Author: Christine Dagenais
CEO and Founder at Bright Wire, Calgary’s premier Leadership Development and Executive Coaching firm.
The importance of fun, humor and levity in the workplace has long been studied and seen as beneficial to any work environment. For the purpose of this article, we’ll define levity as humor or fun used to lighten a mood or situation to enable more open discourse and greater engagement.
The resilience required of us during constantly changing times can reduce the joy, lightness and pleasure we can experience from our interactions at work. The only thing that never changes is that everything changes. With constantly evolving environments can come feelings of uncertainty, lack of clarity and significant ambiguity. This degree of disruption may create many added stresses that drain the joy out of an otherwise great work environment.
Adding some levity and humor into the workplace can relieve stress and open the channels of creativity. A psychologically safe working environment coupled with a culture of high engagement creates the conditions required for employees to have fun, feel valued and get creative without the prospect of criticism. Additionally, employees’ overall sense of well-being can improve, as laughing has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase the release of serotonin and endorphins in the body (along with many other benefits).
Below are three strategies leaders can use to bring back and create some levity in the workplace.
Strategy 1: Sharpen your small talk and lead by example.
Small talk may seem inefficient, but in this context, it is about engaging your team in conversations about anything other than work. How many times have we been in a conversation with a leader who asks “warm-up” questions in a quick roundtable that feels more like a checkbox exercise? When organizing your meeting structure and agenda, make sure you allow time for some fun interaction.
Lead by example and make yourself vulnerable. Break the ice by offering up a funny anecdote and then asking your team a high-gain question. High-gain questions seek responses that provide valuable and insightful information. Instead of asking “How was your weekend?” ask, “What was most memorable about your weekend?” to generate more meaningful responses and levity in the workplace.
Strategy 2: Make team-building events meaningful and fun.
When leading your next team-building event, really think about how your team can have fun—while giving back to the community. Volunteering at a local charity together will not only strengthen the bonds between team members but can instantly bring feelings of gratitude, support and usefulness that contribute to a positive working environment. It is often easier for employees to relax and have some fun when they are outside of their normal work environment. This time of relative levity can often continue its momentum back at the office.
Strategy 3: Address issues head-on.
What is getting in the way of a positive and fun atmosphere? As a leader, it is your job to address it head-on by having difficult conversations that clear the road for the team. Is it the attitude or behavior of a particular team member? Is it a situation your team has no control over, and they need to reset their focus? Or do you, as the leader, need to step up and lead the levity charge? As a leader, reflect on the barriers to an enjoyable work environment and address them directly.
In this time of work restructuring and designing workplaces for the future, it is more important than ever to make time for laughter and levity. The stronger the personal bonds we create at work, the more we feel like part of a team and the more we enjoy our jobs. These connections are what foster employee engagement and retention. So go have some fun—what have you got to lose?