Nice to eMeet You: virtual ice breakers

You wake up with the first day of work jitters. Nervous energy percolates as you brush your teeth. Things you had no desire to do a week ago, like putting on pants, suddenly seem thrilling. You saunter over to your desk with a steamy cup ready to get to work. Your cat circles your ankles almost as if to say, you did it! You found a job during the pandemic! You hold the on button down on your monitor and wait, optimistically, for the connection to establish.


But excitement begins to wane when you realize your introduction is an email that’s ten paragraphs long with seven PDF attachments worth of onboarding materials. GIFs start rolling in on the welcome email, which was BCC’d to the entire company but you have no idea who any of them are or what any of them do.


As a society centered on tech, have we finally all seen the failings of digital communication for establishing rapport and cohesion? This isn’t a dig on remote work. We’ve seen how with effort and attention we can circumnavigate even the worst situations to come together effectively, and safely. This is an admission, we need to prioritize facilitating genuine connections between colleagues, existing, and especially new.

A good first step is to prioritize introductions and use ice-breakers often. It's a good way to start off a meeting because it replaces the normal friendly chatter that happens when you're waiting for your conference room to free up or in the lunch room. But how do you break the virtual ice without having access to a VR headset or a holographic pickaxe? Below are a couple of vetted, fun, and meaningful ways to help people connect.



Capture attention and kick this off creatively with Piccles. This is as perfect for large groups as it is for small because participation happens through art. The organizer decides the questions or prompts and participants submit their answers in the form of drawing. Think Pictionary but virtual.


Human Bingo

This one takes a little prep work but it is incredibly simple and familiar. Use this free bingo card generator to create a custom bingo card for your new team. This will work best if the individual has some burden of proof. For example, instead of “has a pet” try “show us a pet.” I can’t stress enough how fun this can be. My favorite bingo moment to the prompt above was when a colleague relieved their yellow python, Cheesecake.


Blind Contour Portraits 

This is a great recommendation for something quick that starts communication without leaning heavily on questions and sharing personal information. To do this you will need a pen and some paper. The task is to draw a portrait using a single line without looking at the paper. Drawings should be free flowing and quick. No hemming or hawing about precision, this is not a commissioned portrait. Pair people up for drawings, limit the drawing to three minutes tops, and share one after another during your check-in. Laughter will be unavoidable!


Two Truths and a Lie

Maybe you’ve played this at a party before but honestly, one of my favorite games. Again, this requires some prep. Let people know you’re opening up with a game and that they should come prepared with two truths and a lie about themselves. Then you can put it to the rest of the group. If you’re doing this with a larger group, instruct everyone who will be sussing out the truth to prepare three post-it notes or small pieces of paper that say 1, 2, and 3. This way they can easily hold up the number correlating to the statement they feel is the lie. Simply tally and then learn the truth.


Buy My Room

Okay, maybe I love this because I love competition but maybe that sounds like your team too? The concept is simple, we need one person who is looking to buy a new work from home workspace. This can be you, a randomly generated person, or the newbie. Next you need a couple of salespeople who will pitch their own spaces. I prefer when this is heavy on the satire. Are you working from a closet or in a secluded hygge inspired nook? Are kids running around in the background or do you have energetic coworkers with unique hobbies? Is there incredible glare from a curtain-less window or a flood of natural light that reminds you to spend some time outside? Spin baby, spin.


In or Out  

This is silly, in the perfect way and invented by a my dear friend who is teaching high schoolers during quarantine. If it works on salty teens, it should elicit a chuckle from even your most introverted staff. You need one person to volunteer to guess if everyone is sticking their tongue in or out. While they mentally prepare themselves for a rigorous task everybody else should grab a mask, your new must have accessory, and put it on. Everyone wearing a mask needs to decide if their tongue will be in or out. Give people some time to choose if they're going with in or out and then start guessing. Go one at a time and reveal if they guessed correctly. You will reveal a suppressed smile or someone sticking their tongue out at you.



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