8 icebreaker games you can do with new employees on a video call

Remember in elementary school when we played icebreakers so it wouldn’t be as awkward to talk to each other when we didn’t really know each other? Zoom icebreakers are kind of like that.

In fact, they’re even more important at work, especially when you are forced to build or strengthen a bond with someone on video chat. 

If you’re like me, you may have even started a new position virtually. This has given me a chance to learn the ropes of how to use communication to my advantage to get to know my new coworkers. 

So how do you do it? Don’t worry, I’ve got you. 

Here are the top five Zoom icebreakers and how to use them to get ahead of the game.

Zoom icebreaker 1: Check-in 

Because everyone is dealing with the inevitable anxieties and stresses coronavirus has been causing, it can be a good idea to start off a virtual happy hour with a check-in. 

Ask questions. Gauge how everyone is doing. See how your coworkers might be dealing with social distancing and even ask for how they’re keeping busy and staying calm while all this plays out.

Zoom icebreakers can help you release some of your tensions, too! I like to think of this as a win-win situation. 

Zoom icebreaker 2: Netflix

Admit it, we’re all binging one Netflix series or another right now. (For example, I’m watching 13 Reasons Why and I absolutely can’t stop.) 

A really interesting yet simple icebreaker could be to ask everyone in the video chat what series they’re watching right now. You’ll get to connect with people (and maybe even find out you’re not so different, after all.)  

Best of all, you’ll get all sorts of personalized recommendations for new movies and shows to watch. Ah, the benefits of opening up to others. 

Zoom icebreaker 3: Talk about your quarantine 

Contrary to popular belief, it’s really important to show you are human at work and also to be able to establish emotional connections (even if that means you’re only comfortable doing it on a basic level.)

This does not mean that you shouldn’t have boundaries and tell everyone what color underwear you are wearing, but it does mean acting like a human being. Virtually, this is even more important (and harder to do) especially if it’s a relatively new position or you are speaking with people you haven’t met in person.  

Where people often go wrong with this is they start revealing too much about their personal lives and since, let’s face it, there’s always a cast of characters at any job, this usually isn’t a great idea. 

“Luckily,” a quarantine is a time of unease and stress for everyone so it’s a great time to share without feeling super weird about it. Yes, I know it’s a fine line but you’ve got this. 

Begin by sharing a fun fact about how many people you’re quarantining with and what it’s been like for you, good or bad. No need to get into the details. Nice and easy.  

Zoom icebreaker 4: Ask everyone what they’ve been reading 

“Aside from binging on shows, you’ve probably burned through a couple of really good books. Sharing what you like to read is a great icebreaker for people you work with. You can understand people’s favorite genres, what literature they like, and also topics they’re interested in,” writes Bustle.

Another big area of interest lately has been audiobooks because you can burn through lots of different content without having to actually read. This works especially well with books you don’t want to keep around, like self-help books or books you know you won’t read more than once. Ask people what audiobooks they’ve been listening to or if they’ve ever listened to an audiobook at all. 

Zoom icebreaker 5: Talk about your hobbies, old and quarantine-induced 

We’ve all been a little more into our hobbies lately. They not only prevent us from overthinking in a time when overthinking is not our friend, but they also help give us a sense of normalcy, which is really important right now. 

What are your hobbies? Do you like to knit? Baking? Gardening? Horror films? Tell your coworkers about what you’ve been doing. This won’t cross any boundaries and will help break the ice and maybe even make things a little less sterile and uncomfortable.

With so much time on your hands, it’s unlikely you haven’t picked up some new hobby, skill, or even educational outlet. 

The best part is that you can get some new ideas on how to get through these difficult times that you may not have even thought of yet. 

Zoom icebreaker 6: Quarantine-end predictions 

One of my favorite things to talk about right now is when life will go back to fully normal. And I’d go out on a limb to say that most people feel that way. Although things are opening up, many people are still worried about a resurgence or how life will look when all this ends. We are all thinking about these things and pandemic predictions are a great way to bond with your coworkers on Zoom. 

Zoom icebreaker 7: Propose a Zoom happy hour 

Everyone likes a happy hour and it’s also a great work to form (and keep) a bond with your co-workers. Best of all, Zoom happy hour is an excellent Zoom icebreaker!

“In case you haven’t been invited to one yet, here’s how it works. You arrange your beverages and snacks around your computer, make sure your webcam is set up and click a common link, which takes you into the Zoom meeting. If you don’t like the looks of your living room, you can replace it with a virtual background — a beach, space or even just a better-looking living room,” writes the Washington Post.

But don’t forget your etiquette: “While you would be okay dropping by a 6-to-8 cocktail party at 6:30, in the Zoom world, that would be extremely rude. “Even though this is a cocktail party, you should treat this as you would a business meeting, whether real or virtual,” etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach Jacqueline Whitmore told the Washington Post. “Be on time.”

Zoom icebreaker 8: Suggest an icebreaker game 

An icebreaker game is an interactive activity that is used to help “break the ice” so people don’t feel as weird around each other when they don’t know each other well. While it may seem silly, it’s important for team members to feel some level of comfort with each other, and also makes for higher productivity and better output. 

To that end, a short icebreaker at the beginning of a meeting can help keep your team motivated, particularly during a time in which that’s really hard. Zoom calls during a pandemic, anyone?

So what are some actual Zoom icebreakers?

For one, there is Raise Your Hand. “In this spin-off of our Take A Stand activity, the facilitator of this icebreaker will have a list of statements based on people’s experiences, values, or opinions that can either apply to participants or not (e.g., whether you’re a fast driver, a fan of hockey, etc.). If the statement applies to the participant, he or she will utilize the Raise Hand button of Zoom to raise their hands. Alternatively, you can get participants to simply raise their hands, or even take a stand if you’re on Gallery View on Zoom. This is a great activity to not only break the ice but to get your team to know a little bit more about one another. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it highlights the Raise Hand feature of Zoom if your team recently started to use the application,” suggests Summit Team Building.

Or you can try the Head and Shoulders Zoom icebreaker. “In this activity, the facilitator will need to have prepared a series of trivia questions with two possible answers. For example, one such question would be “Does Wayne Gretzky have more regular NHL season goals or assists?” If participants believe the answer is goals, they’d put their hands on their heads, and if they believe the right answer is assists, they’d put their hands on their shoulders. The facilitator would then reveal the correct answer, and those who did not get the right answer will press the Stop Video button on Zoom to temporarily stop sharing their video, indicating that they are out of the round. The last person remaining in the game will be the winner,” says Summit Team Building.  

Luckily, Zoom icebreakers are effective no matter how long a team has been working together, but can be especially effective when teams are unfamiliar with each other and it feels awkward. Like when I started a new position virtually during a worldwide pandemic.

When team members feel comfortable enough to speak up, share their ideas, and aren’t afraid to be judged or ostracized, they will truly thrive. Icebreaker games can accomplish all that and can even be work-related with the aim of reaching a desired goal. Perhaps best of all, they can be really fun.