Laughter. There’s nothing quite like it. How often do you laugh at work? If the answer is “not a lot”, then it’s time to fix your work-laugh balance and make your office a happy workplace. Permanently.

Laugh your way to a happy workplace

Photo: Scott Webb

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.”
Lord Byron

Think about it. When was the last time you caught yourself laughing (out loud) at work? And I don’t mean sending an emoji or a meme. I mean one of those deep laughs which penetrate your abdomen like a giant tickly feather and give you a warm bellyache. Or better still, a “side-splitter”.

It’s highly likely you can’t really recall. Why is that I wonder? Well, probably because you take yourself far too seriously. “But I have to stay professional,” I hear you say. “I don’t want to be seen as the class clown.” OK I’m with you. We all like to take care with how others perceive us. Even if I hate the whole perception is reality idea.

Before we begin

Now, I want to make it clear that this is not another “be positive 24/7” post. By nature I’m a happy-go-lucky kind of person. But this obsession with positivity and life hacking self-help prophecies is tiring. And it actually stresses me out sometimes.

I mean, isn’t it a tad unrealistic to be consciously making the effort to stay positive? Sometimes the negative aspect of a “fall”, and the contemplation which follows is not just a therapeutic experience. It’s necessary. That way you know how disappointment feels. And you can come out on the other side better for it.

So, why so serious?

The thing is, far too often we confuse solemn seriousness as “proper” conduct at work. Irrespective of your workspace setup (i.e. cubicles or open plan), having fun is often seen as inappropriate behavior in many established corporate environments. But what about promoting a happy workplace?

Why so serious?
Photo: Rawpixel

Well thankfully this is changing. Especially in the startup world, where things are generally more relaxed. And not just in terms of dress code. But still, the accepted norms, or unwritten rules encourage a dour, “silence is golden” atmosphere.

There are many reasons for this. It could be because of the nature of the work. Or the personality types of the employees. Or perhaps the character of the boss. Chances are, however, is that your coworkers would prefer things differently.

Humor me

OK I get it. We don’t all have the same sense of humor. This can be a problem. I mean I’ve met some pretty oddball people in tech and the media, as well as long-winded corporate types. And some insufferable wannabe “entrepreneurs” who think humor is about patronizing or making fun of appearance and/or generally trying to make the other person look small so they look big.

As long as you have a bit of common sense (which actually is not so common these days but hey what can one do?) then you can judge what’s unsuitable or NSFW on a humoristic level.

Bring your humor to work

You don’t want to be the guy or gal who’s seen as the joker of the pack. But this is such a wrong attitude. As long as you’re great at doing what you do, keep laughing as well. I’m not saying run around the office like a nutjob and prank people Jackass style. Or put people’s office stationary in jelly like Tim did to Gareth in The Office.

But, adding a sprinkling of humor to break silences and bypass formalities can make a huge difference to your mood and everybody else’s. Thus transforming an ordinary office or workspace into a happy workplace. Much more than any foosball table, pinball machine, bean bag, or snazzy espresso machine can.

Laughing matter

So what kind of things are there to laugh about? Come on, deep down you know. But here they are in case you forgot:

  • Tell your funny stories. These are all around us every day. It can be personal or work-related. Open up, reveal a bit of yourself.
  • Make fun of yourself. Playful self-deprecating jokes are a great way to make people feel relaxed around you (and each other).
  • Laugh at each other’s weird habits. Whether it’s the girl who’s always late, the office “musician” who plays air drums or the serial banana eater.
  • Share your favorite puns. And pounce on new ones. Puns can be hilarious. And not just for smart-arsed content marketers or copywriters. You could say they are punderful (pun intended).
  • Pranking – OK, depending on the work environment I’d say this is more on the extreme end of the spectrum. I would recommend going lite first. Then leveling up if the coast is clear.

A brief note on pranking, since it is one of my personal favorites. It can get pretty serious though so take care. A friend of mine who works in IT says it’s a way of life for them. There’s endless hilarious stories. Loosening screws on chairs so they collapse on impact.

Or the time they filled a blowing machine with a kilo of talc powder facing the seat of a colleague’s desk. Then hooking it up to a colleague’s PC power on function. You can guess what happened. Then there’s some milder food-related pranks. BBQ sauce-filled “chocolate” éclairs anyone? Is that two spoons of salt in your coffee?

The above list is by no means comprehensive. And there’s no guide on when and where to use them. Although I highly recommend at the start of the day, or at appropriate times during meetings to lighten the mood. You probably have a million other ways and means.

Scale up your smile with a laugh

why so serious?
Photo: Brooke Cagle

As we are often told a smile costs nothing. Neither does a laugh, and its miles better for you. And usually everybody else given its infectious nature. Well, apart from Janice’s laugh from Friends. So go ahead, be the change. Bring more than your smile through the door.

Be honest and act honest. Trust me, it will get people on your side much more than always being cautious, composed and at arm’s length. Put a bit of yourself into it. Not only into your work, but into the work environment itself.

Reasons why laughing makes a happy workplace:

This may sound ridiculous. I mean who needs reasons to explain why laughing is good for you? We know it’s great! But did you know all of the below?

  1. Body chemistry. Science says that laughing is pretty damn good for your body and mind. It increases serotonin and endorphins in the brain, which lighten stress and boost your mood.
  2. Creativity. Stimulate and creativity. Laughter frees the creative juices and helps you think easier and deeper. It also makes us more receptive to new ideas.
  3. Motivation. Not only are you more relaxed after a good laugh. You’re also more likely to be motivated. Especially to learn and try new things.
  4. Exercise. Laughing regularly not only relaxes muscles and eases tension in the body, it’s also a damn good work out.
  5. Wellness. It protects your heart, replenishes the lungs and increases immune system
  6. Trust. Laughter is a key relationship builder. It reinforces trust, something priceless in the workplace. You are much more inclined to put your faith in a colleague you connect with on a personal level through humor. And better still, you’ll stay friends with these people long after work is over.

Laugh while you labor

Conclusion. Office politics (yes that annoying elephant in the room) dictates there will always be someone who seeks to turn your laughter at work, and/or efforts to have fun, into something derisory against you. Why? Because unfortunately that’s just the way some people are wired. Call it jealously. Or envy. Plain misery, even. Call it what you want. You just have to rise above this in the best way you know. Which will usually be to laugh it off.

Don’t hold back. Choose to go one step further than a smile. Make that joke. Tell that funny story. Take the edge off a work problem. Try out that playful prank and inject some fun into the day. Last but not least. Laugh [your ass off]. Especially on Mondays.


Graham Wood Graham Wood

The Starttech Ventures Storyteller. Studied Journalism with Business at the University of Central Lancashire. Has worked in various product marketing management positions for the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Vodafone, as well as in several journalism and media roles since 2000.