Importance of Icebreakers for Teambuilding in Remote Teams
What are icebreakers?
Icebreakers are questions or activities that pave the way to discussions and debates. Focused on laid-back topics of discussion, the emphasis is on building interpersonal connections among team members.
Icebreakers are a very easy way to help remote teams build and foster healthy, fun relationships in the remote work environment. Aside from being a fun way of connecting team members, icebreakers are also great to let off steam, and sit back and relax.
Nonetheless, the main purpose of using icebreakers for remote team building is to help coworkers get to know one another so that they can build team culture, fostering accountability, collaborative problem-solving and strong interpersonal relationships.
There are many different types of icebreaker activities available online and within communities and companies, fulfilling various engagement strategies through play. But why are these seemingly straightforward, simple icebreaker games so important in today’s remote work culture?
Why are icebreakers important?
Icebreaker games and virtual icebreakers for remote teams are often overlooked during the onboarding process of new remote employees. However, they can be immensely useful tools, especially for new team members or teams moving to a remote environment.
First off, icebreakers are a great way to start conversations and learn about team members, figure out their differences brought on by different cultural and professional backgrounds,
Through various discussions and games, remote teams can build trust and culture together through meaningful collective experiences. Moreover, virtual icebreakers can be a great way of getting everyone on the remote team engaged. Even though some people may be less outgoing and have trouble speaking up and getting noticed within a team, through easy icebreaker games, they can find an avenue to feel integrated and engaged, participating freely.
Icebreaker games establish a friendly, informal space where remote workers can get to personally know (as much as the online environment allows) each other so that they can be at ease while working. Interestingly, icebreaker games for remote teams can quickly intervene with smaller cliques or groups that may have formed within the team and emphasize the fact that all team members must communicate and work together.
Moreover, participating in icebreaker games helps remote workers destress, self-discover and uplifts their moods. Given that icebreaker activities for remote teams have the main purpose of giving a no-strings-attached, safe space to get to know each other, they practically facilitate open, honest communication and interpersonal conversations, which then lead to a more productive working relationship in the long term.
5 Icebreaker games for your remote team
We have a couple of must-try icebreaker games for remote team rounded up so that we can give you an idea of how they work and what you can use them for within your own remote team of people.
Two Truths and a Lie
Group members take turns revealing three things about themselves. Two of the facts are true and one is a lie. Everyone else must vote on which they think is the lie.
Each remote team member has 30 seconds to “pitch themselves”, as in reveal a couple of bits of info about themselves so that their peers can get to know them. This is also very good for practicing public speaking skills.
Bored is a suite of Slack games that can be added to a remote team workspace. One of the games is Icebreakers, which can be add on multiple channels. The Icebreakers foster light-hearted discussions through fun questions.
It works by starting out with a word and then every team member contributes with various words that are associated with the original one and so on. For instance, if we start out with the word entertainment, it can be linked with movies which then can be further linked to comedies, stand-up, clowns, circus and so on and so forth. The game can go on forever, but timed sessions done regularly can be quite productivity-boosting for remote teams.
True or False
Similarly to Two Truths and a Lie, this icebreaker game focuses on challenging remote team members to guess which bits and pieces of information about their team members is true or false. A great way to play the game is to ask participants to provide a set amount of statements about themselves - three or four should be enough - but to include one statement that is false. Then, the rest of the team needs to vote for which statement they think is false. This is an excellent way to get closer to co-workers by finding out little-known information about them and working on character analysis to figure out which trait or statement can apply and which is suspish.
How to make Icebreakers an essential part of team building activities
Although icebreakers are nice and easy to implement, there can be a strategy around it if we want to work smarter, not harder. Everything that we do with a team of people will be much more effective and practical if we have a plan or a strategy in place before implementation or engagement.
For instance, icebreaker games are great to integrate in daily or weekly operations. If your remote team has regular meetings to discuss the work agenda, tasks, events or things that need to be addressed as a collective, starting these meetings out with icebreaker games is a great idea, especially if done consistently.
Starting a meeting with an icebreaker game called Burning questions or with Word associations is an excellent way to set the stage for a productive meeting that attendees don’t say could have been an email.
With icebreaker games, they become engaging and inviting and allow for remote team members to their have inputs recognized by their peers. It’s an excellent way to boost confidence and team collaboration.
It’s a good idea to plan icebreakers ahead and have a purpose as well as goals and objectives for the activities. Initiators of remote icebreaker games should make sure that they are familiar enough with their team members in order to be able to set realistic goals.
Make sure everyone is able to participate and the icebreaker games that you pick are inclusive and easy to join in. Especially when we have multicultural teams and team members from widely different backgrounds, it’s a good idea to be prepared so that you can avoid anyone taking offence at a particular game that is proposed.
Nonetheless, it is difficult to make sure to include some ways of easing tension and setting the proper frame of mind for conferences and online meetings with remote teams. That’s why, another way to make this step of the remote culture building process easier and more straightforward would be to use the scheduling feature of Bored that is built into Slack. Since most remote teams use Slack as the HQ for communication, task management, time management and reporting, it would be easy to implement for most teams. Bored's scheduler gives control over day of the week and time. This makes it perfect for a daily lunchtime ritual or evening break.
Icebreakers are great emergency team building solutions, too! When a team is in a rut, slowed down, burnt out and just not as engaged as they used to be or as they actually could be, launching an icebreaker challenge can be a great breather. Managers of remote teams can have thresholds for productivity, KPI or engagement in place, monitoring the activity that remote employees have and quickly start some loosening up when the thresholds are reached. These thresholds should help team leaders identify peak and low performance trends and act on them appropriately - either as a reward, either as a nudge.
However, we need to keep in mind that icebreakers can sometimes be viewed and experienced as patronizing, especially for tenured teams or teams that don’t really have a problem with communication and team work or don’t require these things in order to excel at their jobs. In these situations, if rekindling team spirit and culture calls for some icebreaker activities because there is in fact, ice to break, explaining the purpose and goal of these games to the team is a necessary step in the process.