The benefits of laughter in the workplace are impossible to overstate. Humor is linked with wisdom and intelligence. It makes us more likeable and trustworthy to our colleagues, it fosters our creativity and defuses unpleasant situations, it facilitates communication, and when used appropriately, it can even positively influence how others perceive us and make us more successful.
Moreover, study after study proves that a sense of humor is essential for our physical and mental health. According to research from the prestigious Mayo Clinic, humor stimulates many of our organs, activates and relieves stress responses, and soothes tension. Over the long term, humor can even improve the immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction, and, unsurprisingly, enhance our mood.
“If you could choose one characteristic that would get you through life, choose a sense of humor.” – Jennifer Jones
Laughter makes work easier
People who use humor at work are more efficient, happier – and better paid! Humor boosts morale while reducing turnover because employees look forward to coming to work, says Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. “Employees like to work for and with others who have a sense of humor. We all prefer to have fun at work. It should not feel like an indentured servitude environment.”
Humor humanizes us as well, says Taylor. “Humor allows both employees and managers to come together, realizing that we all seek common ground”. A good sense of humor helps us to de-dramatize problems, making them less intimidating and easier to solve. It’s a great tension-breaker. We don’t have to tell jokes all day, adds Taylor, “but well-placed humor that is clever and apropos to a business situation always enhances an employee’s career.”
“You can’t be serious!” is the credo of Mike Kerr, international business speaker and author of The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank. For Kerr, humor is vital to a progressive, innovative, open company culture. It keeps people balanced, helps build strong teams, makes managers more effective, and even makes those meetings we often dread more productive. “Humor in meetings encourages participation, minimizes conflicts, helps people retain information, opens up dialogue and sparks creativity.”
“If you had to identify in one word the reason why the human race has not achieved and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.'” – Dave Barry
Humor ignites innovation
“Humor is a key ingredient in creative thinking,” says Kerr. “It helps people play with ideas, lower their internal critic, and see things in new ways.” Humor and creativity both involve seeing our challenges in fresh ways and making connections we’ve never thought of before. Lynn Taylor agrees, saying humor “establishes a fertile environment for innovation because people are more inspired when they are relaxed.”
Humor can also help companies by creating an optimistic atmosphere that encourages collaboration and brainstorming, where employees know their suggestions will be valued rather than ignored. And that leads to greater productivity. As Taylor explains, “It also stands to reason that if you’re in a more jovial atmosphere, you’ll have more passion for what you do. Your work ethic will increase, and your enthusiasm will likely be contagious. It’s a win-win for you and your employer.”
Whether you’re an intern, a manager, or a CEO, a good sense of humor will make you more approachable and will encourage those around you to respond in kind. And the more accessible and open we are, the more cohesive and successful our teams will be.