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A Serious Look at Fun: The Benefits of Laughter In Your Workplace

A Serious Look at Fun: The Benefits of Laughter In Your Workplace

Does your workplace regularly include moments of joy, laughter, and fun? Or is the tone more serious?

Fun at work may seem like a frivolous topic, but there is science behind the importance of laughter, humor, and fun.

Serious benefits of fun include:

  • Stress reduction and positive hormonal boost: Multiple physical benefits are shown in research studies collected by the National Institute of Health.
  • Increased productivity: People who were shown a short humorous video were 10 percent more productive at problem-solving than a control group.
  • Team bonding: A Harvard Business Review study showed that social time as a team leads to positive changes in workplace communication patterns.

At Best Christian Workplaces, we see the value of fun as a component of a flourishing workplace. That’s why one of the questions on the Employee Engagement Survey is “I have fun at work.”

Danish comedian Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Humor and fun provide a connecting point between people. This relational connection improves the work atmosphere and helps individuals and teams thrive.

Humor Provides Bonds

In a focus group with a Ministry Partner, one participant shared, “What I love about our leader is that he knows how to use humor in a healthy way. It helps me see him as a regular person.”

Top leaders who have a sense of humor and have fun in the workplace can reduce tension, break down barriers, and build trust. This attitude filters through the whole organization. A transactional leader might feel like fun is a waste of time and effort, but it actually has positive benefits within the organization.

At the team level, including shared fun experiences regularly, helps with bonding and improves teamwork even on the serious projects that teams undertake.

How to Increase the Fun Factor

Look for small and large ways to intentionally weave fun into your workplace. Share ideas that have worked, or not worked, among leaders and managers—creating an HR (Humor Resources) idea list.

  • Use icebreaker questions to start team meetings.
  • Have wind-up toys, Legos, or other small props on the tables in meeting rooms.
  • Encourage people to wear certain colors, costumes, or funny t-shirts on particular days.
  • Include fun factors in Zoom meetings as well—with different backgrounds, costumes, or props.
  • Regularly include small and large celebrations in the rhythm of your work. It is fun and bonding for teams and whole organizations to acknowledge and celebrate wins together.

One manager decided to bring his daughter’s plastic toy horse to meetings. The team was getting stuck on too much detail in their meetings, so he invited anyone to turn the horse on its side when they were “beating a dead horse.” That provided a humorous signal to keep the meeting moving forward.

A Ministry Partner who had surveyed with Best Christian Workplaces for several years and been stuck in a pattern of less-than-healthy scores had a change of leadership. By focusing on what they learned through their surveys, the organization improved into a healthy workplace with engaged employees. They had a party to celebrate! Fun became part of their workplace experience, further bonding employees.

Beware of Un-Fun

Including humor and fun in the workplace doesn’t mean that you need to be a comedian and share a comedy routine. And while jokes can be funny, beware of unhealthy humor. Sarcasm usually cuts down other people or situations and is not appropriate—it divides rather than bonds. In the same way, jokes that highlight gender, race, or other differences are never suitable for a workplace (or any other place).

If you are working in a multicultural setting, realize that humor doesn’t always translate to different cultures. Whether you are part of an international organization, or interacting with diverse cultures within one country, be aware of how cultural background and language impact perceptions.

Use discernment in what will be perceived as fun in your workplace setting. And check in regularly with staff at various levels of the organization for feedback on ideas and activities.

Let the Fun Begin

If you aren’t hearing much laughter in your workplace, start by introducing a fun element into your next staff meeting. Fun doesn’t have to be complicated. If the leadership team shows up in silly hats, there will be a lighter spirit in your meeting.

Empower managers and front-line supervisors to include fun elements in their teams. Provide a budget for fun, and encourage cross-team sharing of ideas so the fun spreads across the organization.

The fun factor in a healthy workplace can be modeled from the senior team. And it can bubble up from various parts of the organization. Both aspects will reinforce a sense of joy, so your organization can reap the benefits of fun in a flourishing workplace.

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