Edward Leigh, M.A.

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Making Work Fun!

By Edward Leigh, M.A.

Laughter on the job increases job performance! It's true! Dr. David Abramis, at California State Long Beach, has studied fun at work for years. He's discovered that people who have fun on the job are more creative, more productive, better decision-makers and get along better with co-workers. They also have fewer absentee, late and sick days than people who aren't having fun.

I travel a great deal and in many hotels, they ask guests to fill out a comment card. On the card, they usually ask, "What is the purpose of your trip?" The two choices are "business" or "pleasure." Why can't business be a pleasurable experience? Why does it have to be business OR pleasure? Business should be fun!

One misconception that we must rid from our minds is the notion that seriousness is the same as professionalism. That is a false statement. We could still be professionals and enjoy our work. Professionalism means doing our job well and treating others with respect. We need to take our jobs seriously, but ourselves lightly. If we start to take ourselves too seriously that can lead to burnout.

People often tell me, "This humor at work idea does not work for me; I am not a funny person." You don't need to "be funny" to benefit from workplace humor. Stand-up comedy has to with "being" funny. Workplace humor has to with "seeing" funny ... seeing humor all around us to cope with workplace stress.

Here are some top tips to make work fun:

  • Put together a Humor First Aid Kit, filled with fun toys to relieve stress. Here are some things to get you started: stress balls, noisemakers, bubbles, fun hats, silly glasses and buttons. My favorite prop is a Smile on a Stick. If I don't feel like smiling, I put the Smile on a Stick in front of my mouth and I have a great big smile on my face!

  • Start a Humor File, which could be physical file folders or electronic files. Look for the humor that is all around us, including bumper stickers, funny signs, newspaper articles, cartoons, etc. I am always clipping things out and filing them -- I have different files for different subjects, such as :Church Humor" or "School Humor." This is one of my favorite bumper stickers: "Money talks. Mine says goodbye!" My favorite newspaper headline: "Thieves Steal Toilet Seats from Local Police Station. Police have Nothing to go on."

  • Make meeting enjoyable! Turn those dull meetings around -- try adding a theme, such a food, holiday or movie theme! Have a chocolate theme or even an Elvis theme! Use them to emphasize meeting concepts; if you are talking about teamwork, add a sports theme. Add humorous items to each meeting agenda, such as, "Why do they call it minutes when the meeting goes on for hours?" Often times, the focus of a meeting is directed toward what's not working instead what is working. Reenergize your meeting by acknowledging positive elements of the workplace.

  • Schedule Joy Breaks. If are feeling overwhelmed, have a plan to deal with those feelings. When I am overwhelmed, my Joy Breaks include, a brief walk (physical exercise helps relieve tension), meditation, reading cartoons, listening to music or playing with my "Let Me Out of Here" box. I have this little box on my desk that starts shaking and then you hear a voice saying, "Let me out of here." The box comes in handy when I feel I have to "Get out of here!"

  • Begin a Laughter Log, filled with fun experiences, both at work and home. You will be surprised at all the fun things that happen to you. Humor is all around us, we have to be on the lookout for it. Jokes are wonderful of course, but what really connects us to other people is not jokes, rather it is stories from our lives. Stories have the human connection. After I share a story from my life in a speech, people often come up to me afterward and tell me, "When you told that story about your dog, that reminded of the fun I have with my dogs." We connected through humor.

  • Place a Humor Bulletin Board in a high traffic area. Post funny articles, cartoons, pictures, quotes, etc. Encourage people to post their favorite funny things on the bulletin board. Here is a fun idea: have everyone bring in baby or high school graduation pictures. Post them on the bulletin board and give a prize to the one who makes the most matches. Try using pet pictures too!

  • Establish a Joy Gang whose purpose is to plan and implement a variety of different activities and events throughout the year. Humor is infectious. Have as many people as possible infect your organization with mirth! The people at Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream began this fun concept.

  • Use humor to make a point. If you're working to deadline and need "quiet alone time" get some of the special yellow caution tape and put it on your doorway or cubicle entrance. Draw a chalk body outline on the floor. If anyone interrupts your flow remind them politely of what happened to the last person who bothered you!

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© Copyright 2001 Edward Leigh, M.A. All articles belong to Edward Leigh, M.A., but you are encouraged to reprint them providing that you leave the article unaltered and include this information at the end of the article: (If you need a color or black-and-white photo to accompany this article, please contact us. There is no charge for the photo.)

For information about Edward Leigh's content-rich and entertaining programs on communication, effective meetings, workplace humor and presentation skills,
call 1-800-677-3256 or email Edward@EdwardLeigh.com.