How to Introduce Humour to Your Workplace

This list is provided with two suggestions –

Suggest them – don’t impose them. Staff will only really participate when they take the initiative and think of the ideas themselves. If this list serves to start things moving, it’s done its job.
Some of these ideas are very silly…feel free to modify to suit your organisation’s culture.

1 Make meetings fun…at the start

Make humour a KPI of your meetings. Boring meetings are the enemy of effective, creative communication – ban them! Put ‘Opening humour’ down as the first agenda item. Appoint a different person each meeting to start with a joke, funny story, game – whatever they can to lighten the mood. Give them a time limit, but that’s all! They need the permission of management to be as creative, silly and irreverent as possible.

2 Make meetings fun…during proceedings

Make fun part of the proceedings. Hand out noisemakers (hooters, whistles, clickers, etc) to all present with the rule that you have to use your noisemaker before you speak. Take votes with: “All those in favour, make your noise.” Have something silly that participants need to hold or place in front of them before they make their contribution. (This is also a great way to ensure that only one person speaks at a time.)

3 Make meetings fun…at the end

Appoint a person to end the meeting with some humour. One way is to have them nominate certain meeting members for frivolous ‘awards’ based on what happened during the meeting. Some examples: Silliest Statement, Wittiest Comment, Best Excuse, Most Imaginative Statement, Best/Worst Jargon. Finish your meetings with a touch of humour and this is what people remember as they leave – so they’ll be more willing to attend the next meeting.

4 Dress for fun

Wear something frivolous – every day if appropriate. It doesn’t have to be visible: ‘naughty’ underwear, silly socks, etc. The fact that you have this on will remind you not to take yourself so seriously. Make this philosophy visible by having a ‘Dress for Fun Friday’ – just like a Casual Friday, except staff have to add something specifically for fun – silly earrings, bad ties, fun hats, etc.

5 Fun D├ęcor

Encourage staff to introduce fun into their own work-space. Toys, stickers, photos, whatever will lighten up their day. Don’t let ‘office neatness’ rules get in the way – anything less that a safety hazard should be allowed. The boss sets the example with a hat rack full of silly hats and a Goofy soft toy sitting atop the computer screen. Follow the same rule in areas where clients go. Who wants to deal with people who don’t have a sense of humour?

6 Visit the toy store

Introduce fun into the workplace with childish things. Look around your local toy store for anything that could introduce fun to your meetings, staff interactions (like lunch time) or just to make people smile.

7 Have a fun library

Have a section next to the reference books full of joke books, cartoon books (Dilbert, Calvin & Hobbes, etc) and any other fun literature. Encourage staff to borrow them for lunchtime reading, etc (Don’t let them leave the office – or you’ll never see them again. Regularly add to it. The discount tables at bookstores have loads of cheap material.

8 Have fun with logos and signs

Have a contest to design a fun logo for each department; and, if appropriate, put it up. Enlarge relevant cartoons and place them next to the instructional and safety signs – and have people notice signs that, in the past, they ignored.

9 Reward funny staff

The best co-worker is one who doesn’t take themselves too seriously and is prepared to laugh at (and learn from) their mistakes. Instigate a monthly award for the silliest mistake made by staff – with a cash prize. The rules: staff can only nominate themselves and have to stand up and tell other staff what they did and how they will spend the money. The prize is awarded to the staff member who (a) made the biggest mistake (b) is most honest about their mistake or (c) nominates the most creative way they will spend the money to help them avoid the same mistake again or compensate any aggrieved party. Examples: A manager makes an impossible promise about delivery dates to a leading client and will spend the prize money to ‘shout’ the despatch department; a staff member forgets his 1st wedding anniversary and will use the money to take his wife to dinner.

10 Let staff get to know each other

Have a regular (monthly) function where staff get to know each other as people, not just in their work roles. When you understand more about a person, there are more opportunities for humour in your interactions with that person. Simply giving the staff off-work time together will create these opportunities; although you could introduce some fun ‘contests’ like those described below. It could be a Friday after-work barbecue, or just a few drinks. Do not be tempted to use the occasion for business announcements – this will defeat the purpose.

11 Fun Contests

As part of these regular functions, or, as a stand-alone event there are a lot of non-threatening fun contests that can build rapport, camaraderie and teamwork. They will provide material for staff-generated humour for a long time after the contest. The prize for the winner does not have to be significant – a $20 trophy will do the job.

12 ‘Musical’ Fun

Hold a karaoke contest. Entrants could be individuals or groups. If karaoke is too expensive or difficult to organise, make it a mime or air guitar contest. All you’ll need is a portable CD player and, perhaps, some pretend microphones.

13 Encourage staff to show appreciation

Have slips of paper (or a page in the intranet) entitled “Staff Appreciation Award – Nomination”. Encourage staff to nominate other staff if they do something good: going out of their way for a customer or other staff member, etc. You could have a monthly award chosen from all the nominees; or simply give everyone nominated a small reward. For example, book a mobile masseur (one of the ones who does 15 minute backrubs at the desk) and give them all a massage.

14 Flying Fun

Hold a paper plane contest, the winner being the person to have their plane fly the furthest.

15 Have a baby pictures contest

Get a baby picture of a number of staff and award a prize for whoever can correctly name all of the babies. The contest could run over some time (two weeks) generating humour along the way.

16 Have a childhood secrets contest

Have staff write down one thing from their childhood that would not be known to others. Have a contest similar to the one above. Again, over the time of the contest, much humour will be generated as staff try to guess who was the one who painted the cat pink, or who won the religious studies prize in grade 6.

Kevin is an experienced conference speaker, workshop leader, facilitator and MC. He has twenty-five years experience as a corporate trainer and fifteen years experience as a professional speaker.

He runs his own business from Brisbane, Australia, speaking at conferences and seminars across Australia, New Zealand, Asia and in the UK specialising in the areas of sales, customer service, humour in business and communication skills. His clients include some of Australia’s largest organisations, politicians, members of the judiciary, Olympic athletes and elite sports people.

He has co-authored nine books on communication skills and humour in business that are used extensively throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the UK and South Africa. He writes regular columns on communication skills, sales & customer service and humour in business for a number of industry magazines. His articles have been printed in major daily newspapers in Australia and Asia.