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Laughter on the Job: Humor Works... at Work!

By Edward Leigh, MA

Laughter in the workplace increases job performance! It's true! Numerous studies have found that people who have fun on the job are more productive, better decision-makers and have strong relationships with co-workers. They also have fewer late and sick days than people who aren't having fun.

I travel a great deal and in many hotels, they ask guests to fill out a comment card. On the card, they usually ask, "What is the purpose of your trip?" The two choices are "business" or "pleasure." Why can't business be a pleasurable experience? Why does it have to be business OR pleasure? Business should be fun!

One misconception that we must rid from our minds is the notion that seriousness is the same as professionalism. That is a false statement. We could still be professionals and enjoy our work. Professionalism means doing our job well and treating others with respect. We need to take our jobs seriously, but ourselves lightly. If we start to take ourselves too seriously this can lead to burnout.

People often tell me, "This humor at work idea does not work for me; I am not a funny person." You don't need to "be funny" to benefit from workplace humor. Stand-up comedy has to with "being" funny. Workplace humor has to with "seeing" funny ... seeing humor all around us to cope with workplace stress.

Top Tips to Make Work Fun!

Place a Humor Bulletin Board in a High Traffic Area. Post funny articles, cartoons, pictures, quotes, etc. Encourage people to post their favorite funny things on the bulletin board. Here is a fun idea: have everyone bring in baby or high school graduation pictures. Post them on the bulletin board and give a prize to the one who makes the most matches. Try using pet pictures too!

Put Together a Humor First Aid Kit. This is a box filled with fun toys and gadgets to relieve stress. Here are some ideas to get you started: stress balls, noisemakers, bubbles, fun hats, silly glasses and buttons. You can obtain items at toy/magic stores, card shops and catalogs. One program attendee shared a fun story about using props to make a point. This attendee was working on a deadline and needed "quiet alone time," so she used some special yellow caution tape and put on her doorway!

Start a Humor File. This could be physical file folders or electronic files. Look for the humor that is all around us, including bumper stickers, funny signs, newspaper articles, cartoons, etc. I am always clipping things out and filing them - I have different files for different subjects, such as: "Church Humor" or "School Humor." This is one of my favorite bumper stickers: "Money talks. Mine says goodbye!" My favorite newspaper headline: "Thieves Steal Toilet Seats from Local Police Station. Police have nothing to go on."

Make Meetings Enjoyable! Turn those dull meetings around -- try adding a theme, such a food, holiday or movie theme! Have a chocolate theme or even an Elvis theme! Use themes to emphasize meeting concepts; if you are talking about teamwork, add a sports theme. Add humorous items to each meeting agenda, such as, "Why do they call it minutes when the meeting goes on for hours?" Often times, the focus of a meeting is directed toward what's not working instead what is working. re-energize your meeting by acknowledging positive elements of the workplace.

Schedule Joy Breaks. If you are feeling overwhelmed, have a plan to deal with those feelings. When I am overwhelmed, my Joy Breaks include: a brief walk (physical exercise helps relieve tension), meditation, reading cartoons or listening to music

Begin a Laughter Log. This log is filled with fun experiences, both at work and home. You will be surprised at all the fun things that happen to you. Humor is all around us; we have to be on the lookout for it. Jokes are wonderful of course, but what really connects us to other people is not jokes, rather it is stories from our lives. Stories have the human connection. After I share a story from my life in a speech, people often come up to me afterwards and tell me, "When you told that story about your dog, that reminded of the fun I have with my dogs." We connected through humor.

Establish a Joy Gang. This group of people has one purpose - to plan and implement a variety of fun/energizing activities and events throughout the year. Humor is infectious. Have as many people as possible infect your organization with mirth! The people at Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream began this innovative concept.

Have fun at work today!

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