Humor in the Workplace, Tips to Have Fun at Work

Guest Motivational Speaker Jody Urquhart

As a guest speaker some people tell me they are concerned that if they encourage fun at work it will get out of hand and affect productivity.
Yet, have you ever worked at a place that was too much fun? Where you couldn’t get anything done because of the parties, laughter and play? (I didn’t think so).

Even mild humor in the workplace can help inspire people to work harder, be more creative, builds loyalty, improves health and seems to increase interpersonal skills.

The primitive stress center of the brain survives by seeing potential danger and avoiding it. So the oldest part of our brain tells us to stay away from humor because it’s risky and you might offend someone.
The moral? Take your work seriously but don’t take yourself seriously.

leadership and the power of play

Play is valuable at work because it brings about whole brain thinking. Using the logical left brain and creative right brain together enables you to see the big picture. In the book IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE the author speaker states, "Success is a function of one's ability to innovate, which in turn is a function not of one's capacity for focused, analytical logic - but freewheeling flights of fancy." This is the kind of thinking people indulge in when they think humorously.

Some people say, I'll play when I feel better but more likely you'll feel better when you play.

Roger Von Oech, workshop leader and author of the book A WHACK ON THE SIDE OF THE HEAD has this view: "If necessity is the mother of invention, play is the father. It's when you're not taking yourself seriously that your defenses are down, your mental locks are loosened, and there is little concern with the rules, or being wrong."

Another perspective on the value of play comes from leadership expert Dr. George Sheehan: "We need play to leaven what we do. Without play, work is labor; it is doing something for money. But if we have work that's play then we have beaten the system."

Healthy people tend to be the most productive and laughter contributes to good health - mental and physical. Laughter improves circulation, fills the lungs with oxygen-rich air, stabilizes blood pressure and causes beneficial changes in the chemistry of the body. Funny Guy,Dr. William F. Fry has been studying laughter for more than 40 years. He says that 20 seconds of intense laughter, even if faked, can double the heart rate for three to five minutes, an accomplishment that would take three minutes of strenuous rowing exercise. So now i just go to the gym and watch people on the treadmill

Also, according to Dr. Fry, laughter stimulates the production of catecholamine’s, the alertness hormones.

As a guest speaker i give out a handout that summarizes these points on Why we need to have more fun while working:
- Studies on Employee satisfaction report staff want to work in a fun, lighthearted environment
- Humor in the workplace and Fun at work increase energy and enthusiasm for the job and enhance interpersonal skills
- Laughing ignites whole brain thinking that enhances creativity and productivity
- Laughing instantly decreases stress
- Happy employees create happy customers
- Fun broadens your perspective and gives inspiration for new ideas
- People with a good sense of humor are easier to get along with
- Humor builds self confidence when you are able to laugh at yourself it makes you less afraid to communicate mistakes
- Well placed humor softens criticism
- Humor and Laughter defuse tension

The How To’s-

Including fun and play in job descriptions will be more common in the future as employers realize how cost effective it can be. How about a late afternoon break for employees to play a video or computer game? How about a joke telling break?

Start a laughing group at work. Laugh for at least 5 minutes straight for no reason at all – over the long term this has been shown to drastically improve your health and outlook

Humor should always feel good (happy, relaxed, and effective)

Humor should poke fun at stressful situations not people

Humor has very little to do with jokes (less than 12% of what we laugh at is joke like) and more to do with laughing at common stresses

Humor should not be used to insult or sarcastically get away with inappropriate comments

Consider starting your meetings with humor. As humor becomes more a part of your business, the more it will be perceived as acceptable. With humor in every meeting there would be a portion that everyone would look forward to. Humor, as a natural part of communication, also helps.

The best way to use humor is to have the self confidence to laugh at yourself. Make sure people understand why you are encouraging humor, most people have only one way to deal with stressful situations and it is a negative response you are training them to see things in a positive way.