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mv5bmzjmzdi1mwutmwjmmy00ngfilwe3otytngqyy2rmyzdlmtu4l2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndizndexoq-_v1_In today’s uncertain economic climate, you might think that humor and laughter in the workplace is an oxymoron. In reality, the need to use laughter and humor to reduce stress and lighten a tense mood has become more important than ever.

I’ve been told that I do some pretty good impressions: Milton from the cult classic Office Space, Forrest Gump, and Raymond Babbitt (Rain Man), to name a few. In fact, at a former workplace it seemed if you weren’t at least reasonably familiar with Office Space, you couldn’t catch on to half of the jokes that were told! Milton’s obsession with his Swingline stapler, in particular, was always good for a few laughs to ease the tension during a stressful period. I enjoyed having the gift of making people laugh … especially during tough times.

Humor has a lot of benefits. It’s been proven helpful in combating stressful illnesses such as cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, and scores of other diseases and conditions.

A study conducted by the State University of New York (SUNY) reported that employees who worked for bosses that utilized humor in the workplace had higher productivity and better job appraisals.

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.

More Companies are Catching On

Most firms have become “leaner” in recent years, and yet there is still constant pressure to do things faster, to assimilate more information, and to learn new skills. The need to “make do with less” amidst increased competition has triggered more job-related stress than ever before. The good news is that an increasing number of businesses are catching on that unorthodox approaches – like fun and humor – are needed to help employees deal with stress. Take the following examples:

* It’s almost inhumane if companies create a climate where people can’t naturally have fun. At least, that’s the prevailing view at Rosenbluth International, a Philadelphia-based travel company. “I know our company is doing well when I walk around and hear people laughing,” states CEO Hal Rosenbluth.

* Use humor, but not at the expense of others’ feelings. “Once you’ve isestablished that you’re good at what you do, and that you’re professional and take your work seriously, you’ll find that humor and a lighter style will work for you, not against you,” explains Paul McGhee, a motivational speaker. “The number-one rule, of course, is to always be sensitive to when any kind of humor or laughter is, and is not appropriate.”

Courtesy of psychotherapist Margo Escott, the following are some ideas for creating more humor in YOUR workplace:

* Create humorous bulletin boards – bring in baby pictures of staff, and let the fun begin as employees try to guess who’s who.

* Form a “fun committee” to continue to think up ways to create company-wide morale boosters.

*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.

The possibilities are endless, but whatever you do, remember that humor is an important coping skill in dealing with stress. It can even add a colorful dimension to your personality – whether it’s impressions (like me) or something else. Take your WORK seriously, but treat YOURSELF lightly. It really helps!