10 Icebreaker activities for teams: get to know your people

Written by: Erika Khanna | Edited by: Alison Robins
Published on: November 17, 2016 |  Reading time: 8m

Joining a new team and a new company can be intimidating, especially if it’s remote. As a new employee, it’s challenging to get to know people, learn who does what, as well as understand people’s communication styles right off the bat. Fun icebreaker and team-building activities help us remove awkward first interactions. They make us laugh, and encourage us to build strong professional relationships.

Whether you are onboarding new team members or your remote team needs a connection boost, icebreaker activities facilitate relationship building. For new employees, first impressions most certainly do matter. That’s why getting to know your in-person or remote team should be fun and exciting.

Icebreaker activities help us acknowledge that we’re all in this awkward first time together, so why not learn about each other in the process?

Why icebreaker activities are important for team success

Keeping office icebreakers and remote team building fun allows new employees to feel welcome, helps teams bond, and encourages a sense of community.  

While we’re colleagues, at the heart of it all, we’re human. Playing ice breaker activities helps us come back to that and embrace each other for our qualities. It’s about what we bring to the table besides ticking the boxes of our job descriptions. On the surface, they may seem silly or forced. Underneath it all, they’re important to lean into. Who knows, you might end up leaving with a new friend.

Key benefits of ice breaker activities:

  • Amplify team connection 
  • Build trust and friendship 
  • Keep employees engaged and connected to their work 
  • Encourages balance outside of work
  • Share new perspectives about employees: deconstruct perceived notions, stereotypes about people in specific departments.

“During my first week at Officevibe, I felt thrilled to join my remote team. While I was here to fulfill a role in the company, I was also keen to share about myself and learn about others. My manager announced that we’d start with a virtual icebreaker activity called ‘pass the buck.’  This meant he was going to talk about his weekend, share a funny story, or anything else that came to mind. 

Sounded simple enough. He highlighted that the big win of his weekend was a lengthy bike ride. He then joked about something funny his toddler had said. Another colleague mentioned she tried baking banana bread for the first and last time. We all laughed. When the buck got passed to me, I felt comfortable and excited to share my own story. Despite it being my first week, I was warmly welcomed as part of a team.”

These first moments were critical to connect with remote team members. With a simple conversation starter, trust was established. A foundation of friendship was built right from the start.

So how can you help new team members feel that same way? We put together a list of classic and remote fun ice breaker activities.

Classic Ice Breaker Games

Here are our top 5 office icebreaker activities for getting to know your colleagues. Feel free to split your group up into smaller teams to make it easier (and faster) to play. 

💡 Tip: You can also play these with new employees within their onboarding cohort.

1. Two truths and a lie

How to play: Each person tells three quick stories or facts about themselves. The catch? One of them being a lie. The object of the game is for whoever is listening to the story to guess which is the lie. 

Why play it: You can learn people’s sense of humour based on how farfetched their lies are and how seamlessly they slip them into their list. Give it a try!

2. Lost on a deserted island

How to play: If someone were stuck on a deserted island, name one thing that they would bring, and why.

Why play it: This office icebreaker helps to identify what matters most to your teammates. It’s helpful to know as you get to know them more.

3. The one-word icebreaker

How to play: Split the group into teams of four or five people. Get each team to come up with one word to describe something. The topic you have them describe is up to the host. This works best if you keep the topic work-related.  For example, “If you could describe your company culture in one word, what would it be?”

Why play it: It requires creativity and for teams to think outside the box. Learn about each other’s thought processes and build your team dynamic.

4. The five favourites

How to play: Ask each person to list their five favourites of anything. This could be movies, songs, TV shows, etc. The point is to get a discussion started and learn about what you have in common. 

Why play it: A great way to get to know colleagues beyond the four walls of the office. Bond over shared commonalities, or even learn something new! It’s also a fun way for employees to learn about individual working styles and bond about communication preferences.

💡 Tip: To play the advanced version of this office icebreaker, make the question more professional. Ask about the five best qualities of a leader, or the five ways managers motivate employees.

5. Speed dating

How to play: Don’t worry, this isn’t about dating your colleagues! In this context, each person has a few minutes to chat and get to know someone else before being moved to the next person. 

Why play it: Discover new people outside of your team. Ideally, these are people with whom you wouldn’t normally interact. Being put on the spot encourages us to ask random questions. The shared urgency creates an element of fun for employees to fit as much as they can within the time frame. 

💡 Tip: If you leave feeling as though you wished you could speak to that person for longer, follow it up with a virtual coffee or a walk.

Remote Ice Breaker Activities

These are our top 5 icebreaker activities to play remotely. Playing a fun team building activity while video conferencing doesn’t have to be challenging. These games enable creative thinking to build authentic connections from a distance. 

💡 Tip: these can be played with new teams or with new employees in their onboarding cohort.

1. Never have I ever: turn webcam on/off

How to play it: A team member asks a question beginning with “Never have I ever…” related to work or work-appropriate anecdotes. If you’ve done the statement, keep your webcam on. Otherwise, turn your video off. 

Why play it: A small group can get to know each other well in a fun environment. This icebreaker activity builds connection and encourages laughter to break the ice.

Example: One of your teammates asks a question such as: “Never have I ever accidentally replied all to an email meant for only one person.” If you’ve found yourself in that position, keep your webcam on, otherwise, turn it off.

2. Remote Pictionary

How to play it: First, log in to a video call. In the chat, send team members a link to a shared Pictionary board, such as Skribbl.  Enter what you think the participant is drawing to the text box on the site until you guess correctly.

Why play it: Pictionary invokes healthy competition. Learn about your team’s sense of humour as well as their perspective. How they think things through will determine how they attempt to draw. You’ll notice some teammates are more literal thinkers whereas others are more abstract.

3. Around the world

How to play it: Using a shared Miro board paste a photo of a world map. Teammates have a timer set to pick a coloured post-it in Miro and paste it on the map. Once the timer is done, let each teammate talk about why they chose a specific country. They can talk about a memory of a trip, an aspiring place they’d like to visit, or family members who hail from various places. 

Why play it: Remote teams who may be geographically dispersed have varying lived experiences. This fun and easy icebreaker allows your team to share personal details in a safe environment while inspiring others. 

4. Tour Guide: Work from home edition

How to play it: Log in to a video call, take turns showing your team your home office set up. Whether you’re working from a kitchen table, or you have a dedicated home office: it all works. Mention a few key items that enable you to feel productive while working remotely. You can also share sentimental trinkets that inspire you throughout the day.  

Why play it: In a traditional office space, workers have their own style and way of working. Learning about your colleagues day to day environment helps you get to know them better and learn about any potential constraints they might face. This icebreaker is a fun way of learning how to best support your team and find out what makes them happy.

5. Guess the movie

How to play it: Start a video call with your team. Using only emojis, one person describes their favourite movie. Let the rest of the team guess the film. Whoever guesses the film goes next, and so on.  

Why play it: Using emojis helps us contextualize communication and discover the ways in which our colleagues think. It’s also a fun icebreaker that encourages laughter and builds connections with those who may have the same favourite film.

Keep track of relationships on your team

Image of a team answering a survey

Officevibe is a great way for managers to keep track of how people are feeling on their team. It keeps a constant pulse on metrics like Peer Relationships, giving managers key insights into when their team needs to work on reconnecting.

Try Officevibe for free with your team!