57. You Need to Laugh at Work

You need to laugh at work…or at least chuckle! According to the research, humor can dissolve tension, reduce stress and  make you more productive and committed to your workplace. 


On this episode of Crina and Kirsten Get to Work, our hosts focus on humor in the workplace.  Who does not love to laugh?!!  Whether at home or at work or frankly anywhere!!  The “humor” our duo discusses is not just the belly laugh, but also the amusing, the cheerful, the light and the genial ways we can interact with each other at work.  Humor is for more than the comedians among us!

This episode was inspired by Kirsten’s cousin, Dr. Rufus Browning – Professor of Humor at University of Maryland.  Cousin Rufus was one of the founders of International Humor Conference -fancy!.  He explained to Kirsten that humor is the juxtaposition of the absurd (putting things next to each other that do not make sense), which causes our brains to freak out a little bit and we laugh because it releases good chemicals and allows us to better manage the absurdity.  

When we laugh, our brains produce less cortisol (inducing calm and reducing stress) and release more endorphins (which give us something like a runner’s high) and oxytocin (often called the “love” hormone). It’s like meditating, exercising, and having sex at the same time. 

Sophie Scott, a professor from the University College London, is a humor expert and researcher.  She says that laughter is one of the first things you learn as a baby. It is a tool for socialization.  She talks about all kinds of laughter, polite laughter, agreeable laughter and the humorous or comedic laughter.  She says, “laughter is not just about ‘funny.’ it’s about being human.”  We signal our trust in each other when we laugh.  Laughter: The Best Medicine | Hidden Brain

Even rats laugh and it contributes to their socialization as well.  When researchers cut the vocal cords of rats (sad!), the rats could no longer laugh.  When introduced with other rats who still had their vocal cords and could laugh, the laughless rats were more likely to get bitten.  It appears when rats laughed during play, they were signaling something to each other that reduced aggression, and those rats who could not laugh were not able to send those signals and got bitten more.  


“Research shows that leaders with any sense of humor are seen as 27% more motivating and admired than those who don’t joke around. Their employees are 15% more engaged, and their teams are more than twice as likely to solve a creativity challenge — all of which can translate into improved performance. Studies even show that something as simple as adding a lighthearted line at the end of a sales pitch — like “My final offer is X and I’ll throw in my pet frog” — can increase customers’ willingness to pay by 18%.  A bad dad joke can literally help you get paid.” How to Be Funny at Work.

Humor can make employees more productive and engaged.  It can improve decision-making and creativity, it can make new information, problems easier to solve and ideas easier to absorb. Humor also improves your communication in that people are more likely to listen to you and remember what you said.  And of course it increases our connection to others.  And it clearly is the magic elixir because it also improves your health.  16 thoughts on “30 Benefits of Humor at Work”


And, of course, our hosts are down with some practical tips to get more of that goodness at work.

Warning – maintain PC and PG at work – it is tempting to engage in a little racy frivolity, but save that for non-work spaces.  

Reminder – this is more about levity and lightness than it is comedy. Allow for the lightness


  • Set a goal – laugh 20 times days
  • Be silly 
  • Add lightness to your presentations – some pictures of puppies and kittens are a fine choice
  • Add fun to introductions – i.e. what should your job title really be, what StarWars character are you?
  • If there are outings – choose fun over stiff – i.e. bowling
  • Zoom backgrounds offer an opportunity for levity
  • Email sign off — yours heavily caffeinated, yours unvaccinated

If this is not something you are already comfortable with, dip your toe in – it feels great and if you are comfortable with humor and lightness – bring it on at work because it will give everyone more ease meaning and joy.

And another great read:

Why Humor in the Workplace is a Key to Success