25+ Virtual Team Building Icebreakers to Lighten The Mood
We all have those traumatizing memories of the first day of class when your professor says the dreaded words “let’s start with an icebreaker.” It doesn’t matter if you just went skydiving or cliff jumping, when you’re asked to share a fun fact about yourself your mind goes blank. Does “my favorite cereal is frosted-flakes” count as fun?
As stigmatized as they may be, icebreakers really work. And it’s not just for new teams, they can also be used to increase community and in turn productivity in a team, even if you’ve been working together for years! Along with increased productivity, icebreakers can help teams to relax and prompt creativity in the workplace. Just because your team has switched, or is always, remote, doesn’t mean you can’t create a close-knit feeling. These icebreakers make it easy; here’s how:
MOTIVATION. An engaged team is a motivated team, any smart employer will tell you that. Studies have proven that production rates increase when employees are engaged and feel that they matter. Perhaps one of the most efficient ways to engage your team is through quick exercises like Icebreakers.
ACTIVE LEARNING. Icebreakers don’t just have to center around learning about your team members. They can also be used to share new skills and effective work patterns.
BRINGS NEW IDEAS. There’s a reason we love active meeting icebreakers. Not only do they increase team engagement, but they can be the perfect excuse for a brainstorming session!
LEARN FROM THE TEAM. Everyone learns differently. Icebreakers give employees the opportunity to share their learning styles and how they interact with challenges in the workplace.
HIGH ENGAGEMENT. The key to running a successful company? It’s simple: an engaged team. Socializing between team members is shown to improve communication patterns by 50%.
TIME-CONSUMING. As much as we love icebreakers, sometimes they’re not the most practical. Taking the time to explain, let alone do them, can seem frivolous for a team in the midst of their busy season. If this is the case, hold off on icebreakers and instead make sure your team feels appreciated with messages, shoutouts, and even care packages.
CAN FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE. Icebreakers can be an introvert’s worst nightmare. When considering which one to use, make sure to emphasize inclusivity of all personality types. Perhaps switching to more group-based activities if your team is comprised of introverts.
NOT APPROPRIATE FOR ALL MEETINGS. As fun as it is, perhaps a virtual dance party isn’t the best move for a meeting with the CEO. When planning icebreakers, it’s essential to consider your target audience. Save the macarena for another day.
When to Use Icebreakers
As great as icebreakers are they might not be for every occasion, considering opting out of an icebreaker in your next meeting if:
Your team has worked together repeatedly. Use icebreakers to spice up a typical meeting, but use them sparely. They’re great to feature biweekly, but not necessary for daily meetings!
Your meeting is for addressing a crisis. Maybe save the icebreaker for something a little less urgent.
You’re meeting with high-level executives/having a formal meeting. Typically these high-level executives would prefer to spend their tight schedules on the tasks at hand.
These icebreakers are perfect for getting to know each other. If your team is already well-acquainted skip to the “Regular” section for some fun icebreakers you can use over and over again!
1. FAVORITE COLOR
perfect for: new hires, corporate retreats, and large companies
This team-building activity is a virtual take on the classic M&M icebreaker. Instead of taking a handful of M&Ms, everyone will write down their favorite color on a piece of paper. To make things uncomplicated stick to the basics, sorry Sharon but Persian Pink is just going to be pink for now. Each color will have a specific question assigned to it. For instance, green may be “What’s your biggest fear” and blue “What’s your favorite memory?” Everyone will take turns answering the question that corresponds with their color; the paper ensures they can’t opt for an easier question.
2. The TRUMAN SHOW
perfect for: small groups, creatives, and storytellers
Ever think your life feels like a cliche movie? Maybe it is, well at least it is for this icebreaker. Take turns going around and describe your life as if it were a synopsis for your favorite movie/TV show. Is your life an early 2000’s comedy or a classic drama? You decide!
3. USER MANUAL
perfect for: new hires
When working with new people one of the most important things is learning their work styles. Are they the type to pick up the phone and call or do they prefer communicating through email? Do they want weekly brainstorming sessions or do they work better isolating themselves at a coffee shop? Learning everyone’s styles will help to drastically cut back on any future problems. At your next meeting go over everyone’s preferences; this can be verbally or through an online poll.
4. PERSONAL BASEBALL
perfect for: sports fans and Babe Ruth
Take me out to the ball game. Get ready to score a home run with this team-bonding icebreaker.
Start by dividing the group into two teams. Each player will take turns writing lesser-known facts about themselves. When the first team is up to bat, a player will be read a fact and asked to guess who it belongs to. If they get it wrong, they strikeout.
Three strikes and you’re out; you know the drill. Whichever team has the most points at the end of the game wins!
perfect for: ex-debate team members
What’s better: Chocolate of Vanilla? Coke or Pepsi? Morning or Night?
Find out the answers to these much-debated questions at your next virtual event with a game of Majority/Minority. Take turns posing questions and see what side your coworkers fall on. If you want to up the stakes, those who land on the minority side have to drink, a sip of beer or a shot, interrupt at your own risk.
6. ROSE, THORN, BUD
perfect for: virtual teams new to working remotely
This icebreaker is the perfect way to express gratitude will also allowing your team to express challenges they may be facing.
At the beginning of your meeting have everyone go around and share their rose, something that they are thankful for right now, a thorn, an issue they're dealing with, and a bud, something they’re currently looking forward to. By the end of this exercise, everyone will be feeling energized and ready for a day full of hard work!
7. GIFTS AND HOOKS
Similar to the “User Manual” icebreaker, this exercise is a great way to get to know your team’s work styles. The concept is built off of sharing everyone’s gift, a strength that they bring to the team, and hook, something they need from the team to keep them engaged. Not only will you know your team members a lot better, but you’ll know how you can work with them to create the most productive version of your team!
Have someone start out by sharing a random fact about themselves. While it doesn’t have to be something too generic like hair color, make sure it’s broad enough to allow for similarities. For instance, you might mention that your favorite TV show is Friends or that you’re an only child. If someone also has that in common they’ll say “link” and tell a new fact about themselves.
If more than one person says “link” it goes to the first person. This continues until everyone has been “linked.”
9. SELL YOUR SPACE
perfect for: marketing teams and ex-car salesmen
You know those car salesmen, the ones with the southern drawl that convince you to buy the car whose “necessary extras” happen to fall way out of your budget? I mean did you really need a car with a built-in vacuum? Well, for this activity we’re going to be channeling your inner car salesman.
Have everyone grab a random object from their office. In the next 15 minutes, they’ll have to come up with a name, logo, and slogan before pitching it to the group. Can you sell this “exclusive Bladerunner 3000 stapler with premium metallic staples” to your team?
I guess we’ll just have to find out!
perfect for: cocktail fanatics and happy hour lovers
We played this recently with a team at RevLocal for a virtual retreat. It’s a classic drinking game from the film Beer Fest. Everyone picks a word. We like to use a theme of something from the company. Maybe try ‘Clients’. Once everyone has the word - make up a quick intro for everyone to sing together - then one person says their “word” and then someone else’s “word”. That person then says their word and then someone else’s word. It keeps going until someone messes up.
Once they mess up they have to answer a trivia question. Everyone starts with 5 points (depending on the team size) and you lose a point for wrong answers.
The team’s not big drinkers? No worries, it can be nonalcoholic!
11. THE EMOJI SONG GAME
perfect for: music lovers and millennials
A song game that doesn’t involve sharing your cat-scratched vocals with the whole team? Yes, please!
Split up into teams of 3-5. After each team decides on a song, they’ll have five minutes to rewrite the song in emojis! Pro tip: to save time opt for just covering the chorus. Next, go around and share your creations and see if your coworkers can guess the bop!
Does a peach and the dancing girl emoji equate to Shakira’s “Hip don’t lie” or a Beyonce hit?
12. 18 & UNDER
perfect for: Khalid fans and fans of reminiscing
Because I’m eighteen and I still live with my parents. Taking a note from Khalid’s hit song 8teen, these ultimate team-bonding icebreaker helps you relive the “good ole days” while getting to know your coworkers. Go around the room and share something you accomplished before you turned 18. Try to make it unique; maybe you had a piece featured in your local gallery or traveled abroad by yourself!
perfect for: lottery players and future trophy wifes
Picture this: you’re on your way home from work when you stop at the gas station for a Slurpee. Right, when you check out you make the impulsive decision to by a lottery ticket with the lucky numbers on your fortune from last night’s Chinese take-out. Turns out your fortune was right, those numbers were lucky. You won the lottery; now what?
Spend five minutes discussing how everyone would spend their lottery money. You’ll learn a lot about a person and their goals!
14. MOST UNIQUE
perfect for: extroverts and ex-theatre kids
How many times have you been told “you’re not like others?” Well, here’s your chance to prove it. The goal: find something about you that no one else on your team has in common! Did you actually take an “Underwater Basket Weaving” class in college or were you on a synchronized swimming team in 7th grade? Whatever it is, it just has to be unique!
These icebreakers are the perfect solution for when you and your team need to spice up your regular meetings. Just because you already know each other, doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun!
15. TABLE TOPICS
perfect for: small tight-knit teams
You may think you know your team, but chances are you don’t know everything, including what they ate for breakfast or what their WiFi name is. Spend the first five minutes lightening the mood with fun personal questions. Here’s some to start with:
Whose the last artist/song you searched for?
What’s your favorite website?
What was your biggest fear growing up?
16. PERSONALITY TESTS
perfect for: BuzzFeed lovers and astrology aficionados
You might have spent your teenage years flipping to the back of a magazine to take the personality quizzes, but they definitely haven’t gone out of style!
Send out biweekly/monthly personality quizzes for your team to take. Share what Harry Potter house you are or your Myers Briggs type in a group chat or at your next virtual happy hour!
17. FAILURE FRIDAYS
perfect for: startups and self-help gurus
It’s easy to bury your failures, but talking them over, especially with your team, can help improve your work strategy and team productivity! With this short weekly meeting, take time to go over something you failed at this week.
Whether it’s forgetting to respond to an email or totally botching your latest project. It will help to decrease the stigma around failing and increase team connectivity. After all, if you can talk about what you did wrong, nothing will prevent you from becoming a strong team!
perfect for: coffee and culture lovers
We’re taking a page out of the Swedes book with this coffee catch-up! Fika focuses on spending quality time over your beverage of choice. You can choose to talk about work-related tasks or keep it strictly fun to give everyone a release from work-day pressures!
19. WHERE IN THE WORLD?
perfect for: wanderers and multinational companies
Is your company an international company or known for traveling? Then this is the perfect icebreaker for your team! Start the meeting with the simple question, “Where are you joining us from?” This will be a fun way to feel like you just took a trip and connect to your coworkers. Step up your game by creating a team map that highlights everyone’s locations!
20. VIRTUAL DANCE PARTY
perfect for: those who have the moves like jagger
There’s no stress reliever quite like a dance party. For your next party throw on a killer playlists, have your employees email in suggestions ahead of time, and let loose. These little parties can be the perfect way to boost energy and morale during a long company meeting or can be a completely separate event!
21. GIVE KUDOS
perfect for: everyone…we could all use some love
Surprisingly, 21% of workers do not receive recognition, yet recognition is the number one motivation for increased employee interaction in the workplace! Give shout-outs to products, people, or whatever they feel they would like to recognize in your weekly meetings. When your office opens back up, you can also print this out and hang it on a wall!
perfect for: the next Bob ross…or anyone capable of drawing a stick figure
Blow off some steam with this easy and creative icebreaker! Tell everyone to bring a pen/pencil and piece of paper to the next meeting; they can also opt to do this virtually on their computer. Start by having them draw a random mark. Next, they’ll have to make a picture out of that line.
Maybe your squiggly line is a tulip or maybe it’s an elephant! You can make this a weekly activity by making it a short drawing session, completed with themes, color pages, or free-handed work!
23. LIFE HIGHLIGHTS
perfect for: small teams and proud moms
What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you? Was it the time you decided to move to the city of your dreams or when you gave birth to twins?
Take turns sharing these moments. For the regular version of this icebreaker, opt for weekly highlights!
24. VIRTUAL LUNCH
perfect for: foodies and a hangry team
It’s like Fika, but longer!
Once a month, meet up for a virtual lunch where you can go over work-related tasks or all the current events in your personal life. To make this an inclusive event, send out gift cards ahead out time or have expenses up to $20 covered by the company!
25. VIRTUAL GAME
perfect for: trivia nerds, quiz buffs, remote teams
With this virtual icebreaker, you can play trivia that’s personalized to your staff. Have them send in lesser-known facts about themselves ahead of time! Do you really know you, coworkers? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see! there’s an assortment of games to choose for to ensure something new for every time you need a way to spice up the meeting!
PUT THE RECORD ON. Put some music on and share your sound for the next meeting. This will help to cut down awkward tension and make the activity feel less formal. You can even have your employees email in their own playlists suggestions!
ELIMINATE PRESSURE. If someone doesn’t want to participate, they shouldn’t have to. While it’s important to encourage people to participate, make it an inclusive environment by making sure to not to force people. Be aware of other’s limitations. If icebreakers make someone anxious, respect that and let them know that they're still welcome to the event.
DON’T HAVE TIME FOR REGULAR ZOOM CALLS? Still create a community feeling by utilizing group chats on your platform, you can make them dedicated to sharing day-to-day highs and lows, sharing everyone’s weekly tasks for accountability, or just sharing funny memes!
VIRTUAL TEAM BUILDING
We get it; planning engaging team-building events on the regular can be as overwhelming as taking your daughter to see her favorite boy band in concert. Thirteen-year-olds are crazy. But we’re here to help! The Offsite Co. Virtual Subscription delivers a next-level virtual team event every month. A monthly subscription for highly customized virtual events for your team, from the experts.
Treat yourself to 3 or 6 months of stress-free engagement! Work with our team to design a unique, engaging, and consistent line-up of events to bring your team together.