Corporate America needs to loosen up! According to Harvard and Stanford research, the workplace is "in the midst of a laughter drought." Babies laugh about 400 times daily. By the time we reach the age of 35, we're only laughing 15 times daily. A recent Gallup study for the U.S. found that our laughter drought spans Monday-Friday, because we just can't find the fun in work.
Laughter and humor is necessary to create an engaged workforce and positive corporate culture. Especially with the onslaught of negative information coming at us every moment of the day, having a workplace that values fun helps us to maintain perspective and optimism.
At my first company Information Experts, we had a Good Times Committee (GTC) that was responsible for planning fun events. We had a line item in our budget for Fun. No matter what the day held, we knew that every day there would be lots of laughter along the way.
Why Fun is Serious Business
Here are 4 ways workplace fun improves your culture and bottom line.
1: Laughter keeps us focused on tasks.
Research proves that people who watched a funny video clip spent twice as long on a tedious task compared to people who watched neutral or positive (but not funny) videos.
"There has been increasing recognition that humor may have a functional impact on important behaviors in the workplace and that exposure to humor may increase the effectiveness of employees," said psychological scientists David Cheng and Lu Wang of the University of New South Wales.
2: Laughter is a great natural team-builder.
A study from the staffing firm Accountemps revealed that nearly 80 percent of executives said an employee's sense of humor is important for fitting into the company's corporate culture.
Mike Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps, said an employee's sense of humor can boost morale and improve connections with co-workers. "Creating a positive and friendly work environment can lead to higher levels of employee engagement and productivity."
Humor can also lighten the mood when something goes wrong. "Not all business matters are funny, but a little levity can go a long way, particularly when it comes to defusing tension or recovering from a minor mishap," he said. "There's nothing like a joke to put people at ease."
3: Well-executed jokes convey intelligence and confidence.
How you execute a joke makes all the difference in how people perceive you. Harvard Business School research found these conclusions during a study that assesses how joke-telling drives how others perceive you:
- A joke teller is perceived as more confident than people who don't tell jokes.
- An individual who tells a failed joke may be viewed as less competent, especially if the joke is offensive.
- If a successful joke teller experiences a boost in perceived confidence and competence, it would likely improve others' perceptions of the joke teller's status.
4: Laughter improves employee health and reduces sick days.
Laughter is proven to provide many health benefits that manifest in the workplace. Laughter:
- Helps us to manage depression and anxiety.
- Helps us fight disease. Our blood vessels open up, improving the body's ability to fight off disease.
- Releases endorphins, allowing you to instantly feel happier.
- Relieves stress, so you don't get overwhelmed.
- Promotes creativity from being in a more relaxed state.
- Inspires you to see the world from a different perspective.
- Improves your health to keep headaches and illness at bay.
- Clears your head so you can be more productive.
Injecting Fun Into Your Firm
There are several ways organizations can integrate fun, laughter, and humor into the workplace. Here are a few.
- Hire fun people.
It sounds simple but it's important! Seek out employees that have hobbies and community involvement outside of work.
Information Experts once hired an employee because he was a perfect fit for our clients and our service offerings. When he showed up at the office on the first day with a cot (to sleep in his office), we were alarmed. He clearly didn't have the same philosophy on work-life balance that I had established as a core value. He didn't last long.... and he unknowingly made an appearance in the year-end slideshow at the holiday party.
- Set aside time, people, and money for fun.
Establish your own Good Times Committee (GTC) so that they can plan scavenger hunts, happy hours, holiday parties for non-traditional holidays, major holiday events, and life celebrations.
One of my favorite activities as Information Experts' CEO was reading "Goodnight Moon" to my employees at each company baby shower.
- When people are stressed out, give them room.
Be attuned to the mental state of your employees and give them what they need. We all need to step back and pause in times of stress. Create an environment that supports and encourages mental health breaks.
Ben Congleton, CEO of Olark Live Chat, expressed gratitude and compassion when his web developer Madalyn Parker shared that she needed a mental health day. The exchange has been shared more than 20,000 times.
Life is too short to be in a position or company that doesn't bring you joy, or doesn't support you through difficulty. Loving what you do, and loving where you do it, are keys to long-term health and happiness.