Top 10 Icebreaker Questions for Work
Thursday, February 9, 2023
If you’ve ever been in a meeting and heard the moderator say it was time for icebreaker questions, you may have had a sense of impending doom. Many associate icebreaker questions with being put on the spot in front of a group of virtual strangers. Icebreakers are more than that, though; they are an essential team-building tool.
Good icebreaker questions are prompts you use at the beginning of a meeting or group activity to better get to know your participants and colleagues. Often, they serve as a quick introduction to the group. For example, you might ask people to share their name, job title, and something fun, like their favorite date night meal.
The point behind using icebreaker questions is to insert moments of fun, create connections, and build confidence among the participants. Icebreakers are great for adults, college students, teens, and even younger children meeting each other for the first time. The questions you ask can range from informative to fun and hit several points in between.
Fun icebreaker questions are great ways to break silence or tension quickly in a meeting. The opening moments of a meeting or a group project set the tone for the entire session. They also work well for virtual meetings with remote workers. Icebreaker questions for virtual meetings can differ slightly from those you use with in-person colleagues. That’s because working virtually creates a new set of routines and goals than daily traveling to the office to sit at a desk. Great icebreaker questions can make those people joining your meeting virtually feel like they’re in the room with you.
Crafting fun icebreaker questions for work requires creativity and awareness of appropriate and inappropriate topics to discuss. As we said, questions for virtual meetings can be different, but they still must follow some guidelines because you are still in a work environment.
What are the best icebreaker questions? Let’s look at the ten top icebreaker questions based on our research and why they are good. In today’s post-pandemic world, remote and hybrid work has become the norm rather than the exception, so let’s start with questions appropriate for breaking the ice in a virtual meeting.
Icebreakers for Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings are sometimes difficult to navigate. Technology sometimes has a mind of its own and leaves lag time between when the session is created and when everyone has successfully logged into the meeting. That’s a perfect time to bring out team icebreaker questions. We’ve compiled some of our favorites.
1. Where is your favorite place to work when working from home? A dedicated office space, kitchen table, backyard, living room sofa, bed, or somewhere else?
This question helps management and workers gauge how important a dedicated workspace is for productivity. It also builds camaraderie among participants who prefer to work similarly. This question can also help you tailor your workspace to make it more appealing to your current and future staff. Tailoring the workspace to meet the needs of your workers can lead to more of them choosing to work in the office or, at the very least, consider a hybrid working arrangement. It can also lead those who have chosen to remain in office to be more productive.
2. What tips do you have for avoiding distractions while working remotely?
As more people choose remote or hybrid work, distractions become a larger concern than in a space dedicated to specified work. In an office situation, you deal with coworkers stopping to talk about projects or their weekend adventures, ringing telephones, constant emails, and scheduled and impromptu meetings. At home, workers deal with the same kinds of distractions. Still, they have the added distraction of children, housework that needs doing, household bills to handle, and families that don’t necessarily honor their working schedule.
This icebreaker question allows the participants to share tips for being the most productive possible while dealing with those distractions. Those who find themselves at home with small children can provide valuable insight into creating a schedule that works for adults and children. It’s a great way to encourage a conversation involving increasing productivity regardless of the work environment.
3. What is your favorite flower or plant?
Believe it or not, this question provides invaluable information. Not only will you learn about the things your employees enjoy having in their space, but it can also lead to ideas for corporate gifts. Many companies find that corporate gifts for employees lead to increased employee satisfaction and a sense that they’re appreciated.
Additionally, the answers to this question can give you insight into the personalities you’re working with. For example, lilies are symbols of devotion, so someone who chooses them as their favorite flower is a devoted person. Sunflower lovers are said to be enthusiastic, warm, and able to motivate the people around them. So, learning about the flowers your coworkers love can help you assign roles for projects or pair mentors with those needing guidance.
4. Do you incorporate music into your workday or work better in complete silence? If you listen to music, what genre is your favorite?
Many people find that music helps them concentrate more fully on the task. However, some find music to be incredibly distracting. Knowing how your coworkers choose to handle music during their workday can help you decide how you handle music at the office or during future meetings.
Another benefit of asking icebreaker questions about music is learning about your coworkers’ personalities. As with flower preferences, music preferences give little hints into the nature of the person answering your question.
For example, those who prefer country or pop music tend to be extroverts who are hard workers but sometimes struggle with creativity. Indie and rock or heavy metal fans, on the other hand, are typically introverted and creative but have lower self-esteem.
Fun Ice Breaker Questions
Icebreakers don’t need to be serious to be useful. This is the time to set everyone at ease, so it’s perfectly acceptable to choose something lighthearted to kick off your meeting. Here are some great icebreaker questions to try at your next staff meeting.
5. Think about your most memorable gifts; which was the strangest you’ve ever received?
This question is a great way to learn about people’s sense of weirdness. Some people are completely straight-laced, and the slightest out-of-the-ordinary gift throws them for a loop. Others think that the stranger the present, the better they like it.
Why would you want to have information about the kinds of gifts your coworkers find strange? Corporate gifting is much easier if you have an idea of the things your colleagues appreciate. Imagine how appreciated your employees or coworkers would feel if they received personalized corporate gifts based on the information you learned by asking this one icebreaker question.
6. Let’s think about food. What would you try if you could try any food, whether that’s a specific dish or just food from a foreign country?
Who doesn’t like to eat? This question can give you insight into how well the people on your team and your company’s culture fit. For example, you run a barbecue sauce company that sponsors multiple large meat cook-offs. It could be problematic if most of your team follows a vegan lifestyle and want to try only vegan dishes.
Another benefit to asking these kinds of team icebreaker questions is it can spice up your company parties. Think about it; if you take the time to note the answers to this question, you can have a tasting party to end all tasting parties for the next company social event.
7. What decade is your favorite, and why?
Every decade has a unique style. Fashion, music, literature, food, and political influences change with each passing season, year, and decade. So, it’s fun to learn what each person on your team views as their favorite decade. This fun icebreaker question can lead to party and gift ideas galore!
Knowing your team’s favorite decades can explain some of the choices they make. For example, those who wish they could be transported back to the 1960s are often seen as free-thinking creatives. On the other hand, those who say the 1930s meet their criteria for a favorite decade could be more serious, resourceful individuals. After all, the 1930s were marked by the Great Depression and financial difficulties for people.
Team Icebreaker Questions
The point of these questions is to connect with your team, so why not ask questions about teams? Here are some of our favorite questions for gauging the kind of team you have.
8. Famous teams grace our movie experiences all the time. Let’s talk about whether you’d rather be a Power Ranger or an Avenger; which would you choose?
This question is just fun. Who hasn’t envisioned themselves as part of one of the most famous cinematic teams out there? Other options for this question would be Autobots or Decepticons, Voltron or ThunderCats, Scooby Doo Gang or Justice League. The possibilities are endless.
The answers to this question can give you insight into the youthfulness of your team. Not that anyone who chooses doesn’t have some youthfulness deep down. However, it can be helpful to know if your team opts for a more classic or modern team because it can let you know how they approach problem-solving as a group. This question can help you divide workers into sub-groups for smaller projects.
9. Would you rather work on larger projects alone or with a team?
This icebreaker question can be quite telling. It can rapidly separate the natural team players from the lone wolves of the group. That isn’t to say that everyone can’t learn to work together seamlessly. It’s just that some people are more naturally drawn to collaboratively working with others.
When you learn your team’s preferences, you can pair individuals accustomed to working in teams with those who prefer to work individually in a mentor-type situation. This question also gives insight into which people may need a sounding board regarding project decisions and which ones can more easily make decisions alone.
10. What team do you consider the best team of all time?
This team icebreaker question can have some interesting answers. Some workers may choose sports teams, some may choose musicians, and others may opt for fictional groups like Batman and Robin or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Still, others may opt for famous couples or business partners.
This particular icebreaker question lets you see who is firmly grounded in traditional thinking and who has a tendency toward out-of-the-box thinking. Depending on your project, the work may need someone who exhibits clear tendencies toward one or the other ways of thinking. Additionally, party or corporate gift ideas can be born from the answer to this question if you exercise your creativity.
Running the Icebreaker Session
Most people have an idea of an icebreaker session but don’t realize how difficult it can be to run a good, telling icebreaker session. Boring questions can kill the meeting before it even starts. If you choose a fun icebreaker question or a “would you rather” style question, participants are more likely to listen for the answers.
The person hosting the meeting should give the question, then say something like, “Jane, I’d like you to get us started, but before you do, I’ll give you my answer.” Choosing the next person can either be done by the participant answering (an especially useful technique in virtual meetings), or it can simply progress to the person sitting nearest the first person to answer.
The most important tip for running an icebreaker session is choosing appropriate questions for your group. Consider group dynamics, how well everyone already knows everyone else, time constraints, setting—is this a staff meeting or a team-building retreat—and your ultimate goal for the icebreaker session. Unique questions often get more participation than traditional ones: “Tell us your name and your role within the company.”
Icebreaker questions can be a great tool to add to your playbook if you’re looking for ways to create a more cohesive workforce. They are quick, easy, and, best of all, they can be fun for everyone! Not to mention, you can get valuable information to help you plan future meetings, activities, and rewards for your team.