Icebreakers for Remote Team Building

I’ll let you in on a secret.

To make any online team building session successful, follow 2 tried-and-true rules:

  1. Always start with an icebreaker.
  2. Make it visible.

The first thing Tess and I do in any team building session with remote, virtual or blended teams, is to engage the participants in a way that recreates the informal conversations that appear naturally in the physical workplace. An icebreaker can be really useful in this situation.

Icebreakers are exercises or games designed to casually introduce members of a team and/or warm up the group for the task they are about to embark on.

Second, visualisation is key. When you’re team building virtually, it’s especially important to have visual artefacts to allow participants to express themselves.

In remote teams, opportunities for new staff and team members to ‘meet’ and get to know colleagues in a less formal environment are few and far between. Icebreakers and visualisation allow everyone to feel comfortable and start the session on an equal footing.

Not only do icebreakers and visualisation help participants relax, engage and feel safe, but in remote team building sessions, they provide an opportunity for participants to feel comfortable with the technology.

Following are some tips and basic icebreakers for remote team sessions, whether you’re using the whiteboard function of Microsoft Teams or stand-alone tools like, or Trello.

A picture of your life

Ask every member of the team to go to the online meeting board before the meeting begins and post a picture of something from their life. It can be anything that will tell a story about who each member is or how they work: a picture of the shoes each participant is wearing, the view out their window or a photo of their desk. Then ask them to share the story behind their picture.

Your desk and your life

The task is to share a picture of something on your desk that tells a story about who you are or how you work. In addition to this, ask each participant to share one thing they learned recently. It can often be fun and surprising, allowing team members to get to know each other more and set the casual atmosphere needed for the session

Aliens have landed

This icebreaker can be useful for teams with remote participants with language and cultural differences. Tell the group to imagine aliens have landed on Earth and want to learn about your company. But since they don't speak English or understand your product, it needs to be explained with five symbols or pictures. Ask each participant to upload five simple images that best describe and communicate your company's products and culture. Take a few minutes and look at all the images. Are there common themes?

The one-word icebreaker

The one-word icebreaker can be used without a lot of preparation and moves quickly. Break the team into small groups and ask them to brainstorm ideas in the form of one word that describes X (with X being anything of interest or relevance, eg, the company, your day, or your latest product). For teams without much time, this icebreaker does double duty. It acts as a fun and interactive icebreaker, and it also kicks off the brainstorming session. Choose a topic for X that is aligned with the meeting goals, such as the product itself or the solution it is trying to provide. Ask the team to reconvene and share their answers. The variety of one-word answers will be enlightening.

More Ideas from Firebox

For practising technology
  • Type the words of your favourite song OR what you had for breakfast OR even The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
  • What is your favourite story? Title, author and why in 30 words or less.
  • Trivia competition – break into teams if the technology allows.
  • Upload a photo of something in your home of significance and tell a story about it.

For getting to know you

  • What is your favourite saying and how does it affect your life?
  • Who is your hero or heroine and why are they so important to you?
  • If you could be a fairy tale, cartoon or movie character who would you be and what would you be like to live with?
  • What could you do to become very famous?
  • You are now your country’s leader. What is the first thing you will do?
  • What have you achieved that you are most proud of?
  • What is your worst kept secret?
  • If you could be a fly on a wall, whose wall would you like to be on and why?
  • What was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you? Who did it and why?

For creating a vision

  • If you became the boss for one day only, what would you do?
  • What captures your imagination and why?
  • What image captures your hopes for you? Your team? Your company? (use online images to choose from if you can).
For creativity
  • Explain a beautiful spring day to a blind person.
  • If you could live to 1,000 what would you do differently?
  • How would you catch a falling star?
  • What is at the end of your rainbow?
  • If you could make a momentous discovery, what would it be?
Icebreakers for Remote Team Building
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