic answers.
With this in mind, here are some dos and don’ts:
- Create simple questions
- Get people to talk one-on-one rather than in a group
- Ask specific questions (Tell me how you got your name vs. Tell me if you have any pets)
- Break large groups into smaller ones
- Get everyone involved
- Create questions that require long answers – participants have to wait a long time for their turn
- Ask questions that are too personal, e.g. “What kind of guys are you into?”
- Embarrass anyone and laugh at people
Finally, you may be wondering how long an icebreaker game should last. There is no ideal answer, but it is recommended to keep it between 5 and 20 minutes and not longer because at 20+ minutes, it’s distracting from the actual meeting.
Things to consider when selecting an Icebreaker
When selecting an icebreaker for your team/event, there are a few things to keep in mind, such as:
- The dynamic of the group (the kind of people who are in it)
- The size of the group
- The aim of the icebreaker
- The time you have for the activity
- The necessary preparation
- Any materials that may be required to participate
Don’t know where to use icebreakers with your team? Any time is good, but here are some great suggestions to get your ideas going:
- Monthly or quarterly company-wide meetings
- Happy hours and office parties
- Annual celebrations and award ceremonies
- Holiday parties
- Field day / outdoor events
- Fundraisers and awareness events
- Employee’s first day/onboarding events
- Employee birthdays/celebrations
- Team lunches/learning sessions
- Small holidays celebrated in-office
In general, any opportunity where you have a large group of people at once is a good one.
- Team Builder & Icebreaker Toolkit
Every team has its own set of tools for team building and communication. Here are some of our top picks if you want to facilitate team building in your company.
Tools to create and customize a unified digital workspace
One of the most popular business phone solutions today, Nextiva is famous for its world-class VoIP offer. Besides communicating with your customers on the phone, you can also use it for high-definition video and audio calls with your team – two birds with one stone.
Who hasn’t heard of Slack? This team chat app lets you send text and multimedia files, as well as make audio and video calls. Perhaps best of all, there are countless plugins and integrations to make Slack even better for team communication and collaboration.
No matter what you do, a project management app such as Monday.com can help you manage your workload better and coordinate your employees. If you want to set up an office game in different steps or split up your team, Monday.com is a great tool to try.
If you’re looking for one app to manage your team chats, projects and tasks, and documents, Nifty can do the job. Assign tasks, communicate with your team, set deadlines, and manage projects and people, all from one dashboard.
Built by the same company that created Toggl Track, this is a highly intuitive project management app. On top of the standard features, the user interface is easy on the eyes and you can easily manage tasks and projects, be it a small team or an enterprise company.
It’s hard to stand out as a project management app, but Proofhub does it wonderfully. You can manage and oversee all your projects and employees from a single dashboard and communicate and share files in the app. Best of all, the price is $89 per month, which gives you unlimited projects and team members.
Looking for a cool way to reward your employees? Bonusly gives everyone in your team some credit to share with their teammates once they do a job really well. They can use that credit to shop, donate to charity, get days off, or any custom reward you set up.
One way to reward your employees is to set them up with a Nectar card and give them away points. That way, they can use them for shopping at thousands of stores supported by the app.
Klaxoon could be best described as a combination of Monday, Slack, Zoom, and various Slack plugins. You can have meetings and collaborate in real-time, using voting, whiteboards, reactions, and more.
If you need to catch up with your team but hate pointless meetings, Range can help. This tool helps you share updates with your team whether it’s in real-time or asynchronously. Contact one member of your team at a time or check in with everyone at once with ease.
Do you prefer collaborating in a visual way? Miro helps you work with your team by creating whiteboards. Brainstorm new ideas or create agile plans for your entire team. It’s best used by design teams or anyone who prefers information laid out in a visually appealing way.
Activities and tools for Zoom team building
If Zoom is your preferred team communication app, there are some apps that you can use to maximize Zoom’s power.
This is a built-in feature in Zoom that allows you to create a whiteboard with your meeting participants. From there, you can all leave annotations and collaborate in real-time.
- Slido poll
Have some fun in Zoom by introducing live polling with Slido. Vote in real-time or use some of the many features of Slido, including quizzes, word clouds, ranking polls, and many others.
A digital whiteboard for your team where you can move elements around and present boring data in a fun way. If you don’t know how to get started, there are plenty of templates to choose from to get ideas.
Slack apps for online team games
As mentioned, Slack is the most popular team chat app in the market right now. One of its biggest assets is the apps (integrations) that can be used without leaving Slack. Here are some of the very best.
We briefly mentioned Bonusly above, and the great news is that it can work from Slack too. Use Bonusly to award your teammates bonuses directly from Slack and recognize their hard work and dedication.
Similar to Bonusly, Evergreen lets you praise your employees publicly and in private. Moreover, you can use the app to give out 12 tree seeds per month to your colleagues. Evergreen then plants those trees, aiming to reduce our overall carbon footprint.
Want to talk with your coworkers but no idea where to get started? Donut pairs you up with a teammate and prompts you to start a conversation with them, either by setting up a meeting or starting one with an icebreaker question.
One of the biggest downsides of Slack is that it doesn’t have a native embedded polling feature. This integration fixes it and lets you find out what your employees think without starting a meeting.
One of the most popular integrations today, Standuply lets your team share their daily status updates directly in Slack. Find out what your employees are working on and what they could use help with.
Just like the name says, BirthdayBot jots down your employees’ birthdays and notifies you when it’s time to celebrate.
If you play games at your office, such as ping pong, chess or tic tac toe, this Slack app will team you up with a random coworker. You can use the app to share your match results or celebrate.
Previously named KudosBot, this app lets you do just that – give kudos to your best employees. Track the best performers every month using a company-wide leaderboard.
What’s your team’s taste in music like? With JukeBot, you can connect your Spotify accounts and even create common playlists for your workplace with ease.
Can’t think of an icebreaker to ask? This integration will ask a random question to help you find out more about your coworkers and keep everyone engaged.
A great way to throw out ideas in Slack – anonymously. This tool lets you create and post your ideas with your team for them to discuss, either signed by your name or anonymously, engaging even the most introverted employees.
Create different types of polls and surveys directly in Slack. With your employees’ names or anonymously, this integration helps you capture your employees’ opinions with ease.
No Slack workspace is complete without GIF animations. This is the most popular plugin out there with thousands of different animations to choose from.
If you want to check how your employees are feeling, you can do it three times a week with a short pulse survey by Moodbit and then get a nice weekly summary.
Fun online team games & activities tools
Created by the people behind some of the best-known software in the world, this game is all about presenting new topics and ideas to your team. Whether in-person or remote, this is a proper team-building activity that you can learn from.
Imagine playing cards with your coworkers while you’re talking on the phone. That’s the premise here – get a room code, hop on Zoom or some other app and play a variety of card games, all synchronized in real-time.
Trivia games are a great way to have fun at the office and Houseparty is one tool that will make this easy. Just log in and switch between different rooms to instantly see your friends on camera.
What is one thing better than an ice breaker quiz? A quiz about your coworkers! Use this app to quickly create personalized quizzes that let your employees get to know each other better and have fun at work.
If you want your team to have trivia quizzes but want to leave nothing to chance, the people behind this app will send you a set of hand-written questions just for you, once per week. All you have to do is write the answers and have some fun.
20 Examples of Office Games & Icebreakers
With all that said and done, let’s show some practical examples of office games and icebreakers you can start using today.
Ice breaker games to get to know each other
One of the best purposes of an ice breaker question is finding out more about the person you’re talking to, be it in an online meeting or at a convention, or in a classroom.
- Best Icebreaker questions
- What celebrity do you get mistaken for?
- If you were an animal, what would you be?
- If you had unlimited money, where would you go on vacation?
- When you were a kid, what did you dream of becoming?
- What would be your superpower if you could have one?
- You’re stranded on a desert island. Which 5 items do you take?
- You can have one food for the rest of your life. What do you choose?
- You can do one thing without failing. What do you choose to do?
- You can retire tomorrow – where do you go?
- Getting to know you Icebreakers
To find out more about your teammates, try out one of these:
- By the end of the year/decade, what do you want to achieve?
- What is one skill you would like to learn/acquire?
- What is your secret talent?
- You can build your dream home anywhere in the world. Which location do you choose?
- What is your dream job?
- What was your favorite subject in school as you grew up?
- What was your biggest dream as a kid?
Ice breaker games to kick off meetings
Icebreakers can also be a great way to kick off an otherwise boring meeting and get everyone in the mood to talk.
- Zoom-meeting Icebreakers
- Would you rather do X or X? (e.g. fly a plane or drive a Formula 1 car)
- What TV shows are you watching at the moment?
- What is your favorite dish to cook?
- What’s on your Zoom background?
- What’s your latest achievement?
- What keeps you up at night?
- 5-Minute Icebreaker Games
Want to do more than a question? There are some great games you can try too, such as:
- The worst job
- Paired strangers
- Who am I? (not ideal for Zoom calls)
- Say your name backward
Fun ice breaker games to support team building
There are also games that can help you facilitate team building and today, we’ve split them up into those you can do remotely (in a virtual setting) and in person.
Virtual team building activities
One of the best things to try out is virtual happy hour activities – especially if you all work in similar time zones. Just because you’re working behind a laptop, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go for a drink. Examples include:
- Mixology classes
- Virtual wine tasting
- Online craft beer tasting
- Cheesemaking classes
Thanks to a large increase in remote work in the last year, there are now countless companies providing virtual team-building activities.
Other fun activities include:
- online escape rooms
- online trivia games
- online quizzes
- virtual game nights
- online scavenger hunts
- online murder mystery games
Depending on the time that you have and the results you want to achieve, you can choose one or more of these activities for your team.
Offline team games & activities for remote teams
If you work remotely and you want to do something with your team that doesn’t involve being online and in a call, these are some great choices:
- Offline book club
- Offline fitness challenge
- Collaborative craft/art project
Not only will they force your employees to get some exercise (mental and physical), but they will also make sure everyone has fun while at it. Bear in mind that these require more planning and effort, so don’t be surprised if the response isn’t so overwhelming.
In-person team building activities
If you have the chance to meet your team in person, that’s even better! You can choose from indoor or outdoor activities, depending on the location, weather, and the time you have.
Some great indoor activities include:
- Trivia quizzes
- Chest of hopes and dreams
- Lucky Penny
- Memory wall
And others. You can find the instructions for these and similar games on this page.
As for the outdoor activities, some of our suggestions include:
- Scavenger hunts
- Team sports (football, basketball, racketball, dodgeball… you name it)
- Charity events and fundraisers
- Egg drop
- Team tic tac toe
Team building activities by group size
Like the idea of team building activities but wondering which ones will fit your group the best? Here are some of them divided into group sizes.
Small groups (2-5 people)
- Interview game
- Picture Whispers
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Catch the Ball
- Ghost Game
Medium groups (5-10 people)
- Defend the Eggs
- Group Juggling
- Identity Circles
- Lineup game
- Paper snowball fight
Large groups (10+ people)
- Screaming Viking
- Telephone Charades
- Who Am I?
- Chariot Race
- Fear in a Hat
For more ideas on games sorted by group size, check this page out.
Icebreakers and office games are a great way to get to know your teammates better, lighten the mood, foster communication and collaboration and overall, just have fun. Hopefully, you now know what kind of icebreakers you can use, which tools can help you, and what (not) to do. Happy team building!