Laugh at work to generate greater cameraderie, lighten the mood, and gain health, status and communication benefits.  ID 149280987 © Fizkes | Dreamstime.com
Laugh at work to generate greater cameraderie, lighten the mood, and gain health, status and communication benefits. ID 149280987 © Fizkes | Dreamstime.com

When’s the last time you had a good laugh at work? Ideally very recently. And if not, make it happen today or tomorrow!

A Recent Laugh: Don’t Laugh!

I had a grand time facilitating a mindfulness workshop for a group of teenage interns recently. We played a game in the oh-so-official top-floor conference room of their high-rise building called ‘Do Not Laugh.’ And boy, did we laugh.

The game is simple – line up, and each person says “ha ha, hee hee”. If a person laughs or smiles, they’re out of the line/game. (Try it – it’s harder than you think.) Three guys – then two – battled it out a long time until we got a winner. The rest of us were giggling or guffawing – some from the time I announced the name of the game.

What was the point? One thing was to notice how it felt to laugh – or not to laugh, emotionally and physically. Another was to notice your strategy, thinking and personality. Yet another was to notice the energy in the room before and after all of that laughing. Especially for teens, letting off some nervous energy allowed them to stay more present and focused for the rest of the session.

Why Laugh at Work?

But I digress. You may be wondering: Why would I want to laugh at work more?

Laughter at work has so many benefits, especially at work. Here are a few.

  • Sharing a laugh creates stronger and more intimate bonds between people. These bonds can even enhance teamwork. One of my clients makes people laugh at work regularly, and his team members love him for that (and other things).
  • Choose to laugh rather than complain or point a finger. Betty-Ann Heggie tells a story about someone stealing her idea and saying “I thought it was a great idea when I mentioned it a couple of days ago.” This is funny, rather than a harsher form of calling someone out.
  • A light comment can diffuse tension. Sometimes, what everyone needs is a chance to step away from a tense or contentious situation for even a few breaths. The right words and a laugh can help everyone see it’s not as dire as it might have felt.
  • People who tell a joke that works at work are perceived as having greater confidence, competence and status. (Note: A joke that works is that it’s appropriate and people laugh.) This 2017 research is cited and explained in simple terms here. A laugh at work might even lead to promotions and pay increases, based on a 2004 study.
  • Laughter really is the best medicine. It has many proven health benefits – both physical and mental. It relieves stress and improves mood, but also boosts the heart, muscles and immune system. Healthier at work is good for everyone.

How to Generate Laughs at Work

Now, cracking jokes at work has its perils too. If no one thinks your joke is funny, or if some co-workers think your joke is not appropriate, it can be severely damaging to your relationships and career too.

So before you say something you think is funny, be mindful. Take a breath or two to review how likely it is that those around you will take it as you meant it, and will find humor in it as well.

Be sure your intention is only to bring out the best in everyone, and in the situation. Because if you bring any hint of ill-will, someone is likely to notice and feel offended.

Also, be sure it’s authentic. Something that makes you laugh. Something that whether you are repeating a joke for the office or just saying something off-the-cuff, it resonates of your true self.

Here’s one I just heard. I got a job at a paperless office. Everything was great until I needed to use the bathroom.

Generate joy. Have a good laugh at work!