How to Laugh More at Work

When was the last time you laughed at work?

No, not the polite ‘haha’ response. And typing ‘lol’ in an email (while you are completely stoned face) doesn’t count either.

I’m talking about a deep belly laugh, with your coworkers. The kind that fills you with endorphins, wakes you up, and connects you to the people around you.

Has it been a while? You’re not alone. Many workplaces have become devoid of laughter.

Yet, we know a team that laughs regularly has a major advantage. Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review reported that leaders with any sense of humor are seen as 27% more motivating and admired than those who don’t joke around. Their employees are 15% more engaged, and their teams are more than twice as likely to solve a creativity challenge — all of which can translate into improved performance.

After 18+ months of unrelenting chaos, humor can feel like a tall order for leaders. We have to be clear, kind, strategic, AND somehow funny??

Don’t worry. This doesn’t sentence you to an awkward improv class. Here are three tips to incorporate humor into your work (even if things are tough):

  1. Cringe counts.

Puns count as humor. So do corny knock-knock jokes. Especially if your team has had a tough go of it this year, a lame joke can break the humor ice. Even if it only warrants a pity laugh (at first), reminding your colleagues that work can be a fun place can kickstart more laughs down the road.

Don’t be afraid to look a little silly; it’s in the service of a greater good.

  1. Sharing is caring.

You don’t have to be particularly witty to make the team laugh; The world is full of gifted comics that will do the heavy lifting for you.  If your team could use a laugh, share the things that are making you laugh. Maybe it’s a funny TikTok you saw or a Netflix special you thought was hilarious.

One of our clients has a Slack channel devoted exclusively to funny videos of dogs. No carefully constructed jokes or killer punchlines necessary, just literally, dogs being dogs. It sounds silly, but on a bad day, it can work wonders.

  1. Be careful with self-deprecating (or company-deprecating) humor.

Making fun of yourself can add levity to a tense situation. Poking fun at the organization’s quirks can make a team feel closer together. Yet, there is a grain of truth in every joke. And if the butt of the joke is always the same (you, the company, the industry) the joke eventually becomes less funny and more real.

Strive to balance this deprecating-style humor with light-hearted jokes about things outside of work like current events or pop culture.

Of course, any good comic knows that timing is crucial. To some degree, you have to read the room. A cringey dad-joke might not be appropriate in all situations. But after the last year and a half, it might boost the mood more than you think.

Leaders, both formal and informal recognize, laughter can jumpstart teamwork, innovation, and engagement.  We are only in control of our own behavior. The world will keep spinning whether you’re laughing through it or standing by.