Pyn compiled a list of icebreaker games that can be played virtually, along with instructions on how to play them, from sources on the web.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the way work is done in the US. Just over a third of jobs involve telecommuting at least part-time, according to a March 2022 survey from the Bureau This is an increase over pre-pandemic figures, as nearly 1 in 3 employers increased telecommuting during the pandemic. The Pew Research Center reported in February 2022 that the majority of workers whose jobs can be done remotely choose to continue telecommuting even when offices reopen.
With more employees telecommuting, employers need to consider how to keep staff engaged and avoid feelings of isolation. Icebreaker games are a way to foster relationships between virtual co-workers. Psychologist Anton Villado outlines three main purposes for effective icebreakers: They decrease anxiety within the group, they allow the facilitator to model expected behavior or set the tone for a meeting, and they encourage people to open up and share about themselves.
Pyn compiled this list of icebreaker games that can be played virtually, along with instructions on how to play them, from sources around the web. Read on for 10 fun ways to promote engagement among employees who work remotely.
The view from my office
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View from My Office is an icebreaker specifically for teams that don’t work together in a traditional office environment. This game requires advance notice for employees to prepare, as they will be showing off their personal workspace, usually in their own homes, to each other.
There are two options to play with: use webcams to share a view in real time during the meeting, or take photos of the view ahead of time. Employees can also be free to choose which aspects of their workspace they want to share. Some may want to show a full view of the room they work from, while others may want to show just their desktop setup.
this or that
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This or that is a classic icebreaker that can be done virtually as easily as in person. Group members take turns asking each other questions that have two possible answers, usually opposite: Coffee or tea? Cat or dog? Sweet or salt? The person who answers must choose which of the two options he prefers.
To help co-workers interact and learn more about each other, questions should include a variety of topics and players can ask each other to explain their answers. A list of questions can be generated in advance for larger groups (there are many possible this or that questions online) or participants can make up questions as they go along.
Take a photo of…
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Sometimes work meetings need an activity to break the agenda and get the creativity flowing. Take a photo of… is a game where employees are asked to take a photo and then share it with the group. The meeting leader can request photos of anything from the shoes each employee is currently wearing to the view from the nearest window.
When everyone has taken a photo, each individual has a few minutes to explain their photo. The game can be modified by having staff take only one photo each if the group is large or multiple photos if the group is smaller.
show and tell
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Show and tell isn’t just for kids. It’s also a great way to build connections between team members working virtually. Staff should be instructed a few days in advance to select an object that has special meaning and be prepared to discuss it at the meeting. This is a good icebreaker to use in larger groups, but a timekeeper should be designated to keep the game on track.
Each person is given a set amount of time (one or two minutes is enough) to share their object via webcam and explain why they chose it. The rest of the group can then ask follow-up questions, with the goal of learning more about the presenter.
virtual scavenger hunt
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For team members who may not know each other very well, a virtual scavenger hunt is a perfect icebreaker that allows everyone to jump on the same task without sharing anything too personal. It is also an easy activity to implement with groups of any size.
Everyone is given a list of items to find within a set amount of time, and the person who finds the most items wins. There are also a number of variations on the game to make it more challenging and exciting. For example, instead of searching for items in your physical home or work space, staff can be asked to search for a list of items online. Or a list of clues can be given, challenging participants to solve puzzles to find out what items to look for.
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When used as an icebreaker, trivia games encourage interaction and bonding between team members, especially those who may be new. Trivia is extremely easy to play virtually with groups of any size; The game can be played individually for smaller groups or in teams for larger groups.
A list of trivia questions should be prepared before the meeting, but the format can vary from multiple choice to fill in the blanks. Questions can be answered out loud or through forms on a virtual meeting platform. There are also many existing versions of trivia available online, including those based on popular TV shows like “Jeopardy!” and “Who wants to be a millionaire?”
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For smaller groups, collaborative storytelling is a quick icebreaker that easily engages all participants. The group or meeting leader begins by telling a story in a single sentence. Then the next person adds another sentence, and so the game continues.
The goal is for the group to work together to create a coherent story one sentence at a time. This game often elicits a lot of laughs as players steer the story in unexpected directions.
Two truths and a lie
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Two Truths and a Lie is played exactly as it sounds: each participant gives three statements about himself to the group, two of which must be true and one of which is a lie. Group members then guess which statement they think is a lie. After everyone has guessed, the lie is revealed and the game continues with the next person.
Although this game can be played with groups of any size, it is more suitable for smaller groups. Leaders may want to inform their teams of the game in advance so that each employee can prepare their well-rehearsed truths and lies.
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Common Ground is typically played in person, but can be adapted for use with telecommuters when breakout rooms are available for virtual meetings. This icebreaker works particularly well with groups that don’t know each other well, as it promotes getting to know each other.
Participants break into smaller groups to identify the things they have in common. Groups can be given a list of items developed in advance, or they can work together to generate their own ideas, to identify as many commonalities as possible before time runs out. This activity also promotes innovative thinking, as things in common can extend beyond obvious things like appearance to lesser-known aspects of your lives, like the color of your first car or your first jobs.
remote work bingo
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Bingo is a popular game that can be played with groups of any size, so adapting it for virtual use is easy. Premade bingo cards are available online to make preparing for this icebreaker even easier.
Bingo cards are full of activities a remote worker is likely to do or likely to say: activities like standing up to stretch and statements like “Can you hear me?” Employees are asked to track their activities over a certain period of time, such as a day or a week, and the first to get bingo wins. Leaders can make the game more difficult by requiring employees to complete more than one row or column, a specific pattern, or completely cover the card to win.
This story originally appeared on Pyn and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.