How a Little Humour Can Improve Your Work Life

Work may seem like a serious place. But, according to research, introducing some laughter into work life can contribute to our well-being and productivity.

So what are the benefits of humour at work?

Humour creates an atmosphere of levity and a sense of perspective that can dissolve tension and, in turn, protect us from stress at work and even benefit our health. Research suggests that people who engage in more conversational humour with colleagues feel happier and have higher job satisfaction.

Laughter serves to create and strengthen social bonds in humans, as well as in our chimp ancestors. One evolutionary theory claims that laughter first emerged in these ancestors as a response to signal safety and relief to others after something unexpected occurs. This has implications in modern times, and it may explain why colleagues who laugh more together tend to enjoy a more safe or comfortable environment and a greater sense of cohesion among teams.

Feeling comfortable in our work environment can empower us to think openly and take risks, a foundation for finding creative solutions at work, contributing to our productivity. Studies have shown that people who use humour at work are more likely to reach their target goals, and to receive a higher performance rating from their management. What’s more, when employers integrate humour into their leadership style, they become more likeable, while maintaining respect and influence. One survey study found that employees who say that their manager “makes us laugh at ourselves when we are too serious” or “uses humour to take the edge off during stressful periods” were more likely to trust their manager, and feel a sense of belonging and contentedness at work.

A hint of self-deprecating humour can also be a useful tool for leaders and other employees to make themselves more approachable. When leaders and employees share this style of self-effacing banter, employees tend to gain even more professional respect for them.

Still, there are some types of humour that can be counterproductive, namely condescending humour that belittles people’s worth or status. This is different from gentle teasing, which can bond colleagues together and help us to not take ourselves too seriously.

Of course, humour is not always called for, particularly if it’s a distraction from our tasks or keeps us from seeing and addressing real problems at work. But in many situations, sharing jokes with colleagues and finding humour in the chaos or the mundane can make work a little more fun and would have made the last few months, bearable.

Laughter always helps.