MT Expert: The power of laughter in the workplace

Think humour's got no place in a corporate environment? You're having a laugh, says Siobhan Hammond of creative agency BergHind Joseph.

by Siobhan Hammond
Last Updated: 08 Jun 2012

When we embark on our voyage into adulthood and become working men and women, laughter and play become less important. It's as though, as soon as we pass the threshold of work, a hypothetical ‘serious’ switch is flicked. All too often, in a corporate setting, we become stern, unemotional and won’t frequent in laughter or social engagement.

It may sound like an extreme interpretation but the idea is not far from reality.  When at work, most of us believe that we must be serious in order to be taken seriously. Why? The reason is two-fold:

1.    We have a fear of being seen as "[insert name here] the joker" which will threaten our professional position and career progression

2.    Historically the workplace has been seen as a place ‘to get the job done’; with employers and employees taking the view that if work isn’t a toil we simply aren’t working hard enough

The truth is that this style of thinking and working is outdated. Research proves that an absence of laughter in the workplace is a major contributor to workplace stress. Where laughter is encouraged, the opposite is true: in 2002, an industry-wide study of 2,500 employees found that 93% believed laughter on the job helped them to reduce work-related stress. This is one of the most common causes of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces today (according to CIPD), which costs the UK economy around £8.4billion every year .

That said laughter is much more than a tonic to reduce stress. Laughter is in fact a product of humour and instilling it at work creates a positive environment that builds bonds between colleagues, encourages positive and innovative thinking, creates better communication, and eliminates negative attitudes; the result of which is increased productivity and profitability.

But, before getting carried away with the concept of humour and laughter at work, there is some small print that you should read. Using humour certainly won’t suit every organisation and should never be used as a quick fix for employee engagement problems.

For humour to flourish, an environment needs to exist that employees feel welcome, comfortable, and relaxed within.  This will then naturally inspire people to express themselves - from which humour will organically grow and with it so will laughter.

Once the right environment exists, the key is ensuring it is maintained and that the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate humour, laughter and playfulness isn’t crossed – something which can only be avoided through use of common sense and effective management.

The time has come to revert back to our childhood tendencies.  Let’s take laughter and embrace it.  Let’s use its power in the workplace to transform it into a place of positivity, productivity and engagement. 

Find out more about BergHind Joseph

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