We don’t get to choose our coworkers, but we can try to get to know them and find common interests and reliable ways to communicate and collaborate. But to do this, we need to engage in conversation, and finding good discussion topics for a group of people in a professional environment is often challenging. It’s even harder when you try to onboard new employees. That’s why having a list of icebreaker questions for each situation comes in very handy.
Icebreaker questions are simple questions that invite people to speak by offering them a discussion topic. They start any type of conversation, from formal meetings to teambuilding activities. Icebreaker questions address a particular theme that fits the group’s purpose.
For example, in a format meeting, people would like to know the expertise, background, and current position of the rest of the group. In a team, people want meaningful insights about their coworkers, hobbies, and shared interests. Therefore, icebreaker questions are always associated with the type of “ice” one wants to break (e.g., professional status, social relationships, lifestyle, etc.).
Icebreaker questions help you avoid awkward silences and resentments. They support people in getting to know each other and facilitate future communication and collaboration. Icebreaker questions create a safe environment for people to be honest and authentic. As a result, they reduce stress and help create an inclusive work environment based on trust and friendship.
In his book, “When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection,” Gabor Maté identifies three stressors that affect us without even noticing: lack of information, incertitude, and lack of control. Icebreaker questions provide information about the group in a purposeful and meaningful manner. As a result, one knows what to expect (i.e., less incertitude) and how to react (i.e., more control). In the end, valuable associations are made, and the overall work atmosphere is improved.
You don’t need to be a great communication master to know how to use icebreakers effectively. Nevertheless, there are some essential ideas that are good to know when having groups of people in front of you and you would like to change the vibe from cautious to engaged:
Icebreaker questions for work aim to discover common points between coworkers, support newcomers to accommodate, and create a trustworthy and nonjudgmental work environment. They may inquire about people’s backgrounds, education, or professional expertise. At the same time, they may target social skills, lifestyle, and personal choices and encourage people to reveal their authentic selves.
1. What is the most memorable thing about your career?
2. What did you love to study during your education program?
3. What would it be if you had the power to change one thing about your career path?
4. What did you want to be growing up?
5. What is your favorite thing about the workplace?
6. How did you cope with the working schedule?
7. What is the best thing about your team?
8. Which is your favorite task and why?
9. How do you prefer to organize your daily schedule?
10. What would you do if you were the boss for a day?
Meetings may be harsh on people who don’t know each other and don’t know what to expect from each other. So, a few well-aimed icebreaker questions will help create a more relaxed atmosphere. Use simple and fun questions that help people be themselves without taking the focus from the meeting’s purpose.
11. What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
12. What job would you like to do besides the current one?
13. Who is your favorite public speaker, and why?
14. What does your perfect meeting look like?
15. What does your perfect workplace look like?
16. Would you like to improve your organization?
17. What presentation software do you prefer?
18. How do you prepare for a meeting?
19. How sustainable is your company?
20. Which is your favorite quote?
Related: If you're looking for templates for your next meeting, we can help.
During virtual meetings, people rely more on spoken language than body language to make an opinion about the other attendees. Icebreaker questions help them find common ground and focus on the meeting. And because they already share something (i.e., remote work), focus the questions around this subject.
21. Do you enjoy working remotely?
22. How did you organize your remote office?
23. What collaborative software do you use?
24. What calendar app do you use most often, and why?
25. How often do you communicate with your coworkers?
26. What is your favorite daily routine?
27. What did you do to make your workplace more comfortable?
28. How did remote work affect your relationships?
29. What would you improve about your remote work?
30. How does your family cope with your work schedule?
Related: when you want to improve your employee remote work management, LeaveBoard software can facilitate coordination, work-from-home planning, leave-of-absence approval, communication, processes, and reporting.
Additionally, if you're looking to organize a virtual team-building, we have additional tips, best practices, and activities you can try.
Icebreaker questions for team building should be entertaining. They should highlight details about people’s lifestyles, hobbies, and personalities. A teambuilding seeks to encourage employees to befriend and create more personal relationships. Therefore, the icebreaker questions should embrace the same purpose and attitude.
31. Which is your favorite movie?
32. What type of food do you like?
33. What type of music do you prefer?
34. Which was the last book or magazine you read?
35. What sports do you enjoy watching or practicing?
36. What do you do to relax?
37. What sort of games do you enjoy?
38. If you were a famous person, who would you like to be?
39. Which book or movie left a powerful impression on you?
40. Who is your model in life?
Among some of the best team-building activities we would like to highlight are volunteering, trips, cooking challenges, escape games, treasure hunts, personality tests, hiking together, or indoor workshops.
Funny questions relax people instantly. Although they aren’t as deep as other types of questions, they are a perfect icebreaker in tense situations. For example, when the people don’t know each other at all and don’t plan to either, you can use funny icebreaker questions to make them feel comfortable and enjoy the rest of the event. Speakers at conferences and festivals usually start their speeches with jokes or funny questions.
41. Which is your most funny childhood memory?
42. What bad habit you can’t do without?
43. What types of videos make you laugh the most?
44. What sport did you try, although you were never good at?
45. How funny is your middle name?
46. What is the most useless thing you excel at?
47. Which is the most absurd fashion item you own?
48. How old is your oldest kitchen item?
49. What did you do on your most adventurous holiday?
50. What is your favorite emoji?
Sometimes you don’t have time to analyze the group and come up with specific questions. For these situations, you need straightforward positive questions that make people talk without much help. Consider the most common, neutral, and talk-generating topics that make everyone feel comfortable and at ease.
51. What do you like to cook or eat the most?
52. Where do you like to go on holiday?
53. What is on your bucket list?
54. If you could live in another country, where would it be?
55. What would you like people to know about you?
56. What is your healthiest habit?
57. How do you describe your working style?
58. What are you most grateful for in your life?
59. Where did you grow up?
60. If you could have one dream fulfilled, what would it be?
When dealing with small groups, you need to pay more attention to icebreaker questions because people are better at listening and jumping to conclusions. Use questions that can hardly start a conflict or debate. At the same time, you need the questions to be personal enough to be relevant. Otherwise, it’s just useless small talk.
61. In what area of your personal or professional life would you most like to grow?
62. What do you think about mentorship?
63. What are the best and worst lifestyle decisions that you made?
64. How do you balance work and personal time?
65. Would you move to another country for work?
66. What are the best moments of your career?
67. Which is the toughest task you had to do?
68. Do you consider yourself a social person?
69. How do you cope with deadlines?
70. What do you do to release stress?
Here is a real case scenario:
One of our colleagues was invited to a casual dinner and drinks after one project in Spain. There were many quite some people, and it was hard to make new connections, especially when you’re a bit more introverted. After everyone arrived and had a glass of champagne, the host welcomed everyone and said that to make the small gathering more interesting would ask a question, and everyone must answer. The question is: Who are you, and what is a secret about you that no one in the room knows about, and you’re not shy to share it? The host answered first, and then everyone else. The entire exercise took about 10 minutes; each participant briefly shared funny, interesting, or creative answers that helped the entire group open up and easily enter into conversations with new peers. And there were some huge laughs. With the success of such an icebreaker, the colleague successfully reused the technique with other similar group activities.
Here is the summary of this best practice in using icebreaker questions when working with small groups:
By following these steps, information will be available to the participants, incertitude will evaporate, and the situation will be handled without any risk in a relaxed and fun way.
New employees need to get to know their colleagues fast to understand the team’s dynamic and start being productive. Thus, a few well-aimed questions may help them figure out the main traits of their colleagues. Think of icebreaker questions that cover both professional aptitudes and personal traits.
71. What social skills do you appreciate in your coworkers?
72. What is your best asset?
73. What tips would you give to a younger self just taking their first job?
74. What motivates you to work in this field?
75. How do you manage procrastination?
76. How do you plan your time off?
77. What are you grateful for at the end of the year?
78. How could you improve your day?
79. What tool or software helps you stay on top of your tasks?
80. In what area would you like to improve?
Tip: If you want to improve your team management skills, we have some recommendations that will help you to succeed with your colleagues at work.
“Would you rather” questions work in any scenario where you want to discover details about a person indirectly. They are neutral, simple, and hypothetical, making it impossible for anyone to get upset or not come up with an answer. It’s a type of question that engages people and encourages them to be creative and open.
81. Would you rather work from home or the office?
82. Would you rather spend your vacation on a beach or in the mountains?
83. Would you rather be a well-known chef or eat in gourmet restaurants?
84. Would you rather play board games or an instrument?
85. Would you rather do fitness or aerobics?
86. Would you rather visit a busy city or a national park?
87. Would you rather be too cold or too hot?
88. Would you rather spend a day off at the spa or on a hiking adventure?
89. Would you rather have more free time or more money?
90. Would you rather improve your education or take on a managerial position?
These are the questions everyone asks because they are already tested and proven they work. They may seem generic and cliché, but the truth is that people manage to find surprising answers anyway. And they are good conversation starters in any situation. Try them out at your next meeting.
91. What is your favorite movie/actor/opera/musician/writer/book?
92. What would you bring to a deserted island?
93. What is your favorite food?
94. What is the best gift you received and the best you made?
95. Which is your best skill or talent?
96. What would you do with a million dollars?
97. What do you do in your free time?
98. Who would it be if you could have a coffee with someone famous, dead, or alive?
99. At what famous event would you like to be invited?
100. Where would you like to go next year?
Icebreaker questions should improve the atmosphere and help people relax. Even if you use common questions that always come up, you can still make them work with the right attitude. It means being relaxed, leading by example, and choosing the right questions for the right people. Icebreaker questions do wonders among employees and coworkers, improve communication, and create stronger teams.
Automate your Human Resources management with the easy to use core HR software.
Easy set-up ● No contracts required ● No credit cards