Traditionally, the office has been considered a place where everyone is expected to be focused and serious. Laughing and telling jokes was frowned upon and looked on as a juvenile waste of time. But times have changed, and the workplace environment is beginning to look a little different. Leaders and senior managers are starting to recognize that people perform better when they are relaxed and stress-free, and that laughter may be the best remedy for workplace ills.
Research is showing that laughter can lead to better teamwork, higher productivity, and increased job satisfaction. A Robert Half International survey found that 91% of executives believe that a sense of humor is important for career advancement, while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job.
There are several benefits to promoting laughter at work, including:
- It creates a fun culture. Humor boosts morale and happiness. It can even help reduce turnover because employees who look forward to coming to work don’t tend to leave.
- It helps diffuse confrontation. When things become heated in the workplace, humor can often serve as a method of diffusing the tension. Laughter helps break down barriers between co-workers.
- It creates a motivated and happy team. If someone enjoys where they work and the people they work with, they’ll have higher overall productivity and job satisfaction.
- It provides relief. Humor is a way to break through any tension barrier. A well-timed joke or quip can lighten the mood and make everyone feel more comfortable.
- It goes hand-in-hand with innovation. Humor creates an upbeat atmosphere that encourages interaction, brainstorming of new ideas, and a feeling that there are few risks in thinking outside of the box.
- It can be healthy. Laughing increases blood flow, decreases stress levels, and releases endorphins into your body. For example, researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center have shown that laughter offsets the impact of mental stress and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, not everyone is born with a sense of humor. It’s not always easy to make people laugh, but there are some tricks to help bring laughter into the workplace.
- Laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself so seriously all of the time! When you make small mistakes, laugh at your own missteps. If employees are surrounded by too much seriousness and intensity, it often diminishes their concentration and performance.
- Get everyone involved. Ask fellow employees for ideas on ways to add more fun to the workplace. They may have simple, terrific ideas they can contribute, based on their past experiences.
- Make a game out of it. Friendly workplace competitions or games can lighten the mood and actually increase productivity.
- Food can be fun. Giving employees the chance to bring in some food and spend time as a group often leads to laughter and a more fun work atmosphere. Try hosting a chili cook-off or a potluck lunch party.
- Take a field trip. By going outside of the office with co-workers, you’ll automatically reduce the stress of the workplace and lighten the atmosphere. Even if it’s just a group lunch, people will feel more comfortable with each other and less likely to hold back.
- Hire humor. After considering a candidate’s skills, references, and overall demeanor, look for someone who can laugh and keep you entertained.
While it’s important to keep the workplace atmosphere fun and everyone in good spirits, humor can also lead to problems if it’s not handled properly. It is imperative to make sure that the laugher is stemming from good intentions and is never garnered at the expense of someone or something in the office. Making sure that this line is not crossed should be the focus of those in senior level management positions.
Overall, laughter in the workplace can have a tremendously positive affect on a company’s culture. Humor can lighten the mood, make people happier, increase productivity, and lead to improved job satisfaction and performance. Times are changing and employees are having more fun at work. Plus, having a good sense of humor can take you a long way in your career. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “a sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”