Productivity Meeting Icebreakers: Ideas for Virtual Teams, Large Groups & Managers

in Research   Posted on April 22, 2021  Author: Charisse Mirabel,

Productivity meeting icebreakers play a major role in events when communication and employee participation are essential. These activities guarantee that all employees are equal participants and their engagement can own the results of a meeting. They diminish the barriers that are present in a workplace due to hierarchy, organization charts, job descriptions, and different departmental structures. (Heathfield, 2020).

A productivity icebreaker works by encouraging participants to introduce themselves to each other and participate in a meeting or any work-related activity. As the name implies, icebreakers are created to “break the ice” when:

  • Employees come from diverse personal and/or professional backgrounds
  • Employees must form a bond right away for work-related purposes
  • Teams or departments have just been recently formed
  • Topics are new or unfamiliar
  • Facilitators need to be familiar with the participants and vice versa

Icebreakers can be used at training, seminars, workshops, the introduction of new hires to the company, team meetings, client meetings, and other company-related affairs. They can be used at the beginning, in between transitions of topics, or even at the end of an intense meeting. Featured below are the different types of productivity meeting icebreakers that can make every meeting fun and worthwhile.

 

Productivity Meeting Icebreakers: Table of Contents

  1. Icebreaker Questions
  2. Icebreakers for Large Groups
  3. Icebreakers for Virtual Meetings
  4. Icebreaker Games
  5. Icebreakers for Managers
  6. Leadership Icebreakers
  7. Breaking the Ice: Why Is It Important?

The Benefits of Using Productivity Meeting Icebreakers During Office Meetings

Blending into a new group, like a work team, and behaving and communicating with new coworkers may generally feel awkward and cause worries. This is when icebreakers come into the picture—to break barriers among employees and promote camaraderie within the workplace. While icebreakers may appear to be a waste of time, they can certainly bring the following benefits to an entire company (Willkomm, 2018).

A Sense of Community

Community is defined as a group of persons sharing common values, goals, or demographics. Establishing a community is not that easy, and using icebreakers urges individuals to get to know each other better.

Communication

Communication is also a significant element of community building. Icebreakers work by starting a conversation or eliciting laughter, which can lead to communication among the participants of a meeting.

Empathy

Empathy lets participants hold back, understand other perspectives, and make decisions together. This trait helps one see his or her colleague in another viewpoint, which helps establish an effective community.

With the right icebreaker, anyone presiding over a meeting should find participants more engaged and, hopefully, productive. Luckily, there is no shortage of meeting icebreaker ideas, as you will see in this article.

Icebreaker Questions

Icebreaker questions are designed to make employees feel comfortable during company meetings. These questions, when properly executed, can absolutely eradicate anxiety during these events (Museum Hack, 2021).

  • Which artist are you ashamed to like?
  • What is the most terrifying thing you have ever done for fun?
  • What is the most useless item that you own?
  • If you were a superhero, what would be your powers?
  • If you can time-travel, what time period would you go to?
  • The zombie apocalypse is happening, who among your coworkers will you choose to be on your team and why?
  • Imagine you are wealthy enough that you do not need to work anymore, how would you spend your time then?

company time allotted in meetings

 

Icebreakers for Large Groups

Enterprises and organizations traditionally work in large groups, and it is always a challenge to persuade employees to express themselves in front of an unfamiliar crowd. These instances also call for the need to use icebreakers (Harper, 2021).

Things in Common

People feel a sense of belongingness when they learn that they have things in common with others. That notion alone harbors trust and can serve as a foundation for a harmonious relationship.

Things in Common is highly suggested for meetings with 10 to 50 employees. Divide the team into small groups. Ask each team to list 10 things that they have in common and discuss them with the rest of the participants.

Group Juggle

Group Juggle is perfect for employees who do not know each other yet. Ask the team to stand in a circle. Each employee throws a ball to someone within the circle. Then, the receiver needs to utter the name of the person who threw the ball and who they are throwing it to.

Mute Organization

Participants in Mute Organization must arrange themselves according to either their surname, age, birthday, or other categories. The twist here is that this icebreaker must be done without making any noise.

Biggest and Best

Divide the employees into small groups, and provide each with small items. Ask them to trade with each other (only the items that they were given) and be imaginative with it. The team that has the biggest and best item out of a small one wins.

Human Rock, Paper, Scissors

Human Rock, Paper, Scissors is a fun, brief icebreaker that can be played in a medium-sized group. The all-time classic hand game rock-paper-scissors is played by conquering one another by relying on the combination. This icebreaker is a more amusing take on the game, but needs participants to stand, move, and act as a team.

To play this game, designate groups and let each group pick how they will act out rock, paper, and scissors with their bodies.

Sardines

Sardines is like hide-and-seek, but somehow the opposite. This icebreaker requires one person to hide, and everyone must find that person and stay hidden with him or her. The last person to find everyone loses.

People Bingo

People Bingo works by handing out cards with characteristics or details in each bingo square. For instance, one square might be “has blue eyes” and another might be “is the youngest in the family.”

Therefore, everyone has to interact with each other and find someone who fulfills a certain characteristic. The goal is to get a bingo by finishing a row of five names. Try using any of these printable people bingo templates.

Employee High-Engagement Levels in the US Workforce Boosts Results

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Icebreakers for Virtual Meetings

With the increasing number of remote work arrangements these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more necessary than ever to foster friendships and nurture the overall sense of community within the workplace through virtual meetings. Employees are happier with their jobs when they are friends with their coworkers, research confirms (Riordan, 2013). Try these simple yet enjoyable icebreakers for Zoom meetings.

Zoom Background Challenge

Prior to the meeting, set a theme and ask the team to choose a virtual background image that they think best represents that theme. Ask them to be as creative as possible by exploring their favorite movie scenes, memes, vacation spots, and more.

Zoom Background Challenge will definitely burst everyone into laughter and give each other a topic to talk about during the first few minutes of the meeting.

Happy Hour

COVID-19 restrictions no longer allow everyone to have an after-work beer with their coworkers. Recreate those moments with a virtual alternative, the Happy Hour. Some just simply have a glass of beer while talking on Zoom, while others try video chat applications that can create virtual bar backgrounds for a more realistic feeling.

My Reading List

To conduct My Reading List, give employees ample time to discuss what books they have been reading to cope with the ongoing lockdowns and isolation. Ask each one to recommend a book to the rest of the team and discuss it together at the end of the month.

Coffee Break

In Sweden, coffee breaks are created to let employees take a break from work and enjoy time with friends over coffee or tea (Mrvova, 2021). While having a sip of coffee or tea and even enjoying a slice of cake, let everyone have informal chat with the team and talk about something not work-related for a few minutes.

Virtual Escape Room

Virtual Escape Room is a full-scale icebreaker activity, which is as thrilling as the real thing. This icebreaker will prompt employees to face numerous challenges, search for codes, and solve puzzles. Various escape room platforms are available online.

Zoom Awards

Awards ceremonies used to be exciting when office-based work setups were still a thing, but the excitement does not have to be gone in the era of Zoom meetings. Think of several interesting and witty awards for the Zoom Awards, such as Best in Home Office Attire for those who take Zoom meetings seriously, IT Girl/Guy of the Week for those who can fix tech issues of the team, and Best in Zoom Background for those who exert extra effort to make his or her Zoom background pleasing to the eyes.

What’s Your Lunch?

Food is one of those things that bring people together (TINYpulse, n.d.). What’s Your Lunch? will help employees communicate with each other by sharing what they have for lunch, trying new recipes recommended by other coworkers, or even having lunch breaks together.

Everyone eats, and the majority of the people are fond of eating; hence this icebreaker is a great opportunity for everyone to get to know each other better (Bell, n.d.).

virtual communication benefit

Icebreaker Games

Icebreaker games help loosen everyone up and get them into working or meeting mode (Bell, n.d.). The versatile, attainable, and simple icebreakers below can be used in most typical work scenarios and accommodate varied personalities.

Solve a Murder

The best way to introduce Solve a Murder is most probably to have the team watch the Murder episode of the hit comedy series The Office. In this episode, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) has everyone play the murder mystery game Belle, Bourbon, and Bullets.

In a murder mystery game, there would be an announcement of “murder.” This announcement prompts the participants to unleash fabrications, deception, and cover-ups. The facilitator will bring the guests to the game and set the stage for the theme.

One participant either knows or does not know yet that he or she is the murderer. To solve the case, the rest of the team must conduct some detective tasks by using the provided information about the crime. What makes this activity challenging is that there are several characters posed as the suspects, each with their own background, and added plot twists along the way.

This icebreaker makes a team socially engaged and driven to achieve a common goal.

Q&A with the Boss

Bring a department or project head to the meeting. Then, give each employee 10 to 16 minutes to ask questions to the head. Q&A with the Boss will make everyone curious about the meeting agenda. This icebreaker might even shed light on some issues the meeting intends to resolve.

Toilet Paper

The Toilet Paper icebreaker needs one roll of toilet paper, which will be passed around, and everyone will be asked to pull apart how much they would use. Afterward, ask them to count how much they have. The number of toilet paper they have is the number of facts they must reveal about themselves.

Movie Pitch

Divide the team into groups. Ask each team to present a movie idea in 10 minutes. Later on, all participants will vote for the best movie pitch that deserves sponsorship. The winners will not really be able to pursue their filmmaking ideas, but they must be awarded a funny item or some gifts.

This icebreaker is recommended for those who do not want to give the employees an idea about the meeting agenda yet. Icebreakers can be unconnected to the main topic as well (Cserti, 2019).

Heads Up

Heads Up works by asking one player to hold a phone or tablet, showing a specific word, up to his or her forehead for his or her group to see. The group provides clues until the player guesses the correct answer.

This game is available for iOS and Android users.

Toaster Game

Toaster Game requires the use of a toaster during the meeting. Pop the toaster down and while the bread is toasting, the facilitator will roam around and ask each employee to mention something about himself or herself. According to research, even simple icebreakers that ask participants to tell something about themselves were successful in building trust and likability among themselves, even if they only see each other virtually.

When the bread pops up, the employee who is speaking exactly at that moment must eat the toast. The toast can have the toppings decided by the whole team.

work performance jump due to employee interaction

 

Icebreakers for Managers

Icebreakers for managers promote learning, interaction, and reliance among managers. These activities can elicit new management skills and, in turn, help them reconnect with their respective teams, cultivate growth, and develop overall work performance within their departments (Dagilis, n.d.).

The Solve-a-Problem Challenge

Solve-a-Problem Challenge is an exceptional approach to focus on the company culture (Bell, n.d.). In this icebreaker, everyone must be given 10 minutes to think of the most pressing problems they notice in the workplace and quickly come up with solutions. This activity might even encourage others to volunteer in pitching their ideas. It might also lead to the creation of some relevant projects.

The Company History Icebreaker

The Company History Icebreaker is an interesting way for managers to test their knowledge of the company history and become more confident with the presence of their co-managers. This icebreaker can be conducted by writing down the icebreaker questions, displaying them on a projector or slide presentation, and asking others to answer them. The questions can be about the company’s mission, foundation date, services, and so on.

Friendly Debate

The Friendly Debate can be initiated by asking trivial questions, such as:

  • Which is better: burger or pizza?
  • Would you rather go to the beach or hike a mountain?
  • What is more important: logic or creativity?

Divide everyone based on their opinions. Let teams discuss their positions for a few minutes and ask a representative from both sides to present their arguments with each other.

This icebreaker provides everyone with an opportunity to see things differently and prepare well for the meeting (Bell, n.d.).

Build the Story

Build the Story encourages managers to work with each other and share task ownership. In this icebreaker, each team will be provided with five envelopes. These envelopes hold five different information that can only be shared by reading them aloud to other team members. The members must listen carefully to answer the corresponding riddle of the facilitator.

Patience, communication, and problem-solving skills will help solve the riddle. Managers will also be able to see their team members as assets. (Dagilis, n.d.).

Picture Telephone

Picture Telephone is played by passing down a message, which is a description of a drawing, from one person to another. The last person to get the description must draw what was described. The team then compares the drawing that they saw first with the one that was made by their coworker.

This icebreaker is highly suggested for managers working in a cross-functional workplace as huge communication mediums tend to result in the misinterpretation of meanings and messages (Dagilis, n.d.).

Recap the Day

Recap the Day is a nice icebreaker to end every management training session. This works by asking managers what their “Aha” moments of the day are. It recaps the goals of the training, emphasizes key points of the meeting, provides feedback, and allows managers to reflect on instances that they could have dealt with differently.

Klaxoon, July 2019

Leadership Icebreakers

With leadership icebreakers, current and future leaders can become the best at what they do. These icebreakers can effectively introduce leadership concepts and commence leadership training programs (Cserti, 2020).

Two Truths and a Lie

Two Truths and a Lie is effective for introducing new coworkers to each other. Let them share three personal or professional information with the team. Then, let others guess which of them are the truths and lie.

The Marshmallow Challenge

Business visualization expert Tom Wujec developed The Marshmallow Challenge, which he has conducted on hundreds of groups all over the world (Cserti, 2019). In a span of 18 minutes, each team must form the highest freestanding item out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and a marshmallow. The marshmallow must be put on top.

This icebreaker highlights group communication, dynamics in leadership, cooperation, resourcefulness, and problem-solving techniques.

Minefield

Minefield involves setting up harmless and funny items, like squeaky toys, cushions, and bubble wraps, within a room. Blindfolded, each employee will go around while being guided by a teammate.

This icebreaker aims for employees to work together in navigating the room with obstacle courses.

Buy It Now!

Although it requires little preparation, Buy It Now! is an entertaining way to break the ice. At the beginning of the meeting, ask each employee to grab any item they have with them without telling why. Once all of them already have the items in their hands, ask them to sell those to the other employees in the room. Give them a minute or two to perform a sales pitch and another minute to answer questions. After everyone is done, all of them will vote for one product that they will buy. The employee who gets the most number of votes wins.

Who’s Your Office Hero?

More than an icebreaker, Who’s Your Office Hero? is a morale booster. Mention that one coworker or boss who you think is this season’s unsung hero and explain why.

Recognizing people for their efforts is a good way to begin a meeting. This activity will also work well at this time of uncertainty, when hard work get hardly noticed and appreciated (Mrvorva, 2021).

Blind Drawing

Blind Drawing works by dividing the team into dyads. It requires the use of pen and paper. Also, prepare a list of items the employees will be making a sketch of. Each dyad will assign one person to draw, while the other will explain. The explainer will choose an item from the list to explain to his or her partner, but he or she cannot define what exactly the item is. The person who will draw the item must listen carefully to the explanations.

This icebreaker improves communications and problem-solving skills.

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Top Reasons Most US Firms Execute Leadership Development Initiatives

Top Reasons Most US Firms Execute Leadership Development Initiatives
Upskilling/cross-skilling leaders: 49%

Upskilling/cross-skilling leaders

49%
Top Reasons Most US Firms Execute Leadership Development Initiatives
Recognizing potential leaders: 31%

Recognizing potential leaders

31%
Top Reasons Most US Firms Execute Leadership Development Initiatives
Establishing a succession pipeline: 20%

Establishing a succession pipeline

20%

Compare Camp, 2020

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Breaking the Ice: Why Is It Important?

Humans were once used to living in small secure societies. However, the ever-evolving workplace culture led to evolving societies, bigger and more diverse human interactions, and continuous group formations (Harper, 2021). Interpersonal communication is integral in forming personal relationships. It is also the key to maintaining healthy professional relationships—which can only be achieved through the art of interacting with coworkers (Cserti, 2019). Thankfully, icebreakers are simple enough to use yet critical to ensuring meeting participants warm up to each other in no time.

 

References

  1. Bell, A. (n.d.). 34 Ridiculously Fun Icebreaker Ideas, Games, & Activities In 2021 For Your Next Meeting. Snacknation. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://snacknation.com/blog/boost-productivity-meetings-icebreakers-games/
  2. Cserti, R. (2019, May 1). 45 Ice Breaker Games [That Your Team Won’t Find Cheesy]. SessionLab. https://www.sessionlab.com/blog/icebreaker-games/
  3. Dagilis, J. (n.d.). Icebreakers for Management Training. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://www.hearst.com/newspapers/houston-chronicle
  4. Harper, H. (2021, February 17). 32 best Icebreaker Games For Your Team (Instructions). QuizBreaker. https://www.quizbreaker.com/icebreaker-games
  5. Harper, H. (2021, February 21). The 10 Best Icebreakers for Large Groups (Interactions). https://www.quizbreaker.com/large-group-icebreakers
  6. Heathfield, S. (2020, July 16). What Is an Icebreaker? Definition & Examples of an Icebreaker. The Balance Careers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-an-ice-breaker-1918156#:~:text=Icebreakers%20warm%20up%20the%20conversation,into%20the%20meeting%20or%20activity.
  7. Jasper. (n.d.). 36 Best Ice Breakers For Large Groups To Get The Conversation Going. Mantelligence. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.mantelligence.com/ice-breakers-for-large-groups/
  8. MindTools Content Team. (n.d.). Ice Breakers: Easing Group Contribution. MindTools. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_76.htm
  9. Mrvova, K. (2021, March 9). 30 Virtual Icebreakers to Energize Your Zoom Meetings. Slido. https://blog.sli.do/virtual-icebreakers/
  10. Museum Hack. (2021, March 20).  The Only List of Icebreaker Questions You’ll Ever Need. https://museumhack.com/list-icebreakers-questions/
  11. Riordan, C. (2013, July 3). We All Need Friends at Work. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2013/07/we-all-need-friends-at-work#
  12. Son, S. (2016, January 11). 5 Large Group Icebreaker Games for the Workplace. TINYpulse. https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/sk-large-group-icebreaker-games-for-adults-in-the-workplace
  13. TBAE Team. (2013, February 28). Murder Mystery Games for Team Building. TBAE. https://www.tbae.co.za/blog/murder-mystery-games-for-team-building/
  14. TINYpulse. (n.d.). 44 Virtual Icebreakers and Team-Building Activities to Try Immediately. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/44-virtual-icebreakers-and-team-building-activities
  15. Uplift Events. (n.d.). 16 Get-to-know-you Games for small or large Groups. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.upliftevents.com.au/blog/15-gettoknowyou-games-groups-strangers/
  16. Willkomm, A. (2018, July 24).  The 3 Benefits of Using Ice Breakers. Drexel University. https://drexel.edu/goodwin/professional-studies-blog/overview/2018/July/The-3-benefits-of-ising-ice-breakers/
  17. Your Dictionary. (n.d.). 22 Examples of Ice Breakers for Groups Large and Small.  Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-ice-breakers.html