“Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.” – William Hazlitt
Poor employee engagement is an epidemic in America. Some studies report that nearly three quarters of Americans are unengaged at work. This is a serious problem that can be partially solved with a non-serious solution – humor, happiness and laughter.
It’s proven that laughter helps to manage stress, stimulate creativity, encourage social connections, produce endorphins and improve health. In fact, according to a study by the University of Maryland Medical Center, laughter is even linked to “healthy function of blood vessels.” All of this adds up to improved productivity.
So why isn’t laughter a key element in the majority of workplaces these days? Frankly, it’s because management hasn’t learned about this powerful secret or doesn’t believe that it actually offers benefits. Also, in some workplaces, the culture of the company just won’t allow it or just isn’t ready for it.
What are the things that you can do to increase workplace humor and happiness? How can your team lead the way to a cultural change that could become viral across your company? What can leaders do to promote change? Keep reading to learn how you can elicit change – and as a result, grow profits.
Make Humor a Corporate Goal
Making humor a corporate goal is difficult, but possible. This type of change needs to be driven from the top. You must hire the right people, make a commitment to your corporate values and foster an environment where people can be themselves.
Southwest Airlines has always been known for its humor as demonstrated in this hilarious video posted by Marty, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. This is a great example of how a corporation has promoted humor and allowed employees to be themselves.
It should be noted that Southwest Airlines seems to set itself apart from the other airlines by avoiding the financial troubles that plague this industry. Possibly, it’s Southwest’s humor that plays a role in staying financially successful.
Another company that’s mastered humor as a corporate goal is Zappos. They’re well known to have an amazingly fun culture, which fosters creativity, open-mindedness and humor. They bring in petting zoos, throw whip cream pies in executive’s faces, have family parties and string streamers throughout the workplace. You can check out ZapposInsights.com to learn about their culture. In fact, you can even learn how to improve your company’s culture through their seminars.
Zappos has found that productivity has increased in spite of what seems to be a chaotic environment by more conservative companies and individuals. And according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Zappos is expecting substantial profit growth in 2015 and they also exceeded their projected goals for 2014. Clearly, they’re doing something right.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these companies who have embraced happiness are doing well. A great culture equals success. Keep reading to learn some ideas to bring cultural change to your company through humor and happiness.
Start Creative Conference Room Naming Conventions
The culture of a company can truly be determined by the names of their conference rooms. In the 1990s, I was lucky enough to work for a popular software company in the Silicon Valley. Our conference rooms were named after vacation spots. You might find yourself in Aruba some afternoons and Maui during another day. In the 90s, we were truly ahead of the times.
Giving conference rooms fun names is a small, but significant thing your company can do to boost morale and productivity and it communicates a lot about your culture. If your company is moving to a new space or just starting up, consider the naming convention of the conference rooms – Room 22B is just not much fun and doesn’t say a lot about you.
Encourage Fun and Games
Everybody needs a break now and then from the everyday grind. We’re just not designed for long stretches of concentration. Regular breaks help us to refocus when we’re starting to zone out.
At one software company I worked for, we had a multi-use video game machine. Every day, our team would gather around it at around 5:00 and have epic Bomberman battles. It truly built camaraderie within the team and there was tremendous laughter in the group who played.
Encouraging fun breaks for ping pong, pool, legos, cards, video games, bocce ball – whatever floats your boat – helps to encourage engagement and happiness at work.
Make Meetings Fun
I know everyone is busy and in some companies there’s not a lot of patience for monkey business. If your company is more progressive, consider starting your weekly staff meeting with a funny (tasteful) video or joke. Rotate the responsibility among team members. If someone forgets to deliver, they’re required to donate a dollar for a team lunch.
This might seem like a waste of time, but in reality in gets the team engaged and helps them to remember what was discussed. And the benefits are proven by science. In a study by Loma Linda University, they found that older adults who watched a funny video for 20 minutes scored better on short-term memory tests than those who did not watch the video.
Try Laughter Yoga
Consider bringing in a professional to perform a laughter yoga workshop. Laughter Yoga, a yoga technique based on laughter started by Mumbai-based cardiologist Dr. Madan Kataria, is a growing worldwide phenomenon. In fact, according to Laughter Yoga International, there are over 6,000 laughter clubs in more than 65 countries.
This new innovation combines laughter with yoga techniques, which Kataria claims to improve mood, mimic cardio workouts, strengthen the immune system, improve attitudes and increase quality of life.
This video from the Discovery Channel explains Laughter Yoga and the science behind it, in detail.
Hold Brainstorming Sessions
Holding brainstorming sessions fosters open-mindedness, sparks creativity and sometimes becomes humorous – depending on the profession you’re in. These sessions create a positive environment in which ideas are freely shared and respected. If you work in a creative field, such as Marketing, you’ve probably experienced laughter during brainstorming sessions when planning a new campaign or promotion.
Other departments don’t have the luxury of experiencing this type of fun and humor. For those departments, hold regular brainstorming sessions to foster ideas about how to creatively solve problems. Keep in mind that extroverts tend to dominate brainstorming sessions. In order for the introverts to get a word in and for the ideas to flow without judgment, consider asking everyone to anonymously write down all their ideas. Next, a moderator reads the ideas and then they become open for debate.
What does your company do to make the workplace fun and engaging? Let us know!