COVID-19. Child care. School expenses. Commuting. Vaccinations. The new COVID variant. The great return to the office has frozen a lot of workers with fear. And it’s not just fear of the unknown. It’s rebuilding old relationships with coworkers under such new and stressful circumstances. Breaking the ice with holiday team building may make the transition smoother.
Breaking the ice
This phrase conjures up the image of special ships crashing and crushing their way through megatons of arctic ice. But it was actually William Shakespeare who first used the expression regarding social encounters. In his 1590 play “The Taming of the Shrew,” he applied the expression to Kate, the shrew who was considered bossy, brassy, and cold. To “break the ice” meant contriving a way to bend her will and control her actions.
Icebreaking in the workplace
Here, too, there’s a level of manipulation and control involved, but the ultimate agenda is team building instead of domination.
Eteambuilding.org challenges us to first understand the concept of ice in the workplace: “Before we get into the importance of icebreakers, we first need to address the notion of ice. What are we referring to when we say ‘the ice needs to be broken’? A basic understanding of this concept is crucial to properly use an icebreaker tool to your advantage.”
Today this concept at work refers to removing barriers, creating harmony, and developing a sense of community and cohesion. But what barriers, discord, or lack of community are they referring to?
Differences can cause distance
There are many ethnic and cultural barriers that inspire fear of the unknown. A lack of common values and customs can create discord. And people often form communal bonds only with people who are most like them.
Ideally, icebreakers can turn strangers into acquaintances and maybe even friends. Interaction creates dialogue, informs communication, and identifies areas of commonality. Holiday team building can dissolve fears and build bridges to familiarity. These icebreakers can melt the ice in the mind, the heart, and the environment.
Icebreakers get the cold shoulder
Ironically, most people dread icebreakers. Past experiences can sour current expectations so much that staffers are resistant and bored before they arrive. Many employees march in feeling awkward and uncomfortable—ready for it to be over.
Fortunately, savvy team leaders can break the stigma of icebreakers. The right activity for the right reason can get everybody fired up. And the right activity is always heartwarming!
Breaking the ice with holiday team building
On the one hand, having to break the ice among familiar coworkers should be unnecessary, since everybody knows everyone. On the other hand, the pandemic has changed many of us—for better or worse. We’re not the same people we were before COVID-19—not professionally, emotionally, or psychologically. We need to accept that and accept each other as we are now—without judgment or stigmatization.
Holiday team building activities are perfect bridge-builders because they can strengthen and restore old relationships and make them even better. A Christmas in July event would be an ideal opportunity to spread some cheer among teammates and help some cash-strapped families.
Example: give a prospective pet parent a starter kit that might be a bit out of their price range. Pet parenting can be expensive. Food and water bowls. Leashes, collars, and car seats. Beds and bedding. Toys and treats.
A basket full of these items might be just the push a pet lover needs to take the plunge without breaking the bank. And while you’re at it, you’ll discover other pet lovers on your team who are as kitty crazed as you are. And that one shared interest can open the door to relationship building.
Compassion for COVID-19 sufferers
And while most of us are enjoying the July fun and sun, lots of your neighbors are COVID patients languishing in local hospitals. So Christmas seems a long, long way off.
You and your colleagues can cheer them up safely and generously right now. Lotions, lip balms, magazines, puzzle books, snacks, and other treats can help them pass the time more easily.
Instead of dwelling on how sick they feel, their thoughts will turn to you, your kindness, and their wonderful gifts. And you and your team can share fond memories of those you’ve lost to this dread disease and perhaps honor their memory through your donations.
Holiday team building in July can break down emotional barriers among your colleagues which were built during remote work assignments. And your community will benefit from your charity and support at the same time.