Work & Humor: The Best Team
Albert Einstein once said that “Creativity is intelligence having fun,” and Andrew Carnegie said “Where there’s little laughter, there’s little success.” One of the challenges I face as an organizational humorist and stand-up philosopher is convincing people that my services are something they should invest in. Often I hear complaints that there’s too little humor in our day to day or that their work life needs more humor. But they’re unwilling to bring me in to their organizations. I suspect the reason for the hesitance has a lot to do with the basic belief that if we’re laughing, smiling, or enjoying ourselves, we must not be being serious; we can’t be doing real work. But that’s just false. Sure work can be hard, can be less than enjoyable, but aren’t we told about the importance of doing what we love so we won’t “work” a day in our lives? Isn’t one of the things that make us uniquely human is that we do work and create and spend a great deal of our time willingly do so? If you answered yes, then you know work and laughter and mirth aren’t opposites. In fact, they’re teammates.
Think of a time when you were working and enjoying it. Was it a time when the work was hard but fulfilling? I am sure there have been times. Have you ever been doing some work that was difficult, almost drudgery, only to have it improved when you and a coworker started laughing about something? Didn’t it make the time go by quicker? Again yes. Have you ever really been dreading doing something, or have been putting it off, only to get to it when you’ve had your attention drawn to another more enjoyable event? Yeah, probably. Humor, mirth, and laughter are necessary components to a good working environment and you know this.
Why is humor necessary? Because of the enjoyment it brings; because it’s restorative both in physical and mental health. One of the reasons disengagement is so high across the global workforce is because we’ve had reinforced this notion that enjoyment is not part of work. I had a boss when I first started working that loved to say “If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean.” I remember the looks that managers gave us when we were laughing or sharing a joke on the job. It’s not as if we weren’t working, we were. Sure, there is a time to clean and stay focused, but there is also a need to pause our focusing and refresh our mental browser with a smile, a joke, or a laugh.
Just like our attention wains and needs to be refocused, so does our work. One of the best ways to refocus our work is to hit us with a little humor. These added elements not only help us cruise through our work better, but it is literally enjoyable. And those things are not to be seen as anathema to work, they are rightly seen as partners in the project. I encourage you to find ways to add humor to your day to day at both work and home. Trust me, you’ll like the way you laugh.