Pallavi Pinakin explains why humour keeps workers motivated and engaged

Have you ever been so bored during an office meeting or presentation that you almost fell asleep? The fact is that most workplaces are deathly dull. So intently focussed are we on the bottom line that we forget to let our hair down and have a little fun!

We seem to forget that we’re human beings, not robots; and that humans need some laughter and enjoyment, to stay motivated and engaged… so that they can perform at their best.

As the world’s first ‘humour engineer’ Andrew Tarvin explains: “People who use humour at work are more productive, less stressed, paid more and happier, which is something that I never learned in any one of my college classes.”

The deft use of humour makes you appear more competent, easier to approach and better liked. It also breaks up monotony and grabs people’s attention, making it a great tool for those who conduct meetings, give presentations and speak publicly.

When it comes to building team rapport and trust, laughter is a great bonding factor because it breaks the ice, defuses tension and draws people closer. Those who can share a laugh become more comfortable working with each other. Increased innovation and productivity are two more side effects of a pro-humour pro-fun work culture. In short – everyone could do with more laughs in the workplace.

So does that mean you should start cracking jokes in the office and telling funny stories to your colleagues? Sure… go ahead and make an effort to bring more smiles and grins into your place of work but be smart about it. Remember that everyone doesn’t respond to jokes in the same way and humour often trans-lates badly across cultures.

Here are six tips to follow when injecting wit in an appropriate manner into the professional domain.

SAFE TOPICS Experts say that it’s important to keep office ‘funnies’ PG and PC. It’s all too easy for even well-intentioned jokes to offend coworkers and make them feel uncomfortable, and that’s not something you want to do. An office is not a comedy club so don’t make it about freedom of speech. Humour in the workplace should be inclusive and toned down, not racy and politically incorrect. In other words, conservative jokes are a better bet than edgy ones.

THE RIGHT TIME Don’t overdo it. There’s no need to pull out multiple funny stories from your arsenal when one well-placed pun can do the trick. Remember that there’s a time and place for lighthearted jokes so don’t try to bring them into every situation. As Tarvin says, “if you’re going to use humour at work, recognise that humour doesn’t replace work. Humour is like the salt in a meal. You wouldn’t eat an entire meal of salt, would you?”

DO NOT TARGET Some people confuse humour with mockery or belittlement, not realising or caring that the target of their jokes may be hurt and humiliated. Leaders need to be careful not to deploy aggressive humour by singling out people and teasing them. Not only does this undermine the confidence of team members but also encourages them to pick on each other.

You know you’re getting it right when people laugh with you and not at someone else. Even better, poke some good-natured fun at yourself to demonstrate that it’s all in a spirit of playfulness. For instance, you can end a presentation by saying something like ‘I think I’ve bored you enough so I’ll wrap up this presentation now.’

POP CULTURE Solid advice for those whose coworkers belong to a different age group. Whether you’re an older person surrounded by millennials or a college graduate working with senior employees, it’s good to be on the same wavelength as your colleagues.

Pop culture is a great way to gain access to materials and references they know and appreciate. So take note of the shows, movies, publications and sports that your coworkers talk about. Even better, ask for recommendations and familiarise yourself with a few of them. Then observe their delight as you make a pop culture related quip!

PERSONAL STORIES Personal experiences are the most genuine source of humour. The next time something funny occurs in your own time, make a mental note to file the story and share it with your coworkers.

Embarrassing moments or lessons learned can also be related in a lighthearted way that makes people smile.

PRACTISE JOKES You may feel hesitant about using humour in the workplace because you’re unsure whether people will find you funny. With a little practice, you can be sure of eliciting at least a smile.

A good way to sharpen your wit is to watch stand-up comedy. Watch these professionals carefully to get a better sense of their timing and delivery; then practise your material on friends and family. When you see genuine amusement on their faces, you’re ready to take it to the office.