Did you know that the average preschooler laughs or smiles 400 times a day? That number drops to 15 by the time people are 35 yrs. old. Isn’t it amazing what stress and too much responsibility can do? So who says that work always has to be serious? Work environments where humor is encouraged, tend to be happier, less stressed and more productive. Incorporating humor into our jobs increases feelings of solidarity and cohesion amongst co-workers and provides a non-threatening medium through which an employee or employer can communicate with others. This is the type of environment most people prefer to work in.
Humor in the workplace helps us think. “Taking time out to laugh can help us to get rid of negative feelings and allow us to better concentrate on what we are doing,” says noted psychologist Dr. Ashton Trice of Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. It allows the time and space to put things in perspective; not personalize a situation. When we are feeling good about ourselves and the environment in which we work, our work flows smoother, production improves, generally creating an increase in income for the company.
Appropriate humor in the workplace is a welcome and tasteful surprise. It is about seeing the humor in everyday situations and having the confidence to laugh at your self. When you tell a story poking fun at your self, it portrays you as more human. Your life experiences are probably not unique. This provides comic relief and invites people to be comfortable and see the humor of their own life situations. We have all laughed at comedians and generally they are commenting on daily life. However it is important to remember that humor should not be offensive or disrespectful to the average person.
Humor in the workplace is a stress reducer. Studies have shown that humor activates our physiological systems, including the muscular, respiratory, cardiovascular and skeletal. It lowers blood pressure and increases endorphins. This leads to a sense of satisfaction and well being which reduces the possibility of burnout. When we laugh, we feel physically better, lighter and more relaxed. We have the same positive physiological experience when we smile.
Humor partners with laughter to increase creativity and productivity. This leads to thinking “outside the box,” producing more and different products and services, leading to greater profits. Everyone wants to work in a positive upbeat environment. People get along better with co-workers, absenteeism and tardiness is reduced and decision making improves.
Fran worked at a company where staff frequently complained about many things. Managers were critical of their team members and negativity permeated the office. To counteract this, Fran and several colleagues generated ideas to bring levity to the workplace. This included the smile of the day, humorous cartoons in the lunchroom and beginning every meeting with a joke. When the atmosphere lightened, the negativity diminished and the level of conflict among employees was reduced.
Incorporating humor in your workplace provides tremendous value without costing a lot in terms of time and resources. Some suggestions are:
* Exaggerate or understate.
* Poke fun at yourself.
* Tell stories, jokes and personal life stories.
* Use humor to break the ice (start a meeting or presentation).
* Clip cartoons from a newspaper or magazine and post on a bulletin board.
* Participate in a laughter club (people who meet for no reason except to laugh.)
Use laughter and humor in the workplace throughout the day. Laughing with others is a great way to promote peace and fun in the workplace. It takes 16 muscles to frown and only 3 muscles to smile. Which would you prefer?