Why So Serious? The Benefits of Humor at Work

By Kevin Ciccotti, CPCC, PCC. After the year we’ve just experienced, I don’t think anyone would deny that we could all use just a little more laughter in our lives. But what about more laughter at work? I think most of us would agree that laughter feels good and is good for us. So why shouldn’t it be part of our daily work life?

Right about now you might be thinking, “What is there to laugh about, Mr. Comedian?” Well, I think we can always find something to laugh about — even under the most difficult of circumstances. If anything, the lack of humor in troubling times only makes them seem worse. And believe me, I’ve been someone who has taken my own life way too seriously and suffered for it.

So, let’s start with the basics, because I’m not advocating hiring a company comedian or holding open mic lunch hours to find the best humorist in the company. Humor is simply having two (or more) divergent or unrelated thoughts connect in new and unexpected ways. It’s the element of surprise. And our brains love novelty.

The Value of Humor

When it comes to humor there are many benefits for us. Increased well-being, higher productivity, reduced stress, etc. Let’s look at a few of the most prominent ones.

Humor creates an environment of light-heartedness and provides a sense of perspective that can help dissolve tension and protect us from stress. When we learn to laugh in tough times, it provides us with the ability to overcome our challenges and persevere. And research suggests that humor leaves us feeling happier and with a higher sense of job satisfaction.

Laughter strengthens our social connections, and helps us to bond with others. It alleviates tension and creates a more comfortable environment where collaboration can thrive. Shared laughter becomes a collective experience that creates common ground, and a sense of belonging.

When we laugh, we feel more comfortable. And when we’re more comfortable we’re more able to think openly, more likely to take intelligent risks, and contribute to creativity and productivity in the workplace. Humor disrupts the pattern, takes our mind to another place. You can’t feel two things at the same time, so when you’re laughing or feeling enjoyment, you cannot be stressed or anxious.

Not to mention the fact that those leaders who are able to integrate humor into their leadership style appear more likable, cultivate more trust in their teams, and exert more influence over their group. When a leader is willing to laugh at themselves, it makes them more approachable, and people respect them more. So many of us are afraid to show any weakness or vulnerability, but that is exactly what is required in order to build authentic relationships.

There are also many physiological and psychological benefits to humor. These include lower blood pressure, increased oxygen flow to the brain, improved immune system function, increased happiness, improved pain tolerance, and reduced sick days. And these are but a few of the benefits! Are you starting to see the point?

You Don’t have to be “Funny”

You might be thinking, “Okay, I get it. Humor is a good thing for me and my team. But I’m not very funny.” Well the first thing you need to understand is that you don’t have to be funny to encourage humor in the workplace. It’s more about being open to the fact that almost anything can be a humor opportunity. It’s that “someday I’m going to look back and laugh at this” mentality. If you think you may laugh about it in the future, then why not laugh now?

Certainly, in this day and age, there are lines we don’t want to cross, but beyond that the key is to be open to the everyday events that have the possibility of being seen through the lens of absurdity. It’s an opportunity to let creativity flourish. We can use humor to uplift, to encourage, and to add value to others.

And the evidence is clear from the many studies done that humor leads to improvement in productivity, confidence, communication, learning, memory, inspiration, collaboration, resilience and many other positive outcomes. So c’mon, laugh a little! It’s good for you.

For more about communication, building teams, and leadership, schedule a consultation with Kevin.