Break the Ice: How to ease your team back into in-person communication

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Looking for ways to break the ice as your team returns to the office? Invite Japan is here to help.

As more and more people begin receiving the Covid19 vaccine, more and more companies are slowly returning to work and the office model. 

For many people this means seeing their coworkers in person for the first time in a while. Even though we have been communicating through email and messaging apps, and have attended more video meetings than ever before together, seeing each other in person again will be a change. Of course many people are looking forward to this change, but it can still feel a little awkward to be in the same room with your colleagues again.

So now we see an interesting change happening – in the past two years we here at Invite Japan have been creating and recommending different kinds of team building activities to ease into the new situation and to increase communication between coworkers through their screens.

As we move towards the new new normal, which has some aspects of the old model, with a few major differences, we need to get used to face to face communication again. Many people might not see that this is a helpful, or even a necessary thing at first, but this new paradigm shift in communication methods can create discomfort for many. A situation like this can slow down productivity, so it is very beneficial to make sure that your teammates warm up to face to face interaction again.

We at Invite Japan are currently in the last steps of fine tuning a new “in^person” team building activity, which requires us to get together in person to test the game flow on the real thing or to craft the items and props necessary for the game. In these situations we get to experience first hand what it feels like to be back together in the same room and how different communication works – some things are so much easier, other things have become harder.

We are a small team with personal connections outside of work as well, so it was not hard for us to break the ice and ease back together again, but what about bigger teams or inter-departmental connections in larger companies? 

In order to bring in-person communication back to an optimal level as quickly as possible, it will be helpful to facilitate another getting to know you session. Maybe even for the first time, since it is quite likely that new colleagues have joined your team within the past two years.

What is an Ice Breaker?

It is not easy to just pick up relationships between coworkers exactly as they were before the pandemic. People have changed with time and the new challenges they had to face. A good method to do so though, is to use ice breaker activities. 

Ice breaker activities help to “break the ice”–that awkward feeling when you first meet someone or run into someone who you don’t know that well.

Certainly, the classic ice breaker activities are ice breaker questions. Why not encourage your team members to talk about what has changed and what they did while away from the office. For example: Did you learn a new skill? Did you discover a new hobby (or revived an old one)? Was there a series/movie that you especially enjoyed? Did you re-discover any old favorites? Was there a cool thing you tried for the first time?

Even better, encourage team members to talk to each other about their wishes and dreams for the near future in which they can move about in the world freely again. Which place do you want to visit again? Did you discover a new place which you have dreamt about visiting? Did you discover an exotic food or drink you want to try?

Ideas to break the ice  

But we also want to provide you with other ways to reunite your team in the real world even if you do not intend to spend money on team building activities. The following are some ideas that have been adapted to the current situation.

1) Find a Person Bingo



… discovered that wearing pants is essential for work.
… made their pet very happy by working from home.
… started learning a new language.
… baked with sourdough.
… still has a stock of pasta.
… switched their work drink of choice.
… improved their cooking skills.
… has booked a vacation.

… had homemade Dalgona coffee.
… attended at least one online party.
… got new house plants.
… played Animal Crossing.
… played Among Us.
… did the plank challenge.
… had pancake cereal.
… tried a DIY haircut.
… watched YouTube videos about rural life.
… made banana bread.
… started a new book but never finished it.
… binge-watched an entire series.
… fell in love with the “cottagecore” aesthetic.

So, what about a back to the office themed people bingo? Would you like to find out which viral quarantaine trends your coworkers tried? We have compiled 24 sample ideas for you to fill a 5×5 bingo card grid here:

Find a person who…

2) Two truths and a lie

Your teammates think of three sentences or pick them from the examples above, two of which are true and one of which is not. They then present this information about what they did during work from home and quarantaine while the others need to figure out which of the three statements is a lie.

My two truths and one lie are: While I was working from home, I switched my work drink of choice from energy drinks to matcha; I still haven’t finished my stash of pasta; and I played a lot of Animal Crossing. Read this post until the end to find out which of these is a lie.

3) Icebreaker questions

We have compiled 12 sample ice breaker questions for you below. You can go around in a circle and have participants answer each question in order, or you can dole them out randomly in whatever way you choose. 

  1. If you could have any superpower, which would it be?
  2. Do you prefer tea or coffee?
  3. If you were a candy, what would you be?
  4. What is the most unusual ice cream flavor you ever tried?
  5. What is your favorite animal and why?
  6. Which is your Hogwarts house?
  7. If you won the lottery what would you do with the money?
  8. If you could have a drink with a historic person who would it be?
  9. Who is your favorite Disney villain?
  10. Can you use a single word to describe yourself?
  11. If you could have any animal as a pet (with means of proper care), what would it be?
  12. If you could teleport to any place in the world and spend the day, where would you go?

Finally, to reveal the lie: Since I don’t have much storage space for dry foods, my stash of pasta has been completely eaten and replenished many times since the first lockdown.

Conclusion


There are many activities out there that can help your team break the ice after returning to the office. This will help you team ease back into the physical and mental space of the office, and reacquaint them with their team members. Of course, the activities we suggested are short and quick. They’re just meant to jumpstart relationships and give team members something to talk about and bond over.  

I mentioned earlier that we have been working on a new product, called Suitcase Mystery 2. This sister version of our popular product Suitcase Mystery similarly evokes our collective longing for travel, the urge to create, and our increased proficiency with technology. I believe these aspects will make it the perfect in-person team building and icebreaker game. It was created by a team of people who went through the same things as your team members–people who were stuck at home during quarantine, who had to adapt to new communication channels, who suddenly did not have the quick chats in the hallway anymore, who had to adapt to the new new normal as well.


No matter what method you use for breaking the ice with your colleagues, we hope that you think hard about easing your team back into the workplace. Invite Japan can help your team prepare for the transition back, as well as whatever new phase of hybrid work you plan to implement.  

Suitcase Mystery is a great way to break the ice on your team.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

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