Bring Back Fun & Laughter at Work


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Did I ever tell you about the time I .....................    Ha, regular   and hearty  belly laughs and playfulness  are some of the  best elixirs in the world for sanity, health and happiness.    Laughter and having fun can  change and empower our business and personal lives even in the darkest and most difficult of times. So it has always puzzled me why much of the business world discourages it so covertly (and sometimes overtly too). 


The Mayo Clinics'  article  ‘ Stress Relief from laughter – it’s no joke’  brilliantly highlights the short and long term benefits of a good laugh.   It’s not just about the soft fluffy feel good stuff – it has really valuable and tangible outcomes which can positively impact the bottom line for businesses. The relief of stress, increasing personal satisfaction levels, easing physical pain and elevating mood and concentration levels can all influence workplace productivity, absenteeism, employee engagement, new talent attraction, client relationships and staff retention to name a few elements.  And that is simply good business.

Within 60 seconds of walking into any  business you can sense if  laughter and fun is lacking.  Having fun is often frowned upon as it’s almost considered the antithesis of work.  There is  an old school mindset and belief that if you are at work you should be head down, bum up and revert to a commercial robot.  And the more dour and lifeless folk  are fearful of those who are more ebullient and playful and hence try to squash any expression of  joy.   

Over the last few months I have been observing how much fun and laughter there really is in meetings, workplaces,  conversations and even written communications.     And  it appears that circa  70% of people are just are too damn serious.    Hey we are not saving lives - unless we really are in occupations that are.    It appears that  having fun and a real laugh is often like pulling teeth. 

Very few people are having  conversations and meetings  where the ice is broken with some fun, repartee and warmth.   And of course this is ever so prevalent in the hiring and recruitment eco-system.   We all have commercial objectives, problems and issues  which need to be addressed daily.  And sure I get it that business is primarily for profit and must sustain shareholders, economies and families etc.  But why the hell do companies not encourage laughter and fun?  

I would like to put a  challenge out to do a few new things for the next 4 weeks to test how laughter and fun can improve your workplace morale & productivity :

5 Minute Laughter Fest – why not just all stand up at 9am each morning for a week and laugh really loudly. Be crazy, have fun and watch faces smile and crack up and dissolve with silliness.

Team Meetings - Ask what are some of the funny things you have seen this week ? Don’t start off with the normal hard line excel spread sheet stuff – let others loosen up and relax before the harder tightening up.

Interviews– Start from a platform of a little fun and see how the interview can change direction, put the candidate at ease and hey you as the interviewer will have more fun doing this.  Try a first question along the lines of :   “ tell me what has been one of  the funniest work situations you have been in or encountered ?” Because  this is such an unexpected  question you will draw answers that  will give you  different insight into your candidates.  And  there-in may be some gold you didn't expect to find around cultural alignment also.

And on the subject of interviews - remember that if your office environment and culture resembles a cemetery it will be harder to attract top talent (unless its a nocturnal gig &/or the candidate is desperate to take anything).

Client Meetings - try and start off with a fun story to engage. Vulnerability around our funny foibles can be a good start as is a little fun banter.

Mistakes/ Problems - why not try and see if you can find something funny in a mistake and use that as a initial response before going into the hard line discussions.  People are generally very embarrassed when they make a mistake and will get their defence guns out.  So a little humour will  soften the situation initially.  Sure this will be a challenge but TRY.   Unless we are talking death, fraud, loss of money etc, hey we are humans.

Yourself -   Have a little laugh at your foibles  and funny little ways etc.   Take the mick out of yourself sometimes and share it around. 

Emails – hey why not try where you can to  add a few fun/witty lines – people will appreciate a break from the dullness.   Show people how to lighten up by you going first.  Often people are looking for someone to give them permission to be human by their own example.

Management – encourage laughter and don’t believe that silence and lack of laughter and fun equals productivity – it just doesn’t.   It often equals the living dead and/or  compliant robots who produce the bare minimum.

Clowning – wear something funny one day a week.  The awesome Patch Adams with his Gesundheit Institute championed Clown Therapy to help dying children and their families.  So if it can work there surely some fun or clown therapy can work occasionally in your office ? 

There are so many ways to bring back fun and laughter in the workplace and  I would love to hear about your ideas and experiences in my challenge.