5 Professional Icebreakers You Can Do Remotely

Maintain your company culture, even if you have to do it from a distance.

March 31, 2020 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you’re like me, I’m working remotely along with my entire team. However, modern businesses should be increasing the value of teamwork, and the closer your team is, the better they will perform. Co-workers who relate to each other and get along can more easily coordinate efforts for projects. Accomplishing this, however, can be something of a challenge, especially with everything going on right now. Not everyone is an extrovert, and knowing where to start can be a struggle.

Here are some ideas of ways your team can break the ice, whether they meet in the office or work remotely. 

1. Introductory interviews

The best way to get to know someone is to ask them questions. Having new team members ask the questions makes it so they are learning exactly what they are interested in. Everyone in the meeting can start with the same simple questions, such as their name and age, and then the floor can be opened up to questions from the rest of the group. The information you will learn about each person will be unique and more easily remembered.

Most video-calling technology enables you to highlight individual participants, so you can always focus on who is being introduced. In apps such as Zoom, questions can be submitted via chatbox or through the “raise hand” feature to ensure that interruptions are held to a minimum.

Related: 6 Tricks You Need to Know About Zoom

2. Virtual happy hours

This was something we tried out last Friday for the first time. At 4:30 p.m., we all hopped on Zoom and did a virtual happy hour. It was a fun time where everyone can drink and be themselves. For all you non-drinkers (like myself), you can bring along a soda or water to get you through — it’s less about the drink and more about the happy hour chatting and getting to know each other. 

Every member of the team joined … even people who had never gone to a normal happy hour with the team! People need someone, and this can be one of the best professional icebreakers for people who might not want to be out and about in these types of extravert situations. 

3. Polls

Live polls are a great way to engage an audience with anonymity, taking away a layer of anxiety from the quieter members. Websites such as Slido.com can be used in a conference hall or online and generate the same results. Slido is also available as an app for a smartphone. Ask participants about their day, gather feedback and gauge progress throughout a presentation. Add in a couple of fun questions to prompt some humorous responses and allow members to speak up and validate their answers if they desire.

A mix of relevant questions and fun prompts can help keep the audience engaged on all fronts. Insightful data from the team can help a manager fine-tune projects and assignments. Creative responses can help determine who should be in charge of the company’s hypothetical rebranding.

Related: 5 Ways to Be More Efficient While Working From Home

4. Employee spotlight

Every meeting can feature one of your co-workers or employees before the normal itinerary commences. Give the selected person a short amount of time to introduce themselves however they would like. They can share pictures of their family, present a song they have written or what have you. Screen-sharing makes this feasible for remote meetings as well. Hosts can grant screen sharing access to the person of honor to use as they please.

If your team does not hold weekly meetings, consider a newsletter specifically for this employee spotlight. An email with basic information and fun pictures can be sent to the team so they can get a chance to learn more about their co-worker. This document can also be saved for future reference, such as when gift-finding for an upcoming birthday.

5. Friendly competition

A low-stakes activity can be both entertaining and educational if desired. Kahoot.com, for example, allows you to create custom online quizzes your team can take on their mobile devices. These quizzes can ask questions about company protocol to remind employees about certain rules or contain Disney trivia to determine who is the biggest fan. Reward the winner with a small treat or some other sort of prize. Since Kahoot is an online service, it can be done from anywhere. Reward the winner with a digital gift card instead of a physical prize in this situation.

Other games can be organized to incorporate the need for teamwork or individual knowledge and skill. Who can untie their human knot the fastest? Who can name the most U.S. presidents? A variety of activities can showcase some obscure talents and elicit responses later in the meeting from more introverted team members who have opened up throughout the process.

Need a little extra time to be able to do the things above? Here are a few calendar hacks I’ve put together so you’re not thinking you’re stealing time from work. But really, your team needs this right now, and you should be making a little extra time for them.

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