With summer in full swing, your idea of fun might not have anything to do with the workplace. However, numerous studies show that humor in the workplace can relieve stress, increase productivity, build trust, and when done right, help promote employees to leadership roles. No kidding!
The Laughter Drought
Babies laugh 400 times a day. The average person over age 35 laughs an average of 15 times on each weekday, according to Gallup. Something tragic has happened on our way to the work world: we’ve lost our sense of humor. While humor might be tragedy plus time (according to Mark Twain), this tragedy is no laughing matter. Employee wellbeing, teamwork, productivity, and leadership hang in the balance. So, get your giggles on!
Humor as the RX for Stress
If your workplace is one where fun goes to die, your office environment might be affecting more than your morale. It may be affecting your health. That’s because a good guffaw goes a long way to help keep your body tuned.
The physiological response to humor and laughter enhances the intake of oxygen, stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by the brain. Laughter fires up and then cools down the stress response, decreasing heart rate and blood pressure while inducing a relaxed feeling.
Even the anticipation of having a good chuckle increases levels of beta-endorphins, which make us feel good, and of the human growth hormone, which helps keep our immune system functioning.
Humor also helps us keep things in perspective. Research has shown that people with higher “humor scores” tend to perceive potentially stressful events as more of a challenge, whereas those with lower humor saw them more as a threat. (Kuiper, Martin, & Olinger, 1993).
Humor Facilitates Team-building
There’s a plethora of research demonstrating why humor helps people get along. People with a good sense of humor are typically viewed to be trustworthy, authentic, and intelligent. This phenomenon may stem from the fact that laughter sparks the release of oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates social bonding, increases trust, and quickens self-disclosure.
Humor Improves Productivity & Creative Problem-Solving
Humor can trigger new brain connections by stimulating the right hemisphere of the brain, which fuels creative thinking. In a research experiment detailed in “Positive Affect Facilitates Creative Problem Solving,” Alice M. Isen found that simply watching comedy films improves creative problem solving skills.
An Australian study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that when experiment subjects were given a boring job to do, then exposed to something funny, they worked twice as long as subjects who watched videos about nature or business management.
In yet another study from the Journal of Applied Psychology just one use of humor among work teams resulted in improved performance not just immediately, but up to two years later.
Possessing a good sense of humor and knowing how to use it helps people get ahead. A Robert Half International survey, for instance, found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Another study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.
Tips to be the “Right Kind of Funny”
Humor in the workplace can be tricky. In general, never joke at another’s expense. The safest target is yourself. In The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, researchers Peter McGraw and Joel Warner offer the following tips.
- It’s not whether or not you’re funny, it’s what kind of funny you are. Be honest and authentic.
- If you can’t be “ha-ha” funny, at least be “aha!” funny. Cleverness is sometimes good enough.
- Good comedy is a conspiracy. Create an in-group that shares the humor.
- Don’t be afraid to chuckle at yourself. It signals everything is okay.
- Laughter is disarming. Poke fun at the stuff everyone’s worried about.
Are you looking for a new role in a company that knows the value of humor? Talk to Phoenix Partners.