Humor and work have always had a tenuous relationship, albeit one that has softened in recent years. Even in the most casual office environments, there are certain stigmas and uncertainties surrounding humor.
The reasons behind this hesitation are obvious; humor often comes with a bite. It’s about poking fun or making light of things that matter to people, and this inherent edge can easily lead to conflict. On top of that, some leaders associate humor with a lack of dedication or seriousness about work.
However, these fears surrounding humor in the workplace are not only unfounded, they directly contradict a growing body of research that suggests that workplace humor is paramount to productivity, cohesion and creativity.
Here are 8 fascinating facts about how humor defines and enhances modern business:
1. Humor Is More Important Than Pay
An industry-wide study of over 2,500 people found that 55% of workers would take less pay to have more fun at work. This means a majority of people would literally take a pay cut for a more light-hearted work environment.
2. A Sense of Humor Reduces Sick Days
Laughter boosts your immune system by enhancing your antibodies (which help fight infections) and increasing your immune cell count. This helps reduce your chances of illness and missing out on work.
3. Joking Around Does Not Distract People From Work
Worried that office humor will lead to distraction? Studies show increased humor in the workplace does not detract from people’s productivity or their ability to complete tasks that require concentration.
4. Humorous Advertisements Are More Effective
On the marketing side, humor has been proven to make advertisements more memorable and increase the likelihood of the viewer taking action. Studies measuring advertisement awareness found that ads with humor had nearly 25% greater impact across the board.
5. Laughter Lowers Blood Pressure and Improves Blood Flow
Not only does laughter help your immune system, it also has an effect on your cardiovascular system. Laughter can lower your heart rate, reduce your blood pressure and even improve the function of your blood vessels; laughter causes an expansion of your endothelium (the tissue that forms the inner lining of your blood vessels), which improves blood flow and even reduces your chances of cardiovascular disease.
6. Supervisors Who Use Humor Are Perceived as Better Leaders
Leaders who integrate humor as part of their management style are not only proven to foster greater work performance, satisfaction and cohesion amongst workers, they are actually perceived as better leaders and managers. Subordinates also report experiencing greater work satisfaction when working with managers who integrate humor in their interactions.
7. Fun Environments Reduce Burnout and Turnover
Not surprisingly, humor in the workplace has been proven to enhance worker’s coping mechanisms and reduce worker withdrawal and burnout. It has also been shown to improve employee retention and reduce overall rates of attrition.
8. Humor Boosts Creative Thinking
Humor has been proven to help develop creative thinking in various settings. Not only does it provide a more colorful environment, a playful office also helps encourage openness and diminish the fear of criticism towards outlandish or creative ideas. Even people who don’t share their humor at the office are more relaxed about speaking up in settings where levity is encouraged.
A Word to the Wise
Humor may do wonders for lightening the mood, but it also has the power to dampen it. Jokes, no matter how farcical they are meant to be, can also be used to perpetuate negative stereotypes. Stay away from any remarks about protected classes, which may be interpreted as discrimination.
Jokes should also not be used to veil criticism, put somebody down or make light of something serious or sensitive. Here are some tips for lightening up a professional environment the right way:
- If you are in a new situation or one that lacks humor, you can set the tone by making a joke about yourself; this signifies that others are welcome to incorporate humor, while avoiding the possibility of offending someone. A little bit of well-timed self-deprecating humor can also demonstrate that you are self-aware and confident enough to laugh at yourself.
- If you do make jokes about others, use it to lift them up (e.g. “John keeps insisting he’s a beginner at Photoshop, but he seems to be designing the next freakin’ Da Vinci masterpiece over here!”), not to put them down (e.g. “Yeah, you were right when you said you are beginner at Photoshop!”).
- A good joke won’t make people feel singled out (e.g. “Why did you do that? What sort of weirdos were you working with at your last job?!”); it will help them assimilate (e.g. “You’re addicted to coffee too? You’ll fit in great here.”).
Humor can be a powerful tool for bringing people together in any setting, including a workplace. Considering you spend the majority of your day with your co-workers, it’s worth fostering a tight-night and playful environment that you actually enjoy.
- Humor in the Workplace: Lauren Breeze, Adrienne Dawson, and Susanna Khazhinsky, St. Edward’s University
- Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Humor, HelpGuide.Org
- Does Humor Make Ads More Effective: Millard Brown
- School of Medicine Study Shows Laughter Helps Blood Vessels Function Better: University of Maryland Medical Center
- A meta-analysis of positive humor in the workplace: Journal of Managerial Psychology, Volume 27, Issue 2
- “Humor in the Workplace” by Karen E. Klein, Bloomberg BusinessWeek
- Chapter 4: Using Humor to Develop Creative Thinking (Journal of Children in Contemporary Society) by Avner Ziv PhD