During a time when many employees are over-stressed, overwhelmed with change and burnt out by their jobs, humor is a tool that can be used to increase employee engagement and make work a whole lot more fun.
Since keeping employees happy is a winning way to ensure job satisfaction, what can employers specifically do to boost employee morale?
While there isn’t a catch-all answer to that question, making people laugh and smile tends to be synonymous with happiness in the moment. And, when employees laugh and smile at work, it can increase their feelings of loyalty, improve retention and enhance overall wellness in the workplace.
So, how do you infuse humor into your employee communications? Keep reading.
The Benefits of Using Humor to Engage Employees
There are a myriad of benefits to using humor at work, and they’re all supported by academic research, business psych case studies and real workplace scenarios.
Here are a few of the top benefits of using humor at work. Humor...
- alleviates stress
- stops employee burnout
- improves employee productivity
- boosts motivation and brainpower
- enhances decision-making and problem-solving
- improves memory retention
- helps with learning
- boosts persuasion
- builds trust
- encourages collaboration
- diffuses conflict
- strengthens the immune system
These are just a few of the benefits of using humor to engage employees, so you can see why there’s such a powerful case to be made for incorporating it into your communication strategy.
How to Infuse Humor into Employee Communications
Start With Some Guidelines
Before you break out the standup comedy script, read the room, be sensitive to hot-button topics. For example, Covid, there may be employees who have lost someone or struggled themselves with a diagnosis, so it's not the best topic to try and make a joke about.
Here are some best practices and guidelines around using humor to communicate with employees:
- Steer clear of religion and politics
- Don’t make sexual references
- Keep your material light and non-malicious/non-sarcastic
- Never poke fun at employees, clients or competitors
- Don’t touch upon topics that will make the audience uncomfortable
- This should be common sense, but keep discriminatory or non-inclusive language out of your communications
Above all else, use your discretion. It’s better to err on the side of caution than to deploy a humorous communication that offends even one of your employees.
Insert a Funny Photo or GIF
A funny photo can get you far. In fact, just one funny photo can increase an email response rate by 400%! When you’re reaching out to employees for feedback or a required response, adding a humorous image that implores them to reply could be just the ticket to getting the engagement you need. Besides, who doesn’t love a good cat or dog GIF?
Host an Amusing Event
Whether it’s an all-hands meeting, social event or employee training session, there’s always a place for humor at a work event to keep employees engaged. A great way to show them you’re committed to seeing them smile could be hiring a comedian to emcee an upcoming event.
Or, maybe you have some hidden comedic talent at your organization that’s waiting to take the stage. Send out an “open call” to see if employees would be interested in participating in a 3-5 minute standup set at the next staff meeting. Talk about a way to break the ice!
Punch Up Your Presentations
Presentation fatigue is real. And we’ve all sat through a PowerPoint that makes our eyes gloss over. In the workplace, finding a way to make your presentation more engaging is a crucial skill to master. Enter again: humor.
To infuse a little humor into an upcoming presentation, start by writing it the way you normally would. Then, take each of the topics and list out a bunch of jokes that complement them on a separate piece of paper. Review the jokes, select one for each topic, and add it back into your presentation. It might take some practice, but you have to start somewhere, and employees will likely appreciate your efforts to bring humor into potentially snooze-worthy topics.
What else helps engage employees in presentations?
- A humorous story or current event — something you heard that can illustrate the point and make people laugh.
- An opening icebreaker that’s interactive or gamified to get people involved
- A self-deprecating story about yourself (people love it and it makes you more relatable)
- A funny photo, GIF or cartoon in your slide deck
- A funny YouTube video in your slides could be even better…
Above all else: avoid reading off your slides in a monotone voice. If you have a captive audience, it’s up to you to keep them engaged! Humor is almost always a hit.
Turn Everyday Tasks into Games
Inevitably, a big part of being productive at work is about actually getting things done. As much as we’d all love to sit around and laugh the day away, there are still certain tasks that need to be completed. But that doesn’t mean you need to throw the fun out the window. In fact, many tasks can be turned into games.
Gamification is the concept of using elements of game theory in the workplace. Many people are driven by competition and rewards, so you can encourage employees to complete seemingly mundane tasks by adding things like scoring, incentives, prizes and some friendly competition. The goal here is to lighten things up, get people laughing and increase productivity at the same time. For example, create wellness challenges to spark that competitive spirit and provide a prize for the top performers. Or add a scavenger hunt to your benefits website to increase engagement and encourage active participation.
Humor: The Great Workplace Connector
In the world of remote work, where employees are located across expansive distances, finding connection is more important than ever. By using humor in employee communications, you can spark interaction, put a smile on someone’s face and make the gap between employees and employers seem a little less wide.
As we’ve already seen, humor can build trust, diffuse conflict, encourage employees to work together, combat stress and, above all else, engage your employees. If those aren’t enough reasons to start infusing humor into your employee communications, it might be time to lighten up!