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If I'm having fun I can't really be working, can I?

© Catherine Ripplinger Fenwick

Just as laughter is necessary for a healthy lifestyle, it is also necessary for a healthy workplace. People who enjoy their work and are able to play (appropriately) at work are more effective, efficient and productive. When our spirits are up we get along better with others and do better work.

A healthy sense of humour at work helps to keep things in perspective, reduce stress, facilitate change, build confidence and (your boss will like this one) boost morale which increases productivity. What's nice is that you don't need to think about boosting morale - it is a natural outcome of doing work we love and having more fun at work. Of course I'm not talking about goofing off - I'm talking about motivation and drive. Let's look at three myths about why people can’t or don’t have fun at work.

If I am having fun I can't really be working. This notion comes from the old "Listerine" management model: "it has to taste bad to be effective". Work has to feel like work or it really isn't work. If it feels good it might be play, or something worse. In reality, people who enjoy their work say they cannot tell the difference between their work and their play - it feels so much the same. To be passionate about something means to love it. Some people love their work, can't wait to get there, and they do more of it than people who dislike or feel indifferent toward their work.

If I use humour at work, people will not take me seriously. They might think I am lazy, flaky, or maybe even a bit crazy. Witty, energetic, creative, productive people are fun to be around. When you think of all the people you have worked with, most likely you will remember the ones who had a good sense of humour. You will also remember that you learned more from these people than from some others you have known. When you use humour appropriately, people probably will not think you are lazy, flaky or crazy. You may have to give people time to get used to the idea of having fun at work and still get the work done.

Appropriate humour is based on caring and empathy. It builds confidence, brings people closer together, is mutually supportive, and invites everyone to laugh. When humour is used inappropriately, people may be left feeling hurt or belittled. Racist and sexist humour must be avoided. The goal is to laugh together, not to laugh at others.

People in my workplace would never allow us to have fun at work. The old adage that "laughter is the best medicine" is true. Stress and burn-out are big topics, laughter and joy are the best antidotes for stress. If you ease into the idea of having fun at work and slowly help to spread it, you will be surprised at how quickly people pick up on the idea.

How can you get more joy into your workplace? It helps if you really like your work! Lighten up and let go of some of your need to control. Don't be afraid to try new ways of doing things. Plan spontaneity! Organize informal social gatherings outside of work. Celebrate successes. Create an atmosphere of joy with posters, pictures, cartoons, jokes and friendly banter with co-workers and clients. Create a staff skit for your next staff social. Start meetings with people sharing something funny that happened to them in the past week. Create a comedy corner, put jokes or cartoons on your memos, reports, and strategic planning manuals. The possibilities are endless.

 

Cathy Fenwick is a therapist, author and educator. She develops and delivers workshops and keynotes on how to get more healthy humour into your life. Her books, Healing With Humour and Telling My Sister’s Story are about recovery and are available from St. Peter’s Press at 306 682 1770.

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