Connecting through the daily remote team check-in
Many leaders are finding themselves managing remote teams unexpectedly.
This means they're leading without any real training in the art of nurturing social connection at a distance.
Just because your people aren't sitting next to each other doesn't mean they can't get to know each other really well.
In fact, you may find that a bit of distance and a pane of glass allows people to feel more comfortable to bond than they otherwise might.
Hopefully, as a leader, you've initiated daily team check-ins with your remote team.
These tips will hopefully help you to establish norms for creating connection and ensuring inclusion in those sessions.
Why do we use icebreakers?
One thing that a leader of remote teams can do to encourage social connection is to kick off your check-in meetings with an icebreaker question.
An icebreaker at the start of your check-in can help to relax people for the call.
Also over time icebreaker questions will help all of the remote team members to know each other better.
Icebreakers don't need to be deeply introspective to reveal a lot about what's important to the people that you lead remotely.
"What's your favourite photo at home. Can you describe it to us, or show us?"
Seems pretty straightforward, yet you'll instantly know something more about a family, a pet, a special place, a life event, or something else that's meaningful to that person.
Multiply those responses by the number of people in your remote team, and you're finding more ways to relate to each other every single day.
You're also opening the floor for everyone to speak.
You are creating inclusion in an unfamiliar situation that can be intimidating for newbies to video or voice conferences.
24 more icebreaker questions to try with your remote team
Of course, the choice of your icebreaker question is important.
You don't want it to be a threat, demand or to create anxiety for the people in your remote team.
Here are 24 more icebreaker suggestions that are low threat and could prove to be highly insightful:
1. What freshly discovered technology trick is saving you time?
2. What's something in your work area that has special meaning for you?
3. What can one of us do today to make your day amazing?
4. What's your 'pick me up' beverage when you need a mood or energy boost at your desk?
5. What was the best thing about yesterday/ your weekend?
6. What's something unexpected that's been good about remote work for you?
7. What have you discovered in your surroundings/neighbourhood that you never knew about before?
8. What work from home snack can you recommend to us?
9. What life hack have you discovered to make work from home work better for you?
10. Tell us 2 truths and 1 lie about you
11. How are you avoiding cabin fever whilst working from home?
12. What's the total screen real estate you're working with? (Measure diagonals of all the monitors, tablets and phones in your work from home setup)
13. How do you switch off from work at the end of the day - what's your signing off ritual?
14. What's something from nature that you can enjoy more because of remote working?
15. What could you make for lunch with flour, butter, an egg, and 1 extra ingredient that you've always got in the store cupboard or fridge?
16. How do you keep moving/stay active during a normal work from home day?
17. What do you miss about being at the office?
18. What's the best way you've found to manage interruptions/distractions?
19. What's something we might see or hear that's going on around you during this call?
20. What's your work from home FOMO (fear of missing out)?
21. What work from home superpower are you developing either purposefully or by chance?
22. Tell us something funny that's happened to you because of working from home.
23. How are you making use of what would otherwise be your commute time?
24. What will you miss about work from home if/when work moves back to the office?
The ground rules before you start with icebreakers
There are certain things you need to do to make this icebreaker approach psychologically safe for your remote team.
- You could give notice of the next day's question to allow time to think. Even a short period of notice sent with the meeting reminder is better than none at all.
- Before you ask, let your remote team know that it's OK to pass; there's no judgement for that.
- Be sure to participate yourself. For the first few times of asking, you might want to start with your own response and show that you're willing to be vulnerable.
- Follow up in private if there are any red flag answers. For example if you ask "What was the best thing about yesterday?" and someone responds "That it's over" this is a cry for help. Be very attentive in listening to your remote teams' responses. If there's the slightest question about health or state of mind be sure to follow up as soon as possible.
- Get some informal feedback after a few remote team check-in's to gauge how people feel.
We hope that these icebreakers spark energy and connection in your remote team check-in's. Let us know in the comments what reactions you get and also any of your favourite icebreaker questions.