How to bring laughter into the workplaceWork is supposed to be serious, right? How can we possibly get anything done if you people keep clowning around?!

Well, according to a 2007 study performed by University of Missouri-Columbia researcher Chris Robert, humor “has meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers. The ability to appreciate humor, the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded.”

People typically spend 40 or more (sometimes much more) hours a week in the office. The mood of that office can have a big impact on the overall health and well-being of an employee. A rigid, somber environment can cause stress and burnout. An open, lighthearted workplace improves mood, productivity and invites creativity. And the longer the hours, the greater the effect of the environment on the person. Some companies have made “fun and laughter” a policy, saying it’s an effective way to improve employee satisfaction, build teamwork, and reduce absenteeism and turnover.

A “fun workplace” initiative is becoming a major factor in growing private companies. Along with scheduling employee get-togethers outside of the office, you need to also bring some enjoyment into the office!

I am extremely lucky to work at a company that invites regular bouts of silliness. If you walk through our office, you hear serious business interactions and real work being done, but there is rarely a time in the day where you don’t hear someone giggle, chuckle and even guffaw. I’ve even heard chortles. Why? Because we are funny people! Want proof? Check out this quick “educational” video on job interviewing!

Ok, it’s true that we are funny people, but the real reason why we laugh so much is because we have a culture that provokes camaraderie, openness and the sharing of ideas. Want more smiles, happier employees and a healthier bottom-line?

Here are 5 ways to invite humor into your office:

1. Make sure attempts at humor are appropriate: Nothing is unfunnier than mean-spirited, derogatory or profane humor. Keep it professional and compassionate.
2. Hold silly events: Encourage goofiness by having a dress-up day, paper airplane contests or other fun games. True, wearing a Hawaiian shirt is not going to bring hilarity to a grim, bleak office, but it’s a start.
3. Make light of (some) rules: Putting rules to rhyme, song or other comic form, can reinforce them while lessening their sternness.  For example: An office where I worked had a very relaxed dress-code and hired a lot of young people. Accordingly, there was an annual need (around summertime) to remind everyone of what was and wasn’t acceptable to wear. The boss did this via a PowerPoint entitled “You might be breaking the dress code if…” Think Jeff Foxworthy. It made us laugh and reminded folks that thongs belong underneath clothing.
4. First allow, and then recognize, humor in meetings, the newsletter or other company wide public forums. Let people make funny contributions, add comics or pictures of animals… preferably cats. Cats always get a laugh.
5. Hire humor: After considering skills, behavioral traits and references, look for people who can laugh (at themselves, or even make you laugh). You probably do this anyway. An interviewee who is capable of making a (tasteful) humorous comment under the pressure of a job interview is bound to impress.

So c’mon!  Lighten up and make ’em laugh! It improves employee moral, communication and productivity. Plus, it’s just plain fun!