Humor in The Office Space: Its Benefit is No Joke

yellow computer laughing 2

A Michael Scott.  A Ron Livingston.

If your office has one, count your blessings.  Humorous employees improve the workplace environment.

In a world where stressed and disengaged employees cost businesses trillions of dollars a year, humor can bond employees, improve health, and increase productivity.

Laughter Connections Lead to Better Performance

We all love to laugh, but is there actually a connection between laughter and employee performance?  Neuroscientist Dr. Robert Provine, Ph.D., says yes. “Laughter establishes–or restores–a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people, who literally take pleasure in the company of each other, bringing people together. In fact, the health benefits of laughter may result from the social support it stimulates” (Dr. Provine, Psychology Today). Better socialization means stronger teams of happier and healthier employees.

Therefore, laughing during the workday should not be seen as slacking.  Devin Hughes from SHRM says: “Too often we feel that if we are laughing during work, people may think we are “slacking off.” But Professor Sophie Scott from University College London says that “Laughter is a subconscious signal that we’re in a state of relaxation and safety.”  Hughes cites a Wharton study which found that laughter promotes creativity and greater analytical precision. “So, not only are your employees inspired to perform, they perform better” (Hughes).

What does the research say about laughter and business performance?  Motivational business speaker Mike Kerr says research on using humor in business speaks for itself. Some key findings include:

  • 82% of employees at Fortune 100 companies that were rated as “great” places to work by the Great Places to Work Institute agreed with the statement:  “I work in a fun organization” (only 62% of employees in “good” companies agreed).
  • Hewitt and Associates found that companies with higher levels of employee engagement and happiness outperformed other companies financially by 19%.
  • Robert Half International Survey found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important to career advancement.

Laughter Has Physical Health Benefits

The Mayo Clinic lists several short and long-term physical benefits to laughter.  Short-term laughter can stimulate many organs (oxygen-rich air stimulates the heart and lungs and increases endorphins).  Laughter also activates and releases the stress response (decreasing blood pressure and heart rate) and soothes tension by stimulating circulation.

Long-term benefits include improving the immune system because positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides, relieving pain (releases natural painkillers), increase personal satisfaction through connection, and improving mood (Mayo Clinic).

How to Add a Little LOL to Your Workplace

Employees need to feel comfortable enough to use humor at work.  This means that leadership should set an example.

Not naturally funny? A little effort goes a long way. Laugh at yourself.  Bring in a joke. Laugh at other people’s jokes. Tell a story.  Spice up internal communications with a joke or meme at the end.  Use visual humor or comics in presentations (think The Far Side).

When using humor, stay away from religion or politics.  Also, do not make a joke about a person behind his/her back (or it will destroy trust in the office).  Never make sexual references or be mean.

At Artemis Consultants, we often use memes to embody our current mood. These can be memes for frustration or elation. One year, we even got Dammit Dolls to smack when we feel the need. Humor regularly lightens our day and bonds us as a company.

Other great ideas to use humor include taking office music breaks, having a hula hoop contest, and creating avatars for team members (if appropriate).  Consider using Photoshop to make fun pictures of your team as superheroes or celebrities. Pass around a stress ball, send clips from Facebook comedians (like the Holderness family) and share funny stories about things your kids do.

Bottom line: You don’t have to live in Scranton to humor your employees- and reap the benefits. “I’m going to need those TPS reports…ASAP…So, if you could do that, that’d be great…”- Bill Lumbergh, Office Space

Does your workplace use humor to bond employees? Please share your fun stories or ideas in the comments.

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