The Value of Humor in the Workplace

It’s a practically a daily occurrence: one of my coworkers – it could be any number of them, actually – walks by my office and pauses to hurl a well-thought-out insult. Of course, I’ll then lob one back, because that’s usually what leads to some uproarious laughter.

Laughter. Fun. Humor. They’re as much a part of The Network Support Company as the servers, computers and cables that we use. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Dwight D. Eisenhower said “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” We subscribe to that. From Day One, our founder and CEO Jim Kennedy has recognized that people who enjoyed being at their workplace would perform better at their jobs. From the start, he’s been good at letting our people be who they are, as long as the environment is safe and non-threatening.

There’s some basis for allowing it. Studies show that a fun, humor-friendly work environment:

  • Breeds a cohesive team mentality, because people bond over finding the same things funny
  • Encourages better attendance because coming to work isn’t viewed as a chore
  • Allows people to “be themselves” without worrying about being seen as a goof-off or cut-up
  • Does not distract people from work or their ability to concentrate
  • Contributes to employees’ overall health, because laughter has been proven to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system
  • Reduces employee turnover and burnout
  • Boosts creative thinking

Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, President of Humor at Work (https://mikekerr.com/), and author of The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank says the amount or type of humor in any given workplace depends almost entirely on its culture. “In workplaces that encourage people to be themselves – that are less hierarchical and more innovative – people tend to be more open with their humor,” he writes.

He asserts that, at some workplaces, people tone down their humor in order to be taken more seriously. “Yet,” he writes, “this can often backfire as people who take themselves overly seriously are often, ironically, taken less seriously by the people around them.”

That, typically, is not a danger at TNSC. Now, let’s be clear, there is an important distinction about what sort of humor is appropriate for the workplace, and what’s not. While all-in-fun jabs are indeed appreciated, there’s still an unspoken rule about what’s off-limits: we don’t make sexual innuendos, we don’t attack peoples’ cultures, we don’t use a “humorous” comment to indirectly criticize, and we don’t make fun of people’s lifestyle choices.

For us at TNSC, having humor in the workplace is a quality of life issue; for at least eight hours every day, we know the quality of our life will be good…enjoyable. We work hard, but we have a great time doing it. It’s all about balance. And it works.