Employees shudder at the thought of meetings. You might have seen memes like “another meeting that could’ve been an email” flooding the market. This is not unusual. With high-pressure jobs allowing employees to barely keep their heads above water, poorly organised meetings feel like an added nuisance. Even senior managers feel this way. 71% of senior managers say that meetings are unproductive and inefficient. (source)
But on the other hand, meetings are important. They foster creativity, innovation and regulate communication among coworkers. Meetings strengthen teams and lead to a free flow of ideas and opinions. It also allows employees to get to know each other on a deeper level.
But how do you reach this point? How do you instil the spirit of teamwork among employees? As research shows, holding meetings thrice a week is definitely not the answer. However, conducting meetings that aren’t mind-numbing but actually teach employees skills are the need of the hour.
The answer- Icebreaker games.
Ice Breaker Games To Conduct At Work
Ice breaker games can and should be conducted at workplaces. The main objective of conducting ice breaker games at work is to get people to know one another. As the name suggests, the word icebreaker means to break the ice or walls that people might have around themselves.
Once the walls come down, employees will start feeling comfortable and more trusting towards each other.
Here is a detailed list of icebreaker activities that can be conducted at work to boost collaboration among employees-
1. First/Worst Job
There’s no limit to the number of people required to participate in this activity.
But for convenience, you can ask 8-10 people to write down their first or worst job beforehand.
Then, when the game begins, one person can read out the job descriptions.
The rest of the group has to identify which job description is written by whom.
Or employees can simply sit in a circle and go around sharing their best or worst job experience.
Sharing such intimate stories will definitely bring everyone closer and guarantee some laughter and fun along the way. It might also make some realise that their experience was not as bad as they thought it to be.
2. Baby Photos
Similar to first/worst job, this ice breaker requires you to ask employees to bring in a baby photo of theirs or mail it to you.
Compile the photos and put them up on a board.
Once that is done, the group need to figure out the employee from their childhood photo.
3. Fun Questions
One of the most enjoyable group games, you can pull this game off with minimal preparation. Just put together a list of questions and you’re good to go.
The objective is for people to share things that they wouldn’t in a “workplace.” It is to ensure that new and old employees both feel comfortable and bond over their peculiarities.
Here are a few sample questions-
- If you could be an animal for a day, which one would you be? And why?
- If you could instantly become an expert in something, which skill would you choose?
- What is the most outrageous activity in your bucket list?
- Hit the treadmill or hit the couch?
- For new hires- Who do you admire the most?
For old employees- Who do you admire the most in the workplace?
- What is something that you do better than anyone else you know?
- At a company field day, what is the event that you would most likely win?
- How do you cure your Monday Blues?
This game will allow people to share their strengths, the kind of lifestyle they love, their personalities and more. It will definitely deepen bonds among new and old employees.
One of the most famous ice breaker games for work, this can be easily conducted with medium-sized groups.
4. Social Scavenger Hunt
While some new hires might be natural extroverts, but some might feel uncomfortable to talk with colleagues and senior managers. The social scavenger hunt is perfect to get new hires to connect with employees and get familiar with the company culture. It’s a great team-building activity too.
Divide employees into groups of 5-7 and give them 10-30 minutes to complete the challenges. The challenges can be like-
- Recreate the famous Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover with your team and take a picture.
- Take a video while reciting the company’s slogan as dramatically as possible.
- Find someone who has a birthday that day and sings ‘Happy Birthday’ for them. Take a video of it.
- Find out information from other employees about the CEO- like their middle name, where they go to lunch and so on.
The first team to complete all the challenges wins.
5. Trading Cards
A great activity to begin a meeting, try to conduct this game within 15 minutes.
To play this game, provide everyone with large-sized index cards and marker pens.
Give them 5-6 mins to make a personal “trading card” with their self-portrait, name (real or nickname) and a fun fact about themselves.
Everyone needs to get up and trade their cards in no particular order.
Employees need to announce the name of the person whose card they got and ask questions to the person.
This quick ice breaker will enable team members to loosen up before a meeting while having some fun. It lets people define how they view themselves and some information into the kind of person they are.
6. Office Charades
This is the age old charade in a workplace setting. Divide teams into two groups with 5-6 people in each group. Charades builds camaraderie. It teaches people problem solving skills and resolving conflicts.
Select various categories relating to your workplace like departments, situations, job roles and such.
Put these categories into envelopes.
Ask one member from both the teams to come forward and enact the situation/category to their teams. They must describe the category with only actions. Talking isn’t allowed.
The team that first guesses more or all of the categories is declared the winner.
7. Company Q&A
This is a great game that will enable new hires to know about the company and its values. To make it interesting, you can conduct a quiz competition instead of handing out printouts or soft copies of the company’s history. Chances are 9 out of 10 employees will ignore if you just hand out a booklet to them about the company.
The questions can be around the company’s founding date, biggest client, biggest challenge, company’s motto, busiest motto, etc.
8. One Word Game
A pretty famous ice breaker, this game requires employees to describe events in one word.
Once you’ve decided on the topic that the meeting is going to be held on, divide employees into small groups. Ask everyone to describe the point of discussion in one word. For example- employee engagement.
Doing this exercise allows groups to think of a project or situation ahead of time. It will also give managers an idea of what employees are expecting to be discussed in the meeting.
An alternative to this game is people decribing how they're feeling at that moment in one word.
For example- "I feel cheetah."
9. Who The Shoe
A crowd favorite icebreaker, this is quite a fun idea for introducing people to each other. Ask everyone to leave one shoe outside the meeting room and walk with only one shoe.
Shuffle the shoes and redistribute them so that nobody has their own shoe. Set a timer for 5-6 mins and ask employees to find the person whose shoe they have.
Pretty funny, right?
10. Don’t Judge Me
This game can be like your in-house confession box.
To play this fun icebreaker, give out a piece of paper to each employee.
Ask them to anonymously write something on the paper that they did last week and didn’t tell anyone.
Let them know that the confessions need not necessarily be work-related.
It can feel great to relieve the stress of being guilty of something and having people to share it with.
11. Two Truths and A Lie
I have talked about this activity in my article on “Team Building Activities for Work That Work”. It’s a classic and can serve as a great ice breaker game too.
You can conduct this activity with 10-15 people and the amount of time required shouldn’t be more than 20 minutes.
As the title suggests, people playing this game have to introduce themselves by stating two truths and one lie about themselves.
The game is for the others to recognise which one is the lie and which the truths.
The statements need not be life-revealing things but general things about hobbies, interests, wacky experiences and so on.
12. Human Bingo
Like the bingo game, where you strike off numbers and win, this one is similar. The difference is that instead of numbers, you have to write down characteristics, personalities, facts, etc. Here are some examples-
- Hate chocolate
- Own a pet
- Have been to a concert
- Met a celebrity
- Travelled to another country
- Have a tattoo
Print these out in a card and hand them out to the number of people who will participate in the game.
People must go around the room and ask others to sign their name against the category which applies to them. An individual can only sign ONE category.
As soon as somebody’s card gets filled out, they have to call out Bingo.
The first person to call out Bingo wins!
13. Team Wins
A practice held at Snacknation, this is a great way to start a team meeting.
At Snacknation, before starting a meeting, every member has to call out another member who did a great job that week.
They say, “we acknowledge something that was far above and beyond their typical responsibilities and thank each other for surpassing expectations. It always feels great to be recognized, and it lifts the energy level in the room right away.”
14. Five Things
If your company conducts weekly meetings, this can quickly become a crowd pleasing ice breaker game in your organisation.
To play this, you need to assign a week to each member of a team and ask them to share five things they discovered that week.
These things can be a new movie, a book cafe, new cuisine, pet cafe and so on.
It can allow employees to get to know each other on a personal level. It will also enable to try out new things.
15. Jenga Icebreaker Questions
Buy a large jenga set to play this game. Write ice breaker questions on each brick of the jenga set.
Every brick that an employee pulls out, they need to answer the question on the brick. The game goes on until the jenga tower falls down.
Again, it brings people closer and gives out interesting facts about coworkers.
Here are a few sample jenga icebreaker questions-
- Which day of your day would you most like to relive?
- Next year looks better to me because ____
- Next year might not be my year because ____
- Best vacation you ever had?
- How do you cope with stress?
- What is the first thing in your bucket list this year?
16. Salt and Pepper
This game can be held with medium to large sized groups. To conduct this game, you will need sheets of paper, marker pens and tape. As the facilitator, come up with pairs of words like salt and pepper, pen and paper, bread and butter, shadow and light, Minnie and Mickey mouse, etc.
Separate the pairs and write one of the words on each piece of paper. For example- salt on one and pepper on a completely different paper.
Tape the paper on the back of each individual and make sure they can’t see it. You have to also make sure that the respective people with the papers salt and pepper stuck to their backs are far away from each other.
Now, on your word “go”, they must mingle within the group and find their pair. Participants are allowed to only ask ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions to figure out who they represent. Once they can find out their own character, it becomes easy to find their partner.
This game builds communication and collaboration among teams. It also develops the skill of asking the right questions to solve a problem. Furthermore, in a workplace context, playing this game can help people whose characteristics are different from each other to come together and fulfill a task.
17. Balloon Questions (part 1)
Often while conducting a workshop or holding a meeting, many questions remain unanswered. Or sometimes people (especially new hires) can’t find the courage to ask questions with the fear of “sounding stupid.” Holding this game comes in handy there.
To play this game, you’ll need to provide each team member with one-two helium balloons with strings and some marker pens. It’s necessary to conduct this game in an enclosed room.
Now while the discussion is going on, people who have questions will need to write it down on the balloon and float them in a fashion that they can be easily retrieved too. Let them know that they can only write one question per balloon.
Then, the person leading the meeting should walk around the room and read the questions written on the balloons to get an idea of the type of questions people might have.
Next, throughout the meeting, whenever participants feel their questions have been sufficiently answered, they must pop their balloon. Questions that still haven't been answered, will be addressed in the end of the meeting.
Conducting this ice breaker game makes meetings participative, gives control to the facilitator and ensures that all participants understand the objective of holding the discussion. It also gives attendees the assurance that their question will be answered.
18. Balloon Questions (part 2)
Another variation to conducting this game is a little informal. The materials required are again same- some balloons and a few marker pens.
To conduct this game, sit around in a circle. Pass the balloon around and have everyone write down a question on the balloon. Then pass the balloon around the circle again and ask everyone to answer three questions on the balloon.
A fun ice breaker game, it allows employees and team members to get to know one another and find out their likes and interests.
19. Name Game
The objective is to understand how people identify and view themselves. It also enables individuals to remember huge amounts of data and information.
There are two ways to conduct this game.
The first way- Have everyone sit in a circle. The first person starts by using an adjective starting with the same letter as their first name (example- Charismatic Chris, Amiable Anita).
Now the second person must repeat the first person’s adjective and name and then add their own. Similarly, the third person repeats the first two people’s respective adjectives and names and then add his/her own.
This goes on until the last person repeats everybody’s names and finishes off their own adjective and name.
The second way- To make the game more challenging and interesting, you can write down the first names of all the participants in different pieces of paper.
Now shuffle the papers and ask everyone to pick up. Now one by one, each participant (person A) needs to call out the person’s name whom they got and the corresponding person (person B) can only raise their hand to identify themselves.
Once that is done, person A has to attach an adjective starting with person B’s first name. Again, person A has to call out what they have written and person B needs to confirm if the adjective suits them or not.
This exercise can give rise to some wacky or incorrect adjectives that might not at all be related to the person’s personality. For example- Serious Sam can turn out to be the funniest person ever!
20. Movie Time
For this ice breaker game, you can either use a ball, a box, plastic cups, etc.
Everyone stands in a circle and bounces a ball to someone across the circle.
Everyone gets a five second limit before they pass on the ball to someone else. In this five second, people need to name a movie.
If a movie is repeated more than once, the person who repeats is eliminated from the game.
It usually boils down to between two people. A highly competitive game and quite recreational, it is one of the most favourite ice breaker games.
(PS- Look out for made up movie names!)
Decoding and Driving Employee Engagement