Ice-breaking sessions, often termed as ‘watercooler conversations’ in a physical workspace, are a fun, friendly, and fantastic team-building activity. They typically serve as lighthearted and amusing conversation starters to engage members in socializing and engagement, fostering a sense of camaraderie and unity. What’s great is that you can reap all the benefits of these icebreakers in a virtual environment too, creating ‘virtual watercooler’ moments.
Virtual icebreakers occur in digital spaces, such as online meetings, and play a vital role in shaping the company’s culture. They help employees feel more comfortable with each other, enabling them to get to know one another better, thereby enhancing interpersonal relationships. With the assistance of virtual icebreakers, you can improve work relations for both old and new employees, effectively bridging the physical gap that remote work situations can often create.
Social Problems of Hybrid & Remote Work
As the pandemic hit us all and brought on the “new normal”, hybrid and remote work have become more commonplace.
Hybrid work and remote work situations bring on their own challenges. For instance, it creates physical distances between employees. Hybrid and remote work allow employees to work from their own homes, from different locations, and within different time zones.
A research paper mentioned that 44% of studied companies will keep remote positions in the future too. Many companies around the world will have remote workers permanently from now on.
Sometimes it is hard to bond with co-workers under the same roof. Now imagine bonding with co-workers whose voices you hardly hear or whose faces you never see. The lack of physical closeness found in remote or hybrid work makes it harder for employees to socialize. This results in a weaker sense of belonging at work and weaker team bonds.
Here are some examples of why remote and hybrid work make us feel disconnected.
• Online calls, video calls, and online chats feel impersonal compared to real-life interaction, and they don’t usually inspire non-work conversations.
• Social distancing reduces shared laughter, and laughter is key to building team bonds.
• Video conferences and chat boxes make it harder for employees to talk about personal daily events or to ask for help on small matters.
• Remote and hybrid work show increased burnout and stress levels.
Hybrid work and remote work are growing more and more common, but that does not mean communication problems have to persist. This leads to finding new ways to help remote workers feel a sense of belonging in their company. Fortunately, there are ways to strengthen employee bonds and friendships in the “new normal” work situation. One thing that can enhance connection and communication in hybrid and remote workplaces is virtual icebreakers.
What are Virtual Icebreakers?
Virtual icebreakers are informal interactive social activities, and they usually refer to phrases, questions, or games that begin fun conversations. All in all, icebreaking activities in the virtual realm, such as zoom meetings or slack chats, are fast and fun team-building activities.
In regular in-office scenarios, employees have everyday chances to join in on informal conversations. These are usually the coffee chats or the water cooler conversations. Think of virtual icebreakers as substitutes for regular coffee chats and water cooler conversations.
There are different categories of virtual icebreaker questions and phrases. Some examples of these categories:
The examples above are a few examples of virtual icebreaker categories. They can be straightforward topics such as favorite movies or most memorable fairytales. Virtual icebreakers can also be more imaginative with “would you rather” and “what if” questions, such as “would you rather give up your smartphone or your laptop?” and “what if you could have one superpower, what would it be?”.
Virtual icebreakers give employees the chance for interactive fun too. For example, asking to show a picture of their pet will lead employees to share images in a virtual chat, and get to know about each other’s lives a little more visually. Similarly, games like “Two truths and a lie” will bring out the witty and youthful side of employees.
How do Virtual Icebreakers Work?
As you can see, the conversation starters have simple and jolly vibes. They can add a spark of liveliness to tedious and tiring back-to-back zoom meetings. What’s more, virtual icebreakers can be used in small or large virtual groups.
Most people enjoy speaking about themselves and getting to know those around them better. However, it is not easy to ignite such conversations out of the blue. You cannot just share something personal or ask someone else an informal personal question while video conferencing your latest report findings. That’s why virtual icebreakers create the perfect environment for such casual yet necessary socializing.
Virtual icebreakers are easy and quick when you have a compiled list of phrases and questions ready for use.
Why Virtual Icebreakers are Important
We have all experienced being a new employee in a new company. It can feel daunting, and even alienating, to be the “new kid” in an unfamiliar place. New hires may wish to speak up and interact with other employees, but do not always find the opportunity to do so; it is even harder to connect with other employees with remote work.
Additionally, a tenured employee may be used to their company’s culture but may lack ways to connect with newer employees or with employees from other departments. One study states that icebreaker activities can increase openness in communication and rapport-building between team members. This could leave a long-term employee, especially in remote work, feeling somewhat stuck and unable to mingle.
This is where Virtual icebreakers come in and save these hapless situations. Virtual icebreakers give a chance to every employee, new or old, to feel included and strengthen the sense of community in their work.
Virtual icebreakers can help remote teams and in-office teams with teamwork in a fun way. Moreover, virtual icebreakers can strengthen relations between remote employees and in-office employees as well. Ultimately, every employee can feel one step closer to being a team member through virtual icebreakers.
The Best Times to Use Virtual Icebreakers
Virtual icebreakers mimic coffee breaks or water cooler chats that usually happen in work-office situations when the employees and executives are under one roof. These natural conversations happen frequently yet don’t take up too much time. Therefore, Virtual icebreakers should also be frequent but short.
Here are some crucial times to use virtual icebreakers for remote employees.
• Training sessions
• After a lunch break
• After a holiday or long weekend
Virtual icebreakers are perfect to use at the start of a training session. A group video call will be more comfortable for all attendees if it starts with a fun icebreaker question. This can be done in the first ten minutes of a training session, so it does not waste time.
A virtual icebreaker is welcomed and liked by most workers after a lunch break. This is because most workers feel winded down after lunch, and it is easier to return to work mode after some light socializing. Hence, after lunch is a perfect time for a virtual icebreaker session, ideally between two people or a small group.
A long break, such as the Christmas holidays, usually mean people have new things to share with their coworkers and colleagues. This is why a virtual icebreaker is a good activity after a holiday or a long weekend.
Most importantly, virtual icebreakers need to be part of the regular remote work situation. Not only for the first week and not only for new remote employees. Try to remember that virtual icebreakers are a long-term and ongoing team-building activity. Remote workers, just like regular workers, need constant support and encouragement for team building and general socializing. They might not be able to take a typical coffee break, but no reason they cannot enjoy a virtual coffee break.
Luckily, with the help of LEAD.bot, your HR or team leaders do not need to go through the headache of forcing virtual icebreakers for company employees. Foster friendships and meaningful relationships for your company even with remote work. Through LEAD, virtual coffee breaks can become as easy and effortless as regular coffee breaks.
Positive Impacts Virtual Icebreakers Have on a Work Environment
There are many advantages that virtual icebreakers promise. One report emphasizes adapting your work circumstances for virtual engagement during the pandemic; this report also suggests the use of virtual icebreakers.
Listed below are a handful of potential positive impacts virtual icebreakers will have on your work environment.
1. Create a flow of conversation in virtual meetings
2. Help employees find shared interests and things in common
3. Helps new hires to bond faster with other employees
4. Reduces pressure or anxiety new remote employees may be dealing with
5. Works as a standalone team-building activity
6. Can be paired with other team-building activities
7. Build and strengthen friendships within the company
8. Allows shyer individuals to speak up and interact with others
9. Serves as a fun and social activity
10. Provide a short and enjoyable break from work tasks
11. Enhances overall sense of belonging in the company
There are plenty of benefits of virtual icebreakers, as suggested by the points listed above. Not only do virtual icebreakers help enhance the company culture, but they can be very beneficial for smaller remote teams and even for individuals too.
Beyond acting as a platform for engagement and team bonding, virtual ‘watercoolers’ can also be pivotal for peer learning. Encourage employees to use these platforms not only for icebreakers and casual chats but also for knowledge sharing. This can take the form of discussing new industry developments, sharing relevant articles or resources, or even offering ‘mini-lessons’ on areas of individual expertise. Such discussions can stimulate intellectual curiosity, enhance skills, and foster a learning culture within the team. It’s also a great way to leverage the diverse skills and backgrounds of your team members. This approach further deepens bonds between employees, as they learn from each other and appreciate the unique value each brings to the team.
Tips to Maximize the Potential of Virtual Icebreakers
There are ways you can have a great icebreaker session each time and maximize the potential of team bonding for remote workers.
1. Find fun icebreaker questions and topics that align with the assigned team
2. Schedule frequent virtual icebreaker sessions
3. Try out different types of virtual icebreaker questions so it does not become repetitive
4. Suggest a time limit for each icebreaker session
5. Use emojis in your intro messages.
Using these suggestions and tips will make online icebreaker sessions fun and fruitful. You and your company can do the first three suggestions efficiently with LEAD.bot.
Let LEAD bring in Virtual Icebreakers to Your Company
You don’t need to go through the hassle of finding virtual icebreaker questions for your team meetings or your entire company. You also don’t need to go through the laborious and lengthy work of manually setting up virtual meetings and chats to conduct ice-breaking sessions.
The heart of icebreakers is fun and easy, so let virtual icebreakers be exactly that for your hybrid and remote teams. When you let LEAD.bot take over for slack chats or Microsoft Teams, you can seamlessly add virtual icebreakers to your company culture; all you have to do is choose icebreakers for the customizable intro social template.
What’s more, most of the work is done for you, with over one hundred icebreaker questions that fall under several different categories. Moreover, these virtual icebreaker questions are organized into 15 different categories. A few of these categories include “Foodies, food for thought”, Career Conversations”, “Get to Know You”, “Would You Rather”, “Large Groups” and much more.
Through the given categories and a plethora of icebreaker questions, figuring out which icebreaker questions to use for specific remote teams will be a breeze.
Final Thoughts: Use Virtual Icebreakers to Help Employees Bond
As you can see, virtual icebreakers have the power of strengthening team bonds and helping individuals get out of their bubbles. This is vitally important for new hires, especially in remote work circumstances.
The pandemic has hit us all hard. We are now navigating through the third year of work from home and the isolating situations it often entails. Without a doubt, the working environment has transformed drastically. Even if the pandemic eases, the ‘new normal’ will likely continue, with a sustained increase in remote workers.
In this scenario, integrating virtual icebreakers in your work routines becomes even more critical. To make this transition seamless for your remote workers and your overall organization, consider leveraging software designed specifically for virtual icebreakers. Such software solutions can automate these interactions, making them as effortless as they are essential.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be difficult to create a tight-knit company culture across different departments, even if your employees are working from various locations. Distance does not have to be a barrier to cultivating authentic work relations when you use innovative and proven systems like software-supported virtual icebreakers.