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Why Laughter Is Good for Business

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

I've always been a fan of finding humor in everyday moments and connecting with people over a laugh. Some of my favorite moments at work are the ones when a co-worker and I ended up crying laughing over an awkward moment, an inappropriate out-of-workplace-character slip of the tongue, or an unexpected mishap. Those moments helped me build relationships, feel connected at work, reduce the stress of demanding roles and projects, and enjoy productive, creative energy throughout the day.

Most of us know that laughter is good for our personal health and well-being and experts are increasingly acknowledging that laughter can also bolster career success and overall workplace wellness. Around the office, laughter can motivate and facilitate team-building, improve stress management, and increase productivity and morale.

Here are a few findings from healthcare organizations that have studied the effects of humor on humans:

  • After you laugh, you go into a relaxed state. Your blood pressure and heart rate drop below normal, so you feel profoundly relaxed. (~American Association for Therapeutic Humor)

  • By the time children reach kindergarten, they laugh about 300 times a day. Compare that to the typical adult who, one study found, laughs a paltry 17 times a day. (~American Association for Therapeutic Humor)

  • Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. (~Mayo Clinic)

  • The mirthful laughter experience appears to reduce serum levels of cortisol, dopac, epinephrine, and growth hormone. These biochemical changes have implications for the reversal of the neuroendocrine and classical stress hormone response. (~ American Journal of Medical Science)

The bottom line is: when we laugh we feel better.

How Increasing Laughter Can Enhance Performance

It doesn’t take much to reach the conclusion that all this extra brain power and relaxation leads to enhanced performance at work. Still, for too many, the prevailing attitude is that one cannot be “professional” and have fun at the same time. If you’re laughing, then you're not working, right?

Well, if that's true I'm in trouble, but my experiences indicate otherwise, and so do these findings:

  • The Harvard Business Review (September 2003) reported that executives with a sense of humor climb the corporate ladder more quickly and earn more money than their counterparts.

  • University of Wisconsin professor Stu Robertshaw cites one corporate study in which the firm experienced a 21 percent decrease in staff turnover and a 38 percent decrease in Friday absenteeism after incorporating humor into the workplace.

  • Robert Half International, an executive recruitment firm, surveyed 1,000 executives and found that 84 percent felt that workers with a sense of humor do a better job.

  • David Abramis of California State University led a study that concluded that employees who have fun on the job are more productive, more creative, are better decision-makers and team players—and have fewer absentee, sick and late days.

  • A survey of 737 corporate CEOs by Hodge-Cronin & Associates found that 98% said they prefer to hire someone with a sense of humor to someone without.

Injecting humor in the workplace is not about turning your organization into a comedy club. It’s not about entertaining others or being able to tell a joke. It’s not about pranks, practical jokes, or juvenile antics. Instead, it’s more of an attitude, a way of viewing and processing things that enhances connection, happiness, and creativity.

Injecting humor into the workplace... is more of an attitude, a way of viewing and processing things that enhances connection, happiness, and creativity.

Ideas for Bringing More Humor Into Your Work Life

Fun and laughter affect attitudes. And once you affect attitudes, you can unleash a new level of productivity and commitment in your organization (or in yourself). But where do you start?

The following are just a few suggestions to get your own creative humor juices flowing:

Make it a point to look for humor. The more you do, the more you’ll find (and receive!). Try looking at things from an out-of-the-ordinary perspective.

Collect humor. Using your humor profile, start a funny file, collecting cartoons, jokes, comic strips, and stories from newspapers, magazines, and friends. Set aside a portion of your office, desk, or wall as a “humor corner.”

Encourage laughter in your department. Establish a humor bulletin board, keep a prop box, play simple games regularly, gather a “fun committee,” and encourage humor breaks.

Laugh at yourself. One of the characteristics of effective leaders is the ability to laugh at themselves when things they try don't work. Without that, people view them as critical.

Use humor in the course of normal business. Add humor to presentations, performance evaluations, meetings, memos, newsletters, emails, and parties and recognition events.

Keep the humor appropriate for the office. Never poke fun at anyone in a subordinate position in the organization and be careful not to offend others with humor that deprecates anyone's beliefs or background. There is plenty of wonderful, clean humor out there.

Figure out your humor profile. Listen to yourself for a few days and see what makes you laugh out loud (and be honest!). Have your coworkers or staff do the same.

I hope this article helps you incorporate a little fun into your day!


Andrea MacKenzie, Founder of Lead With Harmony, is an MBA, multi-certified coach, Kolbe-Certified consultant, and leadership and team-building expert with over 20 years of combined experience in corporate roles and business consulting. Andrea enjoys working with growth-oriented business owners and executives who advocate for the advancement and well-being of the people they serve, hire, and inspire.

Author's content is modified and used under license, © Claire Communications

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