Laughter strengthens your immune system, reduces stress and muscle tension. Roaring with laughter can lower blood pressure, exercise the lungs, pump more oxygen into the bloodstream and activate the endorphins that make us feel happy. Doctors report that patients who laugh recover quicker from serious illness.
So, laughter is good for you. We’re agreed on that.
How much do you laugh at work?
It is said that young children laugh or smile more than 300 times a day while adults are lucky to muster up 20. Whether the difference is as much as that I don’t know, but most adults tend to be rather less smiley, rather more serious - at least in the workplace.
When he’s running a discipline workshop my friend Derek often jokes that summary dismissal (i.e. dismissal without notice) is dismissal that takes place between May and September. It’s a terrible joke, but always gets a laugh though some are suspiciously close to groans. I hasten to add that he also gives the correct definition afterwards. Derek is a very popular trainer, in part because of his willingness to joke a little.
Companies that encourage a bit of wit in the workplace tend to enjoy lower staff turnover and absenteeism. Employee surveys also suggest that a sense of humour is an essential quality for their managers to have and use.
A few daily laughs can make the workload better for everyone and increase the financial health of the company at the same time.
Many companies spend a lot of money trying to create work teams. Experts arrive to talk about “trust”, “dignity at work” etc and how you should treat those you work with like you would like to be treated. All good stuff – I’m not denying it.
There might be some great team building exercises, but next day everyone’s back in the same mindset, eating lunch alone with headsets on and eyes on their mobile.
Laughter helps to build built strong relationships helping people find common interests. The workplace will reap the benefits of a team that truly enjoyed working together.
Years ago, I worked with Pete. Pete qualified for a grumpy old man of the year award, but he had a wicked sense of humour. One day I arrived for wok having seen the film Gladiator the night before. We were talking about it and Pete went on to talk about Kirk Douglas in Spartacus, in particular the scene where Spartacus stands up and says “I’m Spartacus” followed by others standing up one after another trying to protect him: “I’m Spartacus!”, “I’m Spartacus!” “I’m Spartacus!” etc. In Pete’s case it came out sounding like: “Oim Spardacus” and I managed to gasp: “I didn’t know Spartacus was from Ambridge” before the pair of us dissolved into helpless giggles.
Funnily enough (no pun intended) I was one of the few people who could work quite well with Pete.
If you want people to really connect, encourage live face to face interaction and let them laugh, subject to some boundaries.
- Jokes in the workplace must be appropriate which calls for some restraint. Knowing your audience is the first and most important aspect of acceptable workplace humour. Don’t go anywhere near jokes that include sexuality, religion, politics, ethnic background or someone’s personal appearance.
- Avoid toilet humour. Brits tend to love it, but the office is not the place for stories that include bodily functions.
- People enjoy a bit of self-depreciating humour but don’t go overboard or they’ll start to agree that, yes, you are indeed a loser.
- You can joke about the things employees can relate to, including stories about products, competitors, difficult customers and production goals. Don’t be waspishly funny at the expense of colleagues though.
If you have HR queries and problems, get in touch!
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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2019 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.
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