Chapter 6

Ice Breaker Activities For Work

We've put together the ultimate list of the 10 best ice breaker activities for work teams. Includes instructions.

One of the most common places you’ll find ice breakers being used in the workplace is around new hires.

Ideally, the icebreakers you use will have everyone leaving the room feeling energised, excited about work, and with a deeper understanding of the company or their job.

When picking out what activities to use, be mindful of the fact that everyone is a complete stranger and are still unsure of how to act around each other. That means that most people won’t be comfortable with sharing intimate or personal details about themselves or activities that require a lot of physical contact with strangers.

You can start employing those types of icebreakers towards the end of the day, after everyone has gotten to know each other a bit better.

As any successful executive or business leader knows, one of the strongest indicators of an organisation’s success or failure are the friendships between its employees.

Research has shown that the number one thing that employees enjoy about their jobs are their coworkers.

The simple fact is that the more you enjoy the company of the people you work with the more likely you’re going to enjoy working. With one study by Gallup finding that businesses that have highly engaged teams report a 21% greater profitability in comparison to competitors with average employee engagement rates.

While you can’t force everyone to get along and instantly become friends that talk about going opening a bar together in the Poconos. Organisations can help their employees get to know each other better and make it easier to develop those personal connections by making use of short and simple icebreaker games.

Here are some icebreakers you can use in the workplace that are specifically designed to help everyone feel comfortable around each other.

Feel free to use any of these suggested ice breaker activities in your workplace:

1. Building challenges (paper tower, marshmallow challenge)

A popular type of ice breaker game, building challenges have long been used as a way to get people to start working together and start exercising their creative and problem-solving skills.

All building challenges follow the same principle of diving everyone into small groups and having them build something with unconventional materials within ten to fifteen minutes.

For example, the paper tower challenge is when everyone is tasked with making the tallest tower possible using only newspaper and tape. Whereas the marshmallow challenge involves giving each group some died spaghetti, string, tape and a marshmallow and groups have to build the tallest structure possible with the marshmallow on top. If you’re not vertically inclined, then feel free create your own construction challenges like building the most convincing-looking pig using only Legos.

2. Human bingo

If you happen to have a large group of people, a super simple activity that gets everyone in the room energised and talking to one another is human bingo. This game works by giving everyone a sheet with a five by five table on it, with a random and interesting fact written inside each box such as:

  • Broken a bone before
  • Speaks more than two languages
  • Prefers dogs over cats

It’s then up to each person to go around the room and collect the signatures of people who match that characteristic. Encourage even more interaction by instituting a rule where they can only get one signature from each person. The game ends once someone shouts “Bingo!”

3. Unusual pitches

A clever way to get everyone in an innovative mindset is to give people an unusual problem to solve. For this ice breaker game, everyone is split into small groups and each group is given ten minutes to prepare a short pitch about something unusual that can range from movie ideas (The Ring but as a comedy) to weird jobs (advertising slogan for poop cleaner at African safari).

After preparation, each group has to present their pitch to the rest of the audience and try to convince them that their idea is worth funding. The winning idea can be picked by audience vote or by the instructor, regardless this game is designed to get people to start thinking outside the box in a fun and interactive way.

4. Lucky penny

A great icebreaker game to use for new hires is to gather a bunch of pennies (or any other coin if you’re in a civilised country that no longer uses pennies) and place them in a hat. Everyone reaches in and takes out a penny and are asked to share something meaningful that happened to them on the year the coin was minted. You can even take it a step further by throwing in a bunch of older coins and ask people to name an important event that happened. This is a great game to start off because it gets everyone to actively participate and to share something interesting about themselves that they’re comfortable with revealing. It helps everyone to get to know each other a little better and feel more comfortable.

5. Jenga questions

While you can always do the standard “put a bunch of questions in a bowl and have people pick them out” icebreaker, you can instead make the activity infinitely more engaging and fun by giving it a twist. In this version, you’ll instead write the questions on each Jenga block which people will have to answer as they play through the game. You can make it so that everyone has to answer the question or just the person that made the move. While simple, this kind of game is incredibly effective in getting people into a relaxed mindset and to start sharing personal anecdotes about themselves. Here is a great list of questions that you can use that are guaranteed to get everyone talking.

6. Fun questions

Asking fun questions is always an easy and effective way to break the ice, regardless of the situation, but they are particularly useful in developing a strong level of trust and intimacy amongst team members. By asking fun, and sometimes downright silly, questions, coworkers can learn a bit more about each other on a deeper level and start having conversations that wouldn’t normally happen in the workplace. However, this can be difficult to achieve if you’re working with a remote team or if people find talking to other in-person to be difficult. The great news is that there is a very easy way to overcome this particular challenge. Using something like Quizbreaker you can create a fun weekly quiz that’s delivered to every team member via email. This takes away much of the pressure that’s typically involved with running ice breaker games in person and is a fantastic way to bring everyone together regardless of where they’re located in the world.

7. Baby photos

A super fun and simple icebreaker, this is a fantastic way to get employees to instantly feel closer to each other. Simply instruct everyone to bring in a photo of themselves as a baby, or to send in a digital copy, and put together a board that features all the photos. The goal of the game is simple, whoever is able to correctly guess which photo belongs to which employee wins. Super simple and super fun.

8. Pay it forward

Everyone loves feeling like they’re being appreciated, especially at work where it’s quite easy to feel as if you’re one of the crowd. This icebreaker generally works best as a way to end a meeting or session by making sure that everyone leaves with a sense of accomplishment. Everyone is given the task to look to the person on their right and to write three positive attributes about them. This can be simple things like the way the question they asked during a meeting to the more personal like how their attitude around the office. There’s no need to read out these out loud, simply giving them to the other person is enough. A great activity that encourages team members to practice gratitude, highlight personal strengths, and making people feel recognised and valued.

9. Sharing expectations

The most straightforward way to kick off any meeting with a new client is to ask them to share what their expectations are. To ensure that you dialled in with their needs and goals, asking your new clients what they expect from the meeting, their relationship with your business, and what they hope to gain, is an easy way to make clients feel heard and gain an understanding of what they want. Take it a step further by asking about what their expectations are beyond their relationship with your business. Ask them what they want their personal goals are for their business, the kind of results they hope to achieve, and why they have those goals to begin with.

10. Bucket list

People naturally love talking about themselves, and most are quite happy to do so when given the opportunity. A simple way to get new clients talking about themselves is to ask them what the top five things on their bucket list, this is a classic game. This kind of question can give you incredible insight into what your new client’s motivations are and what drives them. Even if they haven’t identified them yet, it can be fascinating to just sit back and listen to them think out loud about their hopes and dreams. Depending on their answer, this also gives you ample opportunity to provide value to them beyond your professional relationship. For example, if you find out that one of your new client’s items on their bucket list is about travelling, then you can send them some information about a country they’re interested in visiting.

We hope you've liked our list of the best ice breaker games for work.

Try these out and let me know how you go.

Is there one that we've missed that should definitely be in our top ice breaker games for work list?

Let me know in the comments below.