Lex Brinkman - Feb 16 2021, 10:34:00 AM
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 press the power button 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 10 paragraphs long with seven PDF attachments worth of onboarding materials. GIFs start rolling in on the welcome email, which was BCC’ed 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 technology, 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 make time for introductions and use icebreakers often. It's a good way to start off a meeting because it replaces the friendly in-person chatter that happens when you're waiting for your conference room to free up or in the lunchroom. But how do you break the virtual ice without having access to a VR headset or a holographic pickax? Here 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 a drawing. Think Pictionary but virtual.
Human bingo is fun and easy to plan, no matter the size of your team. Use one of the templates from our "Essential Remote Work Bingo Guide." This will work best if the individual has some burden of proof. For example, instead of asking who “has a pet,” try having everyone “show us a pet.” Work-from-home bingo is one of the most relaxed and effective remote work games that encourages your team members to spark conversations with coworkers they don’t talk to daily.
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, with no hemming or hawing about precision—this is not a commissioned portrait. Pair people up for drawings, limit the drawing to three minutes, and share one after another during your check-in. Laughter will be unavoidable!
This might be as familiar as bingo with people in your group. Giving everyone a heads-up before the meeting will ensure the best results so everyone can come prepared. With a larger group, instruct everyone who will be sussing out the truth to prepare three notes 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.
The concept here is simple: One person plays the part of someone 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. Maybe the person is working from a closet or in a secluded hygge-inspired nook? Are kids running around in the background, or is your cat climbing all over your keyboard? This is a great way to peek behind the proverbial curtain of your coworkers' lives.
This game was invented by a high school teacher during remote learning, so it's sure to strike a chord with your coworkers. One person volunteers to guess if everyone is sticking their tongue in or out. While they mentally prepare themselves for a rigorous task, everybody else should grab one of the many masks laying around, and put it on. Everyone wearing a mask needs to decide if their tongue will be in or out, then let the guessing begin. It's a simple and silly way to at least make everyone smile.
If all else fails, go with our "Top 20 Icebreaker Jokes and Other (Better) Ways to Break the Ice." Surely something on the list will help everyone let their guards down.
Originally published at Feb 16 2021, 10:34:00 AM. Updated on Sep 27 2022.