Thursday, August 14, 2014

Humor and Laughter in the Workplace

"Live by this credo: have a little laugh at life and look around you for happiness instead of sadness. Laughter has always brought me out of unhappy situations" ~ Red Skelton

As I get ready to head out on vacation next week – and have fun – it seems like a good time to reflect on having fun and how important it is to laugh. Laugh with our friends and family; laugh at ourselves, and at the absurdities of life. We lost someone this past week who was a master of humor – Robin Williams. If nothing else, he taught us the value of humor and laughter. We can realize that value in the workplace as well.

There is plenty of scientific support for the fact that laughter is good for you. It is good for you physically, bringing oxygen rich air into your body that stimulates your lungs, heart and muscles and releases endorphins from your brain. Laughter reduces stress and relieves tension.

But we don't need the science to know that we like to laugh. It simply feels good.

On the other hand, business is serious stuff. There are always issues, challenges and stress. There are financial pressures, goals to meet, competitive pressures, market pressures and the ever present need to grow. There are employee issues, product issues, customer issues and supplier issues. Doesn’t seem like such a fun place to be, does it?

It can be. And I would argue that it should be, at least some of the time. Life is too short to spend eight or ten hours a day in a high-tension, soulless place with nary a smile.

"The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that is laughter. The moment it arises, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place." -- Mark Twain

Laughter and humor can have positive effects in the workplace.  "When you display a sense of humor, when you laugh at yourself, it helps your corporate image," said international business speaker Michael Kerr, quoted in an article for SHRM Online. "It can help your business come across as more humble, as more human, as more personable. It can put a human face to what we otherwise perceive as being a very sterile, corporate, soulless entity."

A survey conducted by Robert Half International found that 97 percent believe it’s important that managers have a sense of humor. Nine out of 10 said humor is important for career advancement, while 84 percent think that people with a good sense of humor do a better job.

The SHRM article also cited a study by market-research company Ipsos that showed a statistically significant correlation between managers’ sense of humor and their employees' willingness to remain with the organization. And in a CareerBuilder survey, employers presented with two equally qualified job candidates chose the one with the better sense of humor.

So, again, there’s plenty of evidence that we should be having fun at work, too! Your co-workers will enjoy working with you, helping to increase productivity. Humor is a key factor in creative thinking, allowing us to see things in new ways. Humor helps bring teams together, creating a more cohesive group. When people feel like they are a meaningful part of the team, they are more likely to fully contribute to the success of the team. Those long hours, doing the work that three people used to do, and tedious, repetitive types of jobs can suck the life out of us. Humor and laughter helps bring back the life and revitalize your team.

Lighten up. Take time to look at the absurdities of life. Enjoy life while it’s here to enjoy.

I’m off to enjoy a vacation. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Keep laughing…..

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