Work is usually serious, and some jobs are more serious than others. However, that doesn’t mean that workplaces have to be serious all the time. Indeed, science tells us that introducing some humour at work can contribute to productivity and well-being.
Humour is a character strength, part of the virtue of transcendence. It means you like to laugh and tease, bring smiles to other people, and see the light side. It brings a sense of perspective and an air of levity. It can dissolve tension and protect us from work stress. It may even improve our well-being and is associated with happiness at work, as well as job satisfaction.
The science is simple enough and well-known. If the punch line hits (often not the case in dad jokes), your heart rate rises, your brain releases neurotransmitters. Laughter ensues (or at least a smile), and the rush of dopamine, serotonin and a family of endorphins make you feel good.
Shared laughter is a collective experience. It establishes common ground and makes us feel comfortable. We’re enabled to think more creatively, and we worry less about risk. Productivity rises.
Kind leaders use humour to ‘take the edge off’ during stressful periods. They are neither less respected nor less influential, but they are certainly more likeable. They are certainly more trusted.
Of course, employing humour needs care and judgment. Condescending jokes might work for professional comedians, but they have no place at work. Gentle teasing and a good measure of self-deprecation is the way to go. It also isn’t always appropriate, especially if it’s distracting or detracts from addressing serious problems. But finding humour amongst the chaos or the mundane, or simply sharing a joke will more often than not raise the quality of work life.
So there you have it: to titter is human; to laugh? Devine.