Are you planning a company-wide meeting where a bunch of employees who don’t usually work together, will be in the same room or chat? If so, you’ll probably want to have a few five-minute team-building activities and icebreaker games up your sleeve for some quality team bonding.
These team-building games can go a long way in pushing the entire group to get along, creating a positive work environment, and even developing critical skills such as problem solving and decision making.
However, it’s not always easy to get everyone onboard with these fun team-building activities, mostly because of time restraints.
Activities like scavenger hunts, barter puzzles, and pirates treasure take a lot of time. And you really don’t want to play games like the human knot with the COVID-19 pandemic at its worst!
For that reason, these team-building exercises should have a time limit—especially if you’ve gathered your employees to discuss work-related stuff.
In this article, I’ve compiled a list of 23 icebreaker games that shouldn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes to play. (P.S. If you're really serious about improving communication within your team, check out our ULTIMATE LIST OF TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES.)
Let’s jump right in!
1. What’s My Name?
If you want a bunch of strangers to talk and have a good laugh as if they’ve known each other forever, you can always count on What’s My Name.
This classic party game has found its way into board rooms and office lounges.
The rules are simple: Write the names of famous personalities onto sticky-notes or pieces of paper, and stick them onto the forehead of your employees (each employee gets one).
Then, break your employees into pairs, if possible, and have them ask each other yes or no questions, trying to guess the name written on their piece of paper. The first person to get it right wins.
2. The Worst Job
Here’s another fun activity that your employees are going to love (and one that shouldn’t take long).
Once employees are split into small groups, take turns going around a circle and telling one another what your worst job was.
You’d be surprised to hear the answers. Maybe your old job as a fry cook wasn’t so bad, after all!
The purpose of this 5-minute icebreaker game is to have your employees bond over something personal (or embarrassing, to some extent).
3. The Birth Map
This works best if you have a large group with a lot of diversity.
Print out a map of the world. Give everyone a thumbtack and have them stick it in the map to show where they were born.
4. Famous People and Cities
The basic rules of this game are somewhat similar to What’s My Name.
Write a bunch of names of famous people and cities on the back of index cards or sheets of paper. When someone enters the room, tape a card to their back. The goal is to ask questions to figure out what’s on your back.
5. Paired Strangers
Tell every employee to pair up with someone in the room they’ve never met before.
Once pairs are formed, managers can instruct them to discuss a topic. This could be anything, ranging from something related to work or their thoughts on the last Super Bowl.
To make it interesting, you can even shoot the whole thing, compile an engaging video, and upload it on LinkedIn. That way, it’ll double as employer branding, too.
6. Say Your Name Backward
Have each member of the group introduce themselves by saying their name backward. Everyone else has to try to figure out what their name is.
WARNING: People named Bob are banned from playing this fun game!
7. Would You Rather?
Put a piece of tape on the floor to separate the room in half. Rattle off a bunch of questions—e.g., would you rather travel to Italy or Australia?—and have employees hop on either side of the line depending on their answer.
It’s an easy way to figure out who has something in common with someone else.
8. Who Is It?
Have each employee write down a secret about themselves onto a sheet of paper, fold it, and put it in a box.
When everyone’s done, the manager reads what’s been written and the rest of the group tries to guess who did what.
9. Movie Ball
The movie buffs are going to love this!
Throw a ball around a circle or over a table. Whenever someone catches it, they have to say the name of a movie within five seconds.
You can’t repeat any movies or you’re out of the circle.
10. People Bingo
Make a bingo square with categories like “Someone with brown eyes,” “Someone who’s been to Japan,” and “Someone who has at least three siblings.”
First person who makes bingo wins.
11. Lucky Penny
Give each team member a penny (or any other coin) when they walk into the room.
Take turns going around a circle and trying to remember something that happened the year their coin was minted.
12. Twenty Questions
Having people ask a couple of questions makes for the perfect ice-breaking activity.
Let one member of your team think of an item.
The rest of your employees get 20 questions to try to guess what that item is.
13. The Magic Wand
Harry Potter fans are going to love this one.
If you had a magic wand, what would you change in the world? Tell your team and then have them tell you.
14. Marooned on an Island
They say a person’s choice in music and the type of books they read can say a lot about them.
Take turns saying one album and one book you’d love to have with you in the event you were stranded on a desert island.
15. Don’t Smile
Break your team into groups. Have everyone stare at each other without smiling.
The last person to smile wins.
To make it more challenging, have one person tell jokes.
16. Two Truths and a Lie
You can never go wrong with Two Truths and a Lie.
And the best part? You can play this game even if your whole team is quarantined and working from home!
As you can probably tell by the name, this game involves having each person state two things that are true about them, and one thing that is a lie.
Obviously, this won’t be any fun if you do this with people who don’t work together. To make things interesting, you can turn this into one of those quick 5-minute team-building activities, and have people from the same team guess the correct answers as a way to test how well they know each other.
17. Helium Stick
Helium Stick is a classic game that tests your team’s hand-eye coordination and how in-sync they are.
The rules are simple: Break your employees into two groups and have them stand up facing each other (at a distance of an arm’s length). Then, ask them to raise their arms and point their index fingers. See the GIF for reference.
Place a helium stick or any other metal rod onto their fingers. The goal is to gently place the rod onto the floor without dropping it.
18. Perfect Square
Perfect Square is a classic communication and problem solving activity that your employees are going to love.
You’ll need a rope that’s at least 5 meters in length.
Tie the ends of the rope, place it on the ground, and twist it to create an odd shape.
Blindfold your employees, have them stand in a circle, and take five steps back.
Then ask them to approach the piece of the rope and create the shape of a square. The team to make the most perfect square wins.
19. Emoji Check-In
Here’s another one of the quick 5-minute team building activities that are suitable for remote teams.
If your team is using Slack, WhatsApp, or any other group chat or collaboration platform, ask everyone to send an emoji that describes whatever they’re feeling.
Then have everyone try to guess the reason why their fellow colleague might be feeling that way.
20. The Toilet Paper Confession
Considering the recent shortage of toilet paper, this might not be the best game to play right now.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s not fun (and somewhat gross)!
Get a fresh roll of toilet paper and have everyone sit in a circle. Then, ask everyone to rip off how much they usually use, and pass the roll to the next person.
The game will certainly give everyone a good chuckle.
21. My Slogan
A slogan is a reflection of a company’s personality and its core values.
But what if individuals had slogans, too?
Have your employees think of the most creative slogans they can think of for themselves and then explain what they mean.
BONUS: You can have team members (i.e., people who know each other well) rate the slogans of their colleagues on a scale of 10.
22. The Four C’s
If you’re from marketing, you’re probably jumping right now.
Unfortunately, this 5-minute team building activity has nothing to do with consumers, cost, communication, and convenience!
Ask every employee to write down a car, color, cartoon character, and a cuisine that best describes who they are and explain why.
23. Five-Minute Jigsaw Puzzle
If you think jigsaw puzzles aren’t intense, you’re in for a surprise!
Five-minute jigsaw puzzles are exactly what they sound like. You have to finish a jigsaw puzzle in 5 minutes.
Divide your employees into two teams (or more). Give each team the same jigsaw puzzle and start the timer. The team that manages to finish the majority of the puzzle wins.
If your employees are working remotely, don’t worry. You can have them pick a puzzle from Jigsawpuzzles.io and collaborate with each other.
Work doesn’t have to be serious all the time.
It doesn’t hurt to make things interesting and getting your teams to engage with one another. And, as we saw, these 5-minute team building activities don’t take much time.
You don’t have to restrict yourself to these games though. You can always ask your employees for some feedback and try out their exciting ideas. Here’s to having a little more fun at work—even if you’re stuck at home.