Why Humor Has A Place in The Workplace

November 13, 2020 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The old, archaic way of thinking is to have an all-business, serious, and sterile work environment, with humor reserved for the break room or over after-hours cocktails. But this perspective has since gone the way of Blockbuster and Circuit City, as new data has emerged which shows that humor in the workplace can be a key to a company’s success.

Studies show that humor improves performance  

Studies from MIT, Wharton, and the Bell Leadership Institute have all shown that laughter, jokes, and more of a lighthearted environment have a positive impact on both the quality of the life in the workplace and also a company’s bottom line. According to a Robert Half International report,  91 percent of executives believe that humor is a vital factor for career advancement and 84 percent believe that people with a sense of humor perform better at work. For Matt Cramer, a former stand-up comedian who co-founded REMCA, a seven-figure real estate marketing firm, humor is an essential part of his daily routine. 

Related: 7 Brands Killing It With Humor on Twitter

“In my work,” Cramer explains, “I am around lots of entrepreneurs, and the ones that keep a smile on their face, don’t take themselves too seriously, and do something cultural in their life are the ones that not only get ahead but have a better quality of life.” 

How humor can benefit your business

Humor increases workplace health. A healthy, happy work environment is a key ingredient of many successful companies. Unfortunately, the conventional workplace can be full of stressors and other pernicious health influences. Humor has been shown to be one of the best ways to cut down on stress and help people to better cope with challenging circumstances and difficult tasks. A good, steady dose of humor can also strengthen the immune system, which keeps employees happier and healthier, and, therefore, less sick days.

Humor improves teamwork. Teamwork has always been an essential part of any successful company, and now, in this era where innovation and new ideas are often the deciding factors on whether a business makes it or not, this is more important than ever. While most companies engage in team-building activities and cooperative workshops, one of the cheapest and easiest ways to enhance workplace cohesion is through humor. Chris Robert from the University of Missouri-Columbia has found that regular laughter shared among groups of co-workers opens the avenue for better communication, and better communication allows for increased cooperation and teamwork. In The Handbook of Communication Skills, Hugh Foot summed up the value of humor in the workplace by writing, “Sharing humor fosters rapport and intimacy and promotes friendship by showing common sentiment and reducing tensions.” Humor is also an excellent way for employees to break the ice, get comfortable with each other, build rapport, and enhance mutual understanding and compassion, which are all key elements of a finely tuned work environment and something that has taken on increased importance as broader American society reaches new heights of polarization. 

Related: How to Use Humor at Work Without Acting Like a Jerk
Humor can increase productivity. In addition to a healthier and happier workplace, humor can also make a workforce more productive. When people laugh their bodies release dopamine — the “feel good” hormone — which makes them more ready and able to perform challenging mental and physical tasks. On top of that, humor also opens up the floodgates of serotonin, which energizes mental capacity and stimulates the imagination. A 1976 study showed that simply listening to comedy could make people more creative. According to Dr. Avner Ziv of Tel Aviv University, scoring on standardized tests can be improved if they are taken in a playful environment. While Sigal Barsade of the Wharton School of Business found that humor can also heighten a worker’s decision-making acumen. 

“So there is every reason to expect that you can generate more creative problem solving among your employees by allowing employees to have a good laugh on the job,” wrote Dr. Paul McGhee, who has researched the connection between humor and work extensively.

Five simple ways to increase humor in the workplace  

Re-decorate the workplace interior to not be so sterile and “office-like.”

Introduce diverse color schemes, creative kitsch, and unique and comfortable furniture — think beanbag chairs and short Japanese-style tables. 

Create more laidback communal spaces so workers can congregate in more of a comfortable manner. 

Occasionally organize fun and humorous activities and events during the workday

Encourage humor and lightheartedness in employee presentations. 

Include humorous GIFs in company emails.

Related: How to Be Funny in the Workplace

In today’s world, where the pace of change and need to innovate is faster than ever, a healthier, more cohesive, and more productive workforce is the main part of the core strategy of many companies. For any business looking to improve their future outlook, start from the ground up and have a good laugh. 



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