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Five Ways to Invite Laughter into the Workplace

May 23, 2013

By: Omnia Group

Work is supposed to be serious. How can we possibly get anything done if you people keep clowning around?!

Well, according to a 2007 study performed by the University of Missouri-Columbia researcher Chris Robert, humor "has a meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers. The ability to appreciate humor, the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded.”

People typically spend 40 or more (sometimes much more) hours a week in the office. The mood of that office can have a big impact on an employee's overall health and well-being. A rigid, somber environment can cause stress and burnout. An open, lighthearted workplace improves mood, productivity, and invites creativity. And the longer the hours, the greater the effect of the environment on the person. Some companies have made “fun and laughter” a policy, saying it’s an effective way to improve employee satisfaction, build teamwork, and reduce absenteeism and turnover.

A “fun workplace” initiative is becoming a major factor in growing private companies. Along with scheduling employee get-togethers outside of the office, you also need to bring some enjoyment into the office!

I am fortunate to work at a company that invites regular bouts of silliness. If you walk through our office, you hear serious business interactions and real work being done, but there is rarely a time in the day where you don't hear someone giggle, chuckle and even guffaw. I've even heard chortles. Why? Because we are funny people! Want proof? Check out this quick "educational" video on job interviewing!

Okay, we are indeed funny people, but the real reason we laugh so much is that we have a culture that provokes camaraderie, openness, and sharing ideas. Want more smiles, happier employees, and a healthier bottom-line?

Here are 5 ways to invite humor into your office:

1. Make sure humor attempts are appropriate: Nothing is unfunnier than mean-spirited, derogatory, or profane humor. Keep it professional and compassionate.
2. Hold silly events: Encourage goofiness by having a dress-up day, paper airplane contests, or other fun games. True, wearing a Hawaiian shirt is not going to bring hilarity to a grim, bleak office, but it's a start.
3. Make light of (some) rules: Putting rules to rhyme, song, or other comic forms, can reinforce them while lessening their sternness.  For example, An office where I worked had a very relaxed dress-code and hired many young people. Accordingly, there was an annual need (around summertime) to remind everyone of what was and wasn't acceptable to wear. The boss did this via a PowerPoint entitled, "You might be breaking the dress code if..." Think Jeff Foxworthy. It made us laugh and reminded folks that thongs belong underneath clothing.
4. First, allow, and then recognize, humor in meetings, the newsletter, or other company-wide public forums. Let people make funny contributions, add comics or pictures of animals... preferably cats. Cats always get a laugh.
5. Hire humor: After considering skills, behavioral traits, and references, look for people who can laugh (at themselves, or even make you laugh). You probably do this anyway. An interviewee capable of making a (tasteful) humorous comment under the pressure of a job interview is bound to impress.

So c'mon!  Lighten up and make 'em laugh! It improves employee morale, communication, and productivity. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

Omnia Group

For over 30 years, we’ve helped organizations across the world improve and optimize their workforce operations and company cultures. While we take a unique, scientific approach to hiring, development and retention, we also believe every business is a people business. Our passionate advisors always put people first.

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