Is it possible to be hilarious and work-appropriate at the same time? Absolutely! You can effectively bring humor into the workplace — and it should improve engagement and morale.
It’s just more nuanced than repeating a joke you heard at a comedy club or watching a stand up special.
The incorporation of humor into the workplace can have long lasting benefits not just physically, but professionally. Research suggests that people who laugh together like each other more.
Benefits when you bring humor into the workplace
Facilitated laughter between employees can not only make them happier, but build camaraderie, help them work better together and improve collective productivity. Not to mention, if employees like each other, they will probably feel less inclined to leave their job, given the emotional connection they’ve made.
That said, if you try to implement humor without thoughtful consideration and a plan, it can lead to unwanted results.
So here are five tips to get started appropriately and effectively:
1. Establish boundaries
Data that’s both qualitative and quantitative about your organization should be applied to assess what’s appropriate when bringing laughter into the mix. Ahead of each event that I do, I ask event organizers to tell us what they’d like us to avoid altogether.
Ensure that your company has a trusted, designated person to speak on behalf of the group and call out specific topics they want to avoid. This person is generally in the HR or People Leader’s role and knows the makeup, sensitivities and core values of the company. From this information and assessment, you can act accordingly.
Based on our findings, the most common corporate comedy no-nos are jokes that are sexual, racial, political or religious, and anything that makes the experience non-inclusive of all people. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s something companies will want to consistently reiterate.
2. Give a chance to share stories
Sure, there are great “dad jokes,” riddles and knock-knock jokes that are fun to share, but these rarely reveal anything about the joke teller. I suggest playing Two Lies and a Truth — it’s a lot more fun than Two Truths and a Lie.
There’s a subtle difference between the two games, but an important one. It allows you to really focus on the single fact that you’re most proud to share, and have a little fun with the two fibs. Sharing a single fun fact encourages the individual to elaborate on their experience, which facilitates vulnerability and inclusion.
3. Try an improv exercise
Yes – I know this can feel awkward and silly, but it actually works! Studies have shown that improv can impact creativity, acceptance and psychological well-being.
One of my favorites is “Going on a Picnic” — where participants go around in a circle, starting with Person A, and say “I’m Person A, and I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing Item A.” Then the next person says, “I’m Person B and I’m going on a picnic and bringing Item A [repeating the previous person’s item], and Item B [your item].” Continue this pattern until you’ve gone around the room and laughter will organically happen, while everyone’s brains warm up for the meeting.
This is a great alternative to asking people how their weekends were — or worse, talking about the weather, yet again.
4. Remix company jargon
It’s time to “align” on which office buzzwords we never have to “circle back” on again. To kick off your next meeting, have everyone send in what they think are the most overused office buzzwords at your company and share the top three as an ice breaker.
Sharing a laugh about the terms you hear over and over on a daily basis keeps the humor corporate-friendly and relatable for all team members. If you’re feeling extra creative, you can incorporate the buzzwords into a game of buzzword bingo.
5. Be consistent
Implement daily or weekly laugh breaks. I suggest doing it right before an otherwise hectic or tense meeting. Far too many times, I hear about businesses that spend a lot of time and budget on an incredibly fun and impactful company off-site event, only to fail in the follow-up for the rest of the year.
Having an ongoing calendar that carves out laughter consistently is something that workplaces don’t do as often as they should. Workplaces tend to prioritize annual off-sites that may incorporate humor. But what happens after an off-site is just as important as what happened there. It’s crucial that businesses don’t lose the connections and momentum gained from bringing laughter into the mix.
Just like exercising or social media posting needs to be constant, laughter should be approached the same. For example, I have seen teams build off the momentum of their off-site by incorporating smaller moments of surprise and laughter which bridges them until the next big team outing.
Laughter is an excellent tool for boosting morale and building company culture. When brought into the workplace intentionally, humor has the ability to unlock a team’s revenue potential, establish a cultural foundation to recruit new talent, and most importantly, retain top talent.