We’re talking appropriate humour of course, not the kind that demeans a co-worker, client, customer or management.
Humour has a place at work and I believe it can boost the bottom-line, which should get the attention of those who feel that somehow humour is a time-waster, and works against maximum productivity. It has the potential to boost morale, release some chemicals in the body that make one more alert and of course it bonds people together.
I’d like to give you an example if I may of some things I do in my workplace to spark some levity and the resulting impact. You need not copy these exact ideas, but they will give you some notion of what you yourself might do, and I’d love hearing from you about the humour in your own workplace too.
Last Christmas, my co-worker with whom I share my office space, gave me a desktop calendar – the kind where you pull off the sheet with the date on it. Each day there is a statement on it which is either a factual statement or not. The calendar is called, “Fact or Crap”. For the first couple of months of this year, I’d read it aloud for both of us and we’d guess then flip it over and read the answer on the reverse. Then we’d pitch it in the recycling bin.
Here’s what happened quite by chance however that has made that Christmas gift a source of morning humour for 10 or so of us. One day I went out and read an interesting one to two of our clerks, and they both started laughing. “Where’d you get that?” said one of them, so I told her. “Can I have them when you are done?”
It turns out that she thought it would be good to collect them herself on a daily basis when I was done with them and then she’d have them to pull out on the long car rides to the Canadian east coast when she returns home to visit her extended family with her husband and kids. Now that’s recycling!
So now what happens each morning is this: Around 8:30 a.m., I stand outside our office in the corridor and in my best game show voice loudly say, “Itttttt’s time to play Fact or Crap!” and staff walk or hustle on over if within earshot. Sometimes we have management join us, and we stand there – managers, employment counsellors, clerks, summer students all. If someone is there for the first time from another location, they don’t know what’s going on so I again go with the game show voice, “And with us today is _________, welcome to the hottest new game show, “Fact or Crap. The game where all our contestants hear a statement and guess whether it’s a fact or crap.”
They stand in a semi-circle and for some bizarre reason one of them put their hand out hovering over an imaginary buzzer one day, and now they all do it. I read the statement aloud and they simultaneously blurt out, ‘fact’ or ‘crap’. Someone usually says, ‘true!’ and we all laugh.
It takes about 4 minutes from beginning to end, and then we all disperse after cheering for those who got it right. It’s quick, but everyone shares the laugh. One of the senior clerks who works apart from the rest of us but is within distant earshot absolutely loves the game and looks so forward to it. It keeps her connected, and she likes to be called before we play if she misses hearing the announcement.
Who could have guessed that this $7 or $8 dollar desktop calendar Christmas gift would morph into a daily source of humour to start our workday?
Here’s a second and third idea. We have two whiteboards in one of our hallways that were largely unused until a couple of people started using them to promote staff recognition and fun. I noticed however that for the last couple of weeks they were blank. So yesterday I did something on both. On one, I made several tic-tac-toe games with a marker, and invited people to make a single move whenever they walked by. The game continues with everyone walking by adding an, ‘x’ or an ‘o’ until someone gets to make the winning move.
On the other board, there is a long story with many blank lines for people to insert words that will fill in the story. Such as: _______ woke up and saw it was _____ o’clock. Time for a quick _________ and then breakfast consisting of _______, ________ and _________ to drink. etc.
Yesterday I noticed someone had inserted the word, ‘lawnmower’ where it had previously said, ‘…got out their ___________ to get to work.” That kind of crazy, fun, off in some unforeseen direction evolving story. In short, a little bit of fun. This one has people stopping in the hall and putting something on the board – all in less than a single minute.
No cost involved in either idea, but some humour, some bonding, shaking off the lethargy and returning to work a little more energized and with a positive attitude. This kind of thing also has the impact of having people refocus more on their work having had a quick diversion in attention. And if I was walking down the hall with a client past the whiteboards? Personally, I’d suggest they make a move on the tic-tac-toe board. Why not share the fun?