Even before COVID-19 began, 43 percent of U.S. employees were already working remotely, according to Gallup research. Now, millions more are suddenly finding themselves working from home. But this shouldn’t be viewed as a setback. Rather, this exercise in isolation presents an opportunity for organizations to develop a remote workforce that collaborates and connects better than ever before.
One of the best ways to expedite virtual collaboration is by incorporating icebreakers into your online meetings using digital workplace communication tools. What works for some teams, however, may not work for others so it’s a great time to experiment. To help get you started, we’ve handpicked 10 easy icebreakers that can help remote teams stay connected and in sync – no matter where they’re located.
1. Create an idea forum
Get creative juices flowing by creating an idea forum in your team room, using a shared document, or online whiteboard tool. Have everyone brainstorm toward a common goal. Ask employees to share ideas prior to the meeting or during the meeting on an online whiteboard.
2. Set up a scavenger hunt
Virtual scavenger hunts give remote workers an easy, fun way to collaborate. Ideal for onboarding remote employees, this idea also works well for any company with widely distributed teams and knowledge assets. Using your company intranet to facilitate the virtual scavenger hunt, offer clues that can be found on the individual’s profiles, hidden in forums or groups. The first one to find the correct file and share the link in the project room wins.
3. Discover profiles
How can you feel at ease with someone you’ve never met? Encourage meeting attendees to view other people’s personal profiles before online meetings – so they can see faces, learn about their skills, experience, and interests ahead of time. This could take the place of “intros” at the start of the meeting. Save time and make friends – the easy way!
4. Use video chat
Team building has never been easier, thanks to video conferencing. A study by GigaOm found that 87 percent of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing. Depending on your team’s comfort levels, you could ask everyone to turn on their camera during meetings. This way, everyone can see each other and pick up on the non-verbal cues they’d typically observe in a face-to-face setting. For some teams, having video calls all the time can be overkill, so try to mix them in with traditional phone calls to achieve a comfortable balance.
5. Take a virtual coffee break (or happy hour)
Create opportunities for team members to build virtual friendships. Use your video conferencing platform to host a virtual coffee break between other work-related meetings. Encourage everyone to join in some chat time over a cup of java by positioning these meetings as fun, no-pressure discussions. Even if they’re only 15 minutes long, these get-togethers provide an easy opportunity to break the ice and build rapport among team members.
6. Share pictures
Before the meeting begins, ask attendees to post a picture of something that tells a story about how they work: the view out their window or something on their desk – including pictures of pets, kids, or vacations. A quick pic is worth a thousand words, especially in larger group meetings where time doesn’t permit a lot of conversation.
7. Take a poll
Want to get a quick read on what people are thinking? Break the ice at the start of the meeting by inviting employees to respond to a real-time survey using a poll widget in your team room, then read the results aloud. You could even use polls throughout the meeting – to get quick feedback and not have everyone talk over each other. The questions can be business-related or just for fun!
8. Do a pop quiz
Similarly, workplace quiz tools can help your teams get to know each other better. Favorite classic Christmas song, coveted superpower, favorite travel destination? Collect everyone’s results and turn them into word clouds to post in the team space to add some color and visuals. Quizzes can also make for some great conversation starters at your next virtual coffee break!
9. Encourage team chatter
Why not set up a social channel where people can chat about favorite books, podcasts, shows, or movies – anything but the projects they are working on? Breaking the ice with social chatter helps remote teams feel more comfortable about speaking up during meetings. You could even take pictures of the state of your desk and call it “Messy Desk Mondays” – and watch the comments (and emojis) fly!
Encourage digital collaboration for your remote team
While COVID-19 won’t be an issue forever, remote work will continue on. What you learn about leading a remote workforce now will likely become best practice for your company in the months and years ahead. Incorporating a few ice breakers in your next remote meeting is a step in the right direction.