For many, work by definition is not fun. You put your head down, fight through your day, and go home. It doesn't have to be that way, for you, or for your team. If you find ways to build laughter into the workplace, you not only help everyone enjoy the day more, but you get a more productive team in the process.
A Word of Caution
Not all jokes are created equal. If you read the news at all, you have heard about harassment claims and employee lawsuits over what some people think of as harmless jokes. While you should encourage humor in the workplace, this should not come as jokes at the expense of a person or a group.
Take the time to think about how humor works in your workplace. If humor is crass, cruel, or diminishing to anyone, you should avoid it.
Break Up the Day
With that said, injecting good-natured humor into the workplace can do much to help with morale, mood, and performance. One important contribution you can provide through humor is to break up the monotony or tension in the day. Too often work serves as a pressure cooker, where everyone worries about achievement or a monotonous experience.
In either of these cases, giving your team a chance to lift heads and laugh can create a pleasant respite during the day. It staves off frustration and fatigue, helping keep people moving, and helps you prevent burnout.
A side effect of all of these benefits, and an added direct benefit for your team, is that you lift the mood of your team members. Laughter serves as a natural antidote to people taking themselves too seriously. In addition, when you infuse the workplace with humor that does not divide or attack others, it tends to bring everyone together into a shared, pleasant experience.
Any time you can do something simple and fun to help bring your team together, you should consider taking advantage of the opportunity.
All of the steps to improve workplace mood sound great, but many hesitate because they fear it will take away from team productivity. That idea has some intuitive sense to it; a focused workplace is a more productive workplace, and the notion of pulling people from their work might seem antithetical to what you want to achieve.
In truth, though, no one can really focus exclusively on a single task for eight to 10 hours a day, five days a week. People's focus naturally wanders after a time. By giving people breaks to laugh and enjoy those around them, you allow them to focus in shorter stretches, which maximizes their ability over the course of the day. Over time, the benefits are even starker. You retain your people longer and get more out of them each day.
Humor can be one of the best productivity tools your workplace offers. Embrace it to get the most from your team.