“I have yet to find anything worth accomplishing that you can’t have a good time doing.” — Dick Kussman, AT&T
“A company that has fun, where employees put cartoons on the wall and celebrate, is spirited, creative, and usually profitable.” — David Baum, “organizational travel agent”
It’s unfortunate that some business leaders view humor as unprofessional because the positive effects of humor are widespread. Humor has been proven helpful in combating cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, and scores of other diseases and conditions.
Some of the greatest corporate success stories are about companies such as Google and Southwest Airlines, that actively promote a playful, laugh-filled work environment. Research reveals a connection between humor and job performance. The State University of New York (SUNY) reported that employees who worked for bosses that utilized humor in the workplace, had greater productivity. Additional studies show that humor in the workplace can:
* Reduce the number of sick days;
* Increase company loyalty;
* Retain valuable employees;
* Encourage creativity; and
* Improve morale.
Humor helps with stress. It’s significant to remember that when speaking about “stress,” it’s not so much the event itself that produces the stress, but rather how we look at the situation. I’ve been told I’m good at impressions, and I’ve often enjoyed launching into a character like “Milton” of Office Space fame to help alleviate the tension in a work environment. I’ll pick up my stapler and say something like, “I, I, I told Bill that, if you take my Swingline stapler again, I’ll quit. I will quit.” Throw in a few grumbles like Milton was famous for, and 9 times out of 10 that tension is lifted!
“Always try to see the humor in a situation as it can provide the setting fro a problem-solving approach under less pressure,” says Sophia Dziegielewski, a clinical social worker.
Like most anything in life, moderation is the key to effective humor in the workplace, experts will tell you …although this just doubles as common sense. It stands to reason that if you start telling one joke after another, after… well, pretty soon you’re simply being silly and no work is getting done. Obviously your jokes need to be in good taste, too. Be sensitive to when humor or laughter is, and is not appropriate.
Recognizing that humor is contagious, the following are a few ideas to help loosen up a stuffy workplace and reduce stress:
* Start taking “humor breaks” during the day. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, it can help employees return to their desks refreshed and able to work more efficiently.
* Hold team chili cook-offs – or unusual dress-up days. (My wife’s school was great at that one. It was hard for her to have a stressful day dressed in her pj’s!)
* Create humorous bulletin boards — bring in baby pictures of staff, and let the fun begin as they try to guess who’s who.
* Form a “fun committee” to continue to think up ways of creating company-wide morale boosters.
Finally, remember, “They who laugh, last.”