Are you smiling after you saw this meme (or Me-Me as I used to think they were called)? Did you feel a little rush of serotonin (the happy endorphins) through your body? Perhaps you neck muscles loosened just a little – it’s physically challenging to work remotely all day, every day, isn’t it!

If so, you have just illustrated to yourself some of the values of humour.

BTW if you didn’t even crack a small chuckle, are you doing ok over there?

We all know lockdowns are tough, and if this current one is draining even your comedic energy, then please reach out for a quick chat. Talking, even virtually, to others is a great way to boost energy.

Annnd now back to your regular viewing aka point of this blog.

Given the popularity of shows like The Office and Schitts Creek, Adam Sandler movies, events like the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and people such as Celeste Barber; I’m pretty confident that most people enjoy a hearty chuckle, most of the time.

So, whilst most of us probably inherently understand the value in humour, there is little doubt that humour has become vital as a way to help us navigate our way through the ongoing effects of this pandemic.

The benefits of humour

We know it feels good to laugh, but have you ever wondered exactly why it feels so bloomin good?

Here’s a little infographic I prepared earlier with the help of the Mayo Clinic and a few other reputable sources.

 

Why is humour important in a workplace?

The answer to this question is probably pretty self-evident.

If individuals are feeling all the benefits of humour noted in the section above, then clearly that flows onto the team that individuals are a part of. Which in turn, flows on to the organisation as a whole.

Stanford Graduate School of Business faculty members Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas (also authors of a book called Humor, Seriously: Why humor is a secret lesson in business and in life) dug deep into this question, and by interviewing 1.4 million people, in 166 countries, they discovered some amazing statistics such as:

“Research shows that leaders with any sense of humor are seen as 27% more motivating and admired than those who don’t joke around. Their employees are 15% more engaged, and their teams are more than twice as likely to solve a creativity challenge — all of which can translate into improved performance.” 

Humour in the workplace is also an important tool for:

  • Helping build trust, because when we crack a funny, we reveal more of our true and authentic selves – which is how we build trust
  • Making the people we work with more approachable, because we can find common ground with them via humour
  • Breaking tension
  • Boosting morale

 

“Part of it is realizing that humor at work is not really about being funny. It’s about being human and more connected to our colleagues. It’s not about what I say and whether people think I’m funny; it’s about how a joke will make people feel when it lands on them”.

(Aakar & Bagdonas, McKinsey Author Talks Series)

Remember not all jokes are funny

It would be lovely if I didn’t have to write this last part.

However, having spent over two decades dealing with the fall out of inappropriate behaviour, (including running more training sessions on bullying, discrimination and harassment than there are days in a year), has sadly proven to me that I do, in fact, need to spell this out.

Not all jokes are appropriate for the workplace (or anywhere, really).

Laws preventing acts of discrimination and harassment spell out that is not ok to ridicule someone based on particular characteristics like race, gender, sexual preference or religious beliefs.

Bullying laws enforce what should be a no-brainer: it is not ok to denigrate, demean or humiliate a co-worker for any reason.

Every time I ran one of those BHD training sessions I mentioned above, whether it was at a factory in Campbellfield or Corporate Headquarters in Collins Street, there was ALWAYS at least one person who would greet this ‘news’ with a comment along the lines of ‘Oh, so we can’t have fun at work anymore’ or alternatively naming me as a badged member of the Fun Police.

It saddens me to realise that there are still people who don’t seem to be making a joke unless it is at the expense of others.

The fact is: it isn’t lawful (let alone kind) to do so.

Lead by example on this one I beg you. When your title is formally that of ‘Leader’ or not.

If you see someone at your workplace doing this, call it out. Immediately. And of course, do not under any circumstance be guilty of this inappropriate ‘humour’ yourself.

Can humour be learned?

According to the experts, it can. Basically, you just need to start somewhere and practice.

Here are some suggestions for how and where to start:

  • Email signoffs can be a great way to inject humour and show more of your personality and creativity. My mate Melitta Hardenberg is Queen of the out of office messages, check this out.
  • Even lockdowns and frustrations of an ongoing pandemic present opportunities to inject humour. At the start of each team meeting, you could ask everyone to share something that made them smile since the last meeting.
  • Utilise the natural comedic talents of any ‘home office colleagues’ and (bonus) share a little more about the authentic you with your co-workers. Here is an funny example of me trying to record a helpful video about I statements with my partner.
  • In this great HBR article, the authors of the study mentioned above, shared (American) examples of
    • The executive who had her five-year old make signs for her to hold up in meetings (“What are the next steps?,” “You’re on mute”)’
    • The CEO who “accidentally” left his screen-share on during a company wide Zoom call as he typed “things inspirational CEOs say in challenging times” into Google;
    • The senior director who challenged her leadership team to create TikTok dance videos to share with the broader group.

Or share videos like this one.

 

Humour is an important tool in the culture toolbox.

Want to know more about how to improve culture in your workplace? Book a time here and let’s chat.

And share an (appropriate) joke or two during said chat.