Skip to content

Are your weekends filled with way more laughter than the working week? You’re not alone. Studies show that we tend to laugh significantly more on our weekends. But what if we could increase our laughter levels at work, what would the benefits be? 

We recently ran a poll in which 90% of respondents agreed that humour in the workplace is important. Most of us inherently understand that a workplace devoid of humour is not a place you’d want to be.

Benefits of laughter

Researchers have noted a steep decline in laughter levels as we age, babies apparently laugh, on average 400 times a day while people over 35, only 15. 

Laughter releases dopamine, which makes us feel good and also aids in memory and information processing. As reported in the Harvard Business Review here – “the workplace needs laughter. According to research from institutions as serious as Wharton, MIT, and London Business School, every chuckle or guffaw brings with it a host of business benefits. Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.”

Jennifer Baker and Naomi Bagdonas teach a course on humour at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. They share their insights into the importance of humour in work and leadership in this Ted talk and in their book Humor, Seriously. Their message is that we can do important and serious things without taking ourselves so seriously. Baker and Bagdonas point to research showing leaders with a good sense of humour are seen as more motivating. Humour in the workplace is a powerful means for building bonds, creativity and resilience.

Leaving transactional workplaces behind

A global study by McKinsey of 5000 people found that employers tended to think that employees were leaving due to transactional factors, such as inadequate compensation and work-life balance. But in actual fact, employees were far more likely to prioritise relational factors, including feeling valued by their manager and organisation and having a sense of belonging. Humour can play an important role in these factors.

It’s natural to view workplaces – particularly those with a lot of compliance requirements – as serious environments. It’s a risk to put yourself out there and make a joke, but this is a key element in how we relate to each other. You might be worried about offending someone, but there are ways to ensure you avoid this; such as being self-deprecating, avoiding “punching down” (ie. not joking at the expense of those lower than you in the hierarchy!) or using observational humour that makes fun of situations instead of people.

Companies can nurture more jovial workplaces in many ways, for instance some tech companies have humorous meeting room names that staff get to pitch and then vote on. Adding a lighter note to meetings can also help, for instance staff could take it in turns during a meeting to tell two truths and a lie and everyone has to try and guess the lie.

Numerous research has shown the link between employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and profitability. It’s clearly a win win for employers and employees to increase the levels of humour in the workplace.