Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Humor at Work: What works best and when

Employee laughing.jpg

They say laughter cures all. They also say laughter is truly the best medicine -- and that can be true at work, as well as at home.

Laughter on a regular basis improves blood pressure, stimulates the organs and can reduce pain, according to studies. So if it helps promote all those things, why don't we have more humor in the workplace? A daily dose of fun - humorous quotes, timely (and appropriate) jokes, fun events, and other forms of humor at work can help relax employees, increase morale, and energize the social aspects of the workplace. Workplaces that see humor as a tool often find themselves with happier and more productive employees. This in turn can create a better business, one that sees regular increases in profits and results.

But in today's workplaces, the stresses often outweigh the lighter moments. Sure, companies say they have a happy, positive culture, but are they faking the culture? There are telltale signs that a company's culture is lacking in the workplace. Lack of care about any type of 'mission' statement; Senior managers don't walk the walk with employees; online reviews don't reflect the everyday realty and more.

What can company owners and employees do to make a more vibrant, fun-seeking company culture? For starters, a company's owner or top leader can make the initial charge to try to have more fun. But it takes honesty and some guts to share that. But employees may respond well to that.

Timing and Context

With all good humor, timing and context are important. Even if you are a funny person, cracking a joke about Obamacare during a serious office meeting about company health insurance costs may not be the right setting. Or suggesting that you use a company photo of everyone throwing money in the air, on  Minted photo holiday cards that you send to customers might not fly. In other words, keep in mind that not everyone has the same sense of humor.

Finding the right balance of timing, context, the moods of your co-workers and managers is all important for humor to flourish in the workplace. Take into consideration, too, that fellow employees are often more comfortable bantering with colleagues than with management. There's an uncertainty that reduces the idea to get funny around bosses. Employees aren't sure how humor will be taken or perceived over time.

If you make it a habit, it can help.  For example, my company's headquarters location has a monthly "recess" in which we all gather together in the kitchen for a party for about an hour.  Each month, a different department hosts it, selects the theme, provides the refreshments (including some adult beverages, and decorates the place.  It has become a very popular event that people look forward to and it's a good place for some socializing with people you don't see much during the normal business day.  

Culture Drives Humor

In many ways, the culture makes the humor in a workplace. If your work culture is stiff and formal, weak attempts at humor and levity will fall flat. In a culture that's looser and full of guffaws on a more regular basis, you can really see some humorous efforts rise. That's according to Michael Kerr, who runs the business consultancy Humor at Work and is author of "The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank" (Dec. 2013). Workplaces that are more creative and innately innovative tend to have more humor within. It's all about feeling relaxed in an environment. With more relaxation and chances to bend the rules, a work culture can open itself up to more humor from its employees.

By removing emotional anxiety in the workplace with a more light-hearted tone, employees will get a strong sense of empowerment to create projects and programs. And these initiatives could help with team building, recruiting, office communications, morale and overall productivity in the workplace.