According to our 2017 Employee Engagement Report, only 24% of workers feel connected to their peers. In other words, more than three out of every four employees at the average organization feel at least a bit isolated. Considering that, maybe it’s time you gave icebreaker games a shot.
Strong companies are fueled by teams that have enviable levels of camaraderie.
These strong bonds aren't forged overnight. Instead, they stem from ongoing personal and professional interactions experienced by each team member over several months or years.
One of the easiest ways organizations can ensure their employees form tighter bonds is by making liberal use of office icebreaker games, which are short and simple activities created to help folks get to know one another on a personal level.
In this article, we’ll look at 11 quick and fun team-building icebreakers that your employees are going to love—and also why these specific activities are good for team bonding.
Let’s check them out.
The Case for Icebreaker Games
Funny icebreakers can be used to help new employees feel comfortable around their new coworkers. They can also be played to help veteran employees get to know the colleagues they may rarely or never interact with.
Beyond that, icebreaker games provide companies with a number of benefits:
- They're fun to play, making them a welcomed break from regular work activities.
- They break down barriers that might exist between employees.
- Icebreaker games can help kick-start major meetings or long training sessions.
- They make it easier for employees to communicate with one another.
- They encourage interactions that wouldn't usually take place in the context of a normal workday.
While, in many cases, professional interactions are largely unavoidable, today's employees collaborate often and sit in on meetings together. Personal interactions don't always occur as organically.
In such situations, not only can it be difficult for veteran employees to get to know colleagues who work in other departments, it can be quite hard for new hires to transition into a company smoothly.
This is a big deal.
As our previous research points out, coworkers are the number one thing employees like about their jobs. When companies don't support team-building initiatives—or at least when they don't prioritize them—both veteran and rookie employees alike are less likely to have friends at work.
Not only does that make it harder to build a strong team, it also adversely affects employee engagement, employee happiness, and productivity.
Since that’s the case, all business owners who wish their companies to be successful should take steps to ensure their employees get to know the people they work with—which increases the chances they are happy and are invested in the company.
11 Fun Icebreaker Activities That Your Employees Will Love
Whether you're looking for ice breakers for meetings or for onboarding new hires, we've got you covered.
Of course, these games can sometimes be awkward. But that's half the fun.
And the best part? You can play most of them with your remote teams (take that, coronavirus!).
Here are 11 fun icebreakers that your staff — from managers to employees — will enjoy.
01. Two truths and one lie
A bunch of new hires starting today?
If so, arrange a team lunch or take a break in the afternoon so that your existing staff can get to know the newbie.
Here’s any easy way to do that: Once gathered, have everyone come up with two things that are true about themselves and another thing that's false. Then have each person present what they came up with.
Everyone tries to guess the right answer, which leads to stories about past life experiences and facilitates engaging and enjoyable conversation.
02. Find 10 things in common
This is probably one of the best icebreakers for large groups.
Let’s say you run a large company where departments rarely interact.
To encourage employees to get to know one another better, host a company-wide lunch (or a Zoom call).
Break everyone off into separate groups, making sure to include employees from all departments in each of them.
Task the groups with finding 10 things that all of them share in common (besides the obvious, e.g., that they are human).
You might find out that a bizarre number of employees have all been to Keokuk, Iowa even though your office on in the west coast.
Split your employees up into groups (or pairs if you have a small company).
Have each person write down something interesting they've done on a note card (e.g., skydiving, have lived in 10 different states, drank a gallon of milk in five minutes—the sillier the better).
Put the note cards into a hat, give it a nice shake, and have each person draw a note card they will then read aloud.
The reader must then try to guess "whodunit" and why they came to that conclusion.
04. The scavenger hunt
If you have a little extra time on your hands, you can always opt for a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt.
Depending on where your office is located, such an event can take place on-premises (once you start working there again, that is).
Or, if you're feeling more adventurous, you can opt to send your team around the block—or even across town (though not recommended during the pandemic).
A fun alternative is to have a virtual scavenger hunt, where the goal isn’t to find a specific item but any item that “fits the description.”
For example, you can tell your employees to take pictures of household items that fit one of the following descriptions:
- Something that’s close to them
- Something that reminds them of their childhood
- An item that they absolutely hate but have kept anyway
Not only are scavenger hunts fun, they will get each group talking with one another and working together to identify problems and come up with solutions.
Give the first team to gather every item a grand prize. A $25 gift card to Amazon or a nearby restaurant will suffice.
05. Human rock-paper-scissors
Even if you’re an artificially intelligent robot, you’ve probably played rock-paper-scissors at least once against a friend or foe.
But you probably haven’t applied the game to a group setting.
Here’s how it works: Break your staff up into however many teams. Let each come up with particular body signals for each move. Have each team face off in a best-of-five series and see who wins the tournament.
A word to the wise: Make sure everyone stretches beforehand, because things could get pretty intense.
And beware: Employees may suffer from exhaustion after laughing too hard, so you may want a medic on standby.
06. The one-word icebreaker game
Are you looking for an incredibly easy icebreaker game to kick off a meeting or training session? Look no further than the one-word icebreaker game, which, like its name suggests, doesn't need much explanation.
Break the meeting or training session participants into small groups of four or five people. Ask them a very simple question—e.g., "What one word would you use to describe our company culture?"—and give each team five or 10 minutes to come up with their answers.
Before finalizing their one word, teams will have rigorous discussions among themselves. Then it's time to ask each team to share their answers with the rest of the group—facilitating even more discussion.
07. The Marshmallow Challenge
Break your team into groups of four. Give each group 20 sticks of spaghetti, three feet of tape, three feet of string, and one marshmallow. Ask them to build the tallest freestanding structure they can. Sit back and see what happens. The marshmallow challenge makes the perfect icebreaker and team-building hybrid.
Here’s Tom Wujec, a business visualization expert, talking about the team-building virtues of the Marshmallow Challenge:
Whether you have a large team or a few employees to rally, you can never go wrong with this classic party game.
Charades is all about acting. The goal is to describe an object, movie, book, or a person using just your acting skills. For brevity’s sake, let’s just call it “the word.”
There are a few different ways you can play this game, but here’s how we do it at TINYPulse:
- Have one person to pick the word.
- That person will then pick one individual from the group and whisper the word in their ear (or write it down on a piece of paper).
- That individual will then have to act out/do something that would hint at the word, as others attempt to guess the correct answer.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
09. Have You Ever
In case you’re wondering: Yes, Have You Ever is pretty much the same as Never Have I Ever.
Here’s how the rules go:
- Ask everyone to hold five fingers up (or have a drink ready, since this is basically a drinking game).
- One person makes a statement beginning with “Have you ever” or “Never have I ever,” followed by something interesting. For example, “Have you ever ran a red light?”
- If anyone has done that at some point in their life, they’ll have to fold one finger (or drink).
Needless to say, this fun icebreaker game will really change the way you think about certain employees!
10. The Hot Seat
The Hot Seat is a fun way of bringing everyone closer together and learning new things about one another.
Here’s how it works: Select one person to sit on the hot seat. Everyone gets to ask one question (they can be about anything—from something entirely personal to a project that may have caused drama at the workplace).
Just make sure things don’t get too personal.
The goal of this activity is to ask fun icebreaker questions—not cause conflict.
11. Would You Rather
Is there a better way to get to know your colleagues than to ask them bizarre questions?
Would You Rather is a quick icebreaker activity that involves asking, you guessed it, questions that begin with the words “would you rather.”
Give a person two scenarios and ask them to choose one of them. Make it more interesting by putting them in dilemmas.
Here are some ideas:
- Would you rather have the power to fly or to teleport?
- Would you erase all wars from history (without disrupting the current landscapes) or find a cure for cancer?
- Would you rather stop watching movies or stop listening to music?
Furthermore, ask everyone to explain why they chose whatever they chose.
Find the activities that are perfect for your team
Remember, though some of your employees may be social butterflies, not all of them are.
The easiest way to help your workers get to know each other better is to encourage interaction in a way most people are comfortable with. Because all participants are in it together, icebreakers are one of the quickest paths to a connected team.
Once you feel that everyone’s comfortable and talking to one another, you can move on to trying more elaborate team-building activities.
There are a ton of work icebreakers out there that we definitely missed. Try one of the above and send a simple pulse survey to see if your meeting attendees enjoy the game and make informed decisions to improve the experience.
"What I love about TINYpulse is that every single week you're checking with your team members. And then we're able to respond and address things quickly instead of waiting until the annual survey."
—Adir Cates, Founder and CEO of Dynamic Events
If you have any other great icebreaker ideas, please share them in the comments section below or tweet us at @TINYpulse!