Employee Engagement

Covid-19: Icebreaker Questions to Ask in Meetings

Fear of infection, lack of work-life balance, and layoffs are hanging like a sword above the heads of your employees. Use ice breakers during meetings to show your support in these tough times.

Ice breaker questions
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Ice breaker questions are thoughtful or light-hearted questions intended to warm up interactions during a remote meeting. 

They help make participants comfortable during meetings, especially if they don’t know each other well.

Icebreaker questions are a way to open up the topic of the meeting with some superficial conversation and generate a quiet laugh or two where appropriate.

Thus, these questions set a positive tone for the discussion.

 

During your one on one meetings, your direct report is likely to be more receptive to feedback if you start the conversation with a suitable ice breaker question.

 

The shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic will not lift any time soon and people will continue to live in fear of infection and job cuts for longer than we initially thought.

Since the virus crept up on us suddenly, organizations haven’t had the time to prepare for long-term remote work

This has forced people to work with inadequate infrastructure and a less-than-supportive environment at home, leaving no separation between home life and work life.

As a manager, use ice breaker questions during your video conferences to signal your support for the tough situation in which your employees find themselves. 

You’ll want to show your human side by offering a compassionate ear for your direct reports to share their troubles.

bulb Pro Tip: Choose questions that don’t require your direct report to reveal more than she is comfortable sharing about herself. Questions should be empathetic, not nosy.

 

 

Which icebreaker questions can you ask?

It is difficult enough to deal with the isolation and lack of belongingness brought on by remote work. Being fully remote also causes the opposite situation – too many meetings and ‘call fatigue.’

However, there are some meetings that you’ll want to conduct regularly so that employees feel connected and valued. 

We’re sharing some ice breaker questions that are useful for these meetings. 

They will put your team members in the right frame of mind to participate effectively at work.

1Daily/Weekly Standup Meetings

Standup meetings are a quick way for remote teams to check-in with their manager and ensure that they have the equipment they need to do their work.

Usually, participants speak for 2-5 minutes each as they discuss current and future projects.

  • These meetings are a good way for remote workers to catch up with each other because they don’t get to meet face to face.
  • It also acts as an effective team-building exercise where people get to know each other and become comfortable having conversations.

Ice breaker questions can offer a positive way in a daily/weekly standup meeting to ease into talking shop. 

 

Ice breaker questions for daily standups
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Icebreaker Questions to ask in daily/weekly standup meetings:

  • Did you do something different at home yesterday?
  • How do you spend your weekends indoors?
  • How do you think your city/government is handling the current crisis?
  • Are you all set for the day? 
  • How is your motivation level looking today? 
  • Now that you save on your commute time, how do you spend that time?
  • How many of you started any fitness activities at home?
  • Do you feel stressed or relaxed while working from home?

2One on One Meetings

Managers and their direct reports use one on one meetings to catch up on personalized topics that they wouldn’t ordinarily talk about in group meetings.

One on one meetings are most effective when held every week for around 30-45 minutes each.

Of course, with remote work now being the norm, managers and employees use their discretion to lengthen the meeting when they want to take a deep dive into a topic.

 

The casual chats and water cooler conversations that we used to take for granted in a physical office don’t happen anymore. The closest substitute we have is a recurring one on one meeting.

 

You’ll want to use ice breaker questions during these meetings to lift your direct report’s flagging spirits

  • She may find working from home particularly challenging if she’s doing it for the first time.
  • She may find herself unable to switch off at the end of the day because there’s no one to turn out the lights.
  • She may have difficulty focusing on work because she’s worried about her family’s health or having enough food.

You can use icebreaker questions to show you genuinely care and want to help her.

 

One on one meeting ice breaker questions
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Icebreakers Questions to ask in one on one meetings:

  • How are you doing? How is your family coping with the situation?
  • How would you rate your motivation level? 
  • How do you unwind or take a break in between or after work hours? 
  • How are you coping? Do you need any kind of support from me?
  • Do you have a dedicated place to work from home? 
  • Do you follow an exercise routine at home?

You can use a one on one meeting software to streamline your meetings and document your conversations.

 

Effective One on One Meetings

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3Monthly/Quarterly Progress Team Meetings

Teams meet once a month or once every quarter to check on initiatives taken or progress towards set goals. 

Each participant speaks for around 5-10 minutes and discusses steps taken to meet assigned action items, successes and failures, and roadblocks.

Goals for the next month or quarter are also discussed and established. 

These meetings help remote team members remain aligned with the direction in which the team is heading as a whole.

Your ice breaker questions for such a team meeting should reflect that you recognize the curveballs that the pandemic has thrown your way. 

You’ll want to show genuine empathy and commitment to help team members deal with difficulties. 

 

Monthly team meeting ice breaker questions
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Icebreaker questions to ask in monthly/quarterly progress team meetings:

  • How is the weather in your city? (for distributed teams)
  • Has anyone developed a new habit while staying at home?
  • Did anyone get an opportunity to revive old hobbies that you had no time for earlier?
  • What is your opinion about getting back to work once businesses open and things become normal?
  • How are you coping with the situation? Do you need any support from me?
  • What do you think is the future of work after this crisis is over?

4Virtual Brainstorm Meetings

Brainstorm meetings are quick affairs, usually under 30 minutes, that are conducted to collect ideas about a project or an initiative. 

A virtual whiteboard is used to jot down all ideas generated by the participants, just like a physical one would be used in an actual office.

You’ll want to use ice breaker questions to ease team members into a frame of mind that encourages creative ideas.

 

Brainstorm meeting icebreakers
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Icebreaker questions to ask in virtual brainstorm meetings:

  • What new social media trend are you following or tired these days?
  • Have you tried any new software to connect and brainstorm virtually?
  • Where do you draw inspiration from?
  • Do you have any new movie or book recommendations? 
  • Any suggestions about how we can improve work processes in the current scenario?
  • Is there anything you need to build a better work setup at home?
  • What do you do when you find yourself caught in a fix?

5Cross-team Collaborative Meetings

Doing business often requires different teams or departments to collaborate on a project or work towards a shared outcome.

Cross-team meetings are usually conducted once every month and last for around 30-45 minutes.

For instance, product and marketing teams may collaborate on a product launch or sales and marketing teams may get together to provide updates on a mutual goal.

 

Most people may not know each other well across teams, so ice breaker questions can encourage people to interact better during the meeting.

 

Such meetings may also slide into a familiar format of providing updates, so clever ice breaker questions can shake off the monotony. 

In addition, the questions you choose also show that you’re cognizant of the fact that people are still figuring out how to work best under the constraints set by the pandemic.

 

Cross-team collaborative meeting questions
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Icebreaker questions to ask in cross-team collaborative meetings:

    • Have you worked on anything interesting recently? 
    • How has the way you communicate changed after we started working from home?
    • How can we improve our collaboration between teams?
    • Would you like the management to organize some fun and bonding activities between teams? 
    • What do you miss about the office? 
    • Did you or your coworkers get affected by this travel ban?

 

ICEBREAKER QUESTIONS EBOOK

Icebreaker questions you can ask in every meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Download Now

 

Conclusion

Good ice breaker questions are designed to draw out your employee, but not make him cringe or feel embarrassed. 

Living in fear has an adverse effect on physical and mental well-being, which can be somewhat eased by your empathetic questions and unconditional support.

You’ll want to remember that you shouldn’t play at being compassionate at any cost. Authenticity is key to differentiating yourself as a human leader.

 

You may also like to read:

Covid-19: Icebreaker questions to build a better connect with your remote team

Icebreaker Games for Remote Teams to Build Better Connect

Virtual Icebreakers to Onboard Remote Teams

21 Best Virtual Team Building Games for Remote Teams

Want to become a better manager?

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