Using Humor at Work

by | May 4, 2021 | Trend

When’s the last time you laughed with a coworker or boss? If the answer is, “I can’t remember”, then you’re missing out on a valuable boost to both your workplace satisfaction as well as your overall productivity. According to surveys done by Robert Half International and Hodge-Cronin & Associates, 98% prefer employees with a sense of humor and 84% believe workers with a sense of humor perform better at work.


Even these days, while many of us are working remotely, humor is still an important component of a happy work life. Afterall, who wouldn’t want to spice up those Zoom meetings that all feel eerily the same. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if maybe they ARE the same. How do we really know…? Anyway. Shared laughter reduces stress and creates stronger bonds. Whether you are laughing together over a funny experience or an unfortunate work mishap, laughing can help to ease the tension and create a more cohesive team. Studies show that humor (used the right way) can increase social support and help people feel better during a difficult time. It also allows people to reassess a stressful situation and think about it more positively.

The reduction of stress manifests itself both physically and emotionally. Much like a “runner’s high”, we can see the chemical reactions of laughter in the brain. When we laugh we release dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. And although I’m not going to sit here and encourage you to skip your daily exercise routine and just try laughing instead, I am going to encourage you to exercise that humor muscle whenever you can.


In the words of the Dalai Lama: “Laughter is good for thinking because when people laugh, it is easier for them to admit new ideas to their minds.”

In other words, humor can be the key to unlocking your most creative ideas. During brainstorms, Astro Teller, a computer scientist and entrepreneur, encourages his team to think of “crazy, outlandish, silly” ideas rather than a “good idea”. This prevents people from being limited to whatever constraints a “good idea” may have. When you take away the pressure of what constitutes the best idea, you often end up with creative solutions and brilliant ideas.

The top speakers around the world use humor. It isn’t always because they are funny people, but they choose to make their presentation more memorable that way. For example, Seth Godin uses funny images in his slides. As it is often said, people don’t remember what you said, but rather, how you made them feel. Humor is a great way to have a more memorable message that makes you and those listening feel better.

If you work remotely, you probably don’t have as many opportunities for “water-cooler” conversations or joking around. But in-person meetings or presentations aren’t the only place you can incorporate some humor. In the book “Humor, Seriously” by Jennifer Aaker & Naomi Bagdonas, they give some great tips on how to incorporate humor into your emails. Their philosophy? Just because it’s a work email doesn’t mean that it has to be devoid of personality.

Here are some ideas:

  • Inside Jokes. Insert references to previous experiences that have become an inside joke. Celebrate those moments of levity.

  • Change up your email sign-offs. Rather than “Best Regards,” how about: “Hakuna Matata,” “Stay Awesome,” “Namaste,” or “Yours, heavily caffeinated.”

  • Add a PS that reinforces the fact that you’re a person and not a robot…like “PS I can hear my couch prepping for the weekend ahead. Can’t wait to relax!”

  • When you make a mistake address it. Try to use humor to move past it. For example, say you accidentally deleted an important document. You can sign off your email and say: “PS I’ve removed the delete button from my keyboard.” People will appreciate that you acknowledged you messed up and feel remorseful, but you’ll be paying attention next time.

  • Follow up emails: Send a funny meme instead of just the standard “just following up” email.


If you want to “be funnier”, you can practice! No one is born funny, some people just naturally exercise that funny muscle more than others. Here are some things to consider when training in the art of funny:

  1. There is no need for formal jokes with a punchline. Instead, recognize and be empathetic to awkwardness and uncomfortable situations. Be vulnerable and share relatable situations.

  2. Use humor to lift people up and encourage them. Never put people down with humor, the office isn’t a place for a roast!

  3. Figure out your colleagues’ senses of humor. Like any other communication style, try to mirror it.

  4. Don’t try to be funny all the time. Using humor in the workplace doesn’t mean cracking jokes all the time. It means bringing a more relatable you to the table in order to create a human connection.

Lastly, an important thing to remember is that having a good sense of humor doesn’t just mean being funny. It also means knowing when to smile and laugh, and how to appreciate levity. Work and life is serious and stressful enough. Using humor will make it all a little bit more enjoyable. As far as I know, you only have one life to laugh…I mean live. Might as well make the most of it with as much laughter as you can!


  1. Jen

    Love this blog!


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