Fun and work don’t have to be non sequiturs. And fun doesn’t have to start only when you leave the office. Adding some on-the-job levity can help you build rapport with those around you, relieve workplace tension and contribute to a positive work environment. In a recent survey from our company, nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said an employee's sense of humor is important for fitting into the company's corporate culture.
Even if you don't always approach your daily to-do list with excitement, there are other ways to introduce fun into office life. Here are some ideas for adding a little lightheartedness to your professional life this year:
Don’t be a wet sock. You don’t have to be the office comedian to get in on the fun. You’ll be perceived as someone with a good sense of humor simply by tuning into the sensibilities of others and sharing in the office jokes rather than being aloof. Just be sure that any humor you partake in is appropriate for your office and corporate culture.
Forge closer bonds with colleagues. Getting to know your office mates better makes for a friendlier, more fun-filled environment. Consider inviting colleagues you don’t know well to make a coffee run and inquiring about their weekend or asking for advice on a project you’re working on, for example. You’ll probably find work more enjoyable if you develop a greater degree of familiarity with those around you.
Encourage after-work excursions. Go out on a limb and try to organize coworkers for an occasional outing once work is over for the day. It could be inviting everyone to one of the free after-work outdoor concerts near your office, getting a group together to attend a general interest lecture or cheering on the local sports team. Sure, not everyone will want to participate, but some will, and these activities will help to break the ice in the office and increase the fun factor.
Put some heads together. Although you don’t need permission to informally organize outside-the-office activities for coworkers, you might want to ask your boss if it’s OK to formalize the fun. If you get the green light, convene a “fun committee” to brainstorm ways to add some levity to the workplace. Maybe it’s having a monthly potluck lunch to celebrate birthdays, running occasional trivia contests or theme weeks, or organizing humorous office activities, such as costume parties or scavenger hunts. Consider the example of one accounting firm that considers fun a central part of its corporate culture: It gained attention for its “Office Olympics,” which included spirited office chair races, audit report binding competitions and calculator computing matches.
Although adding some humor to the workplace can help everyone enjoy work a little more, you have to tread carefully when mixing business and pleasure. Here are a few additional suggestions worth noting:
Don’t make it personal. As numerous comedians and award show hosts have found, most people can appreciate jokes until they’re the target of them. With this in mind, be careful not to direct humor or sarcasm at others in the office. A colleague who wins the award for “least likely to meet a deadline” might not find humor in being singled out for such recognition. Causing humiliation to someone is a sure way to turn a light mood sour. One exception is poking humor at yourself. It’s almost always safe to ridicule your own foibles.
Don’t forward email jokes. Everyone in the office might be able to agree on the humor found in the “Dilbert” comic strip or “The Office” television show, but email jokes are much riskier territory because some may interpret them as offensive. No matter how funny something seems to you or how well you think you know your colleagues’ sense of humor, it’s best not to initiate or forward joke emails.
Don’t be juvenile. Causing a colleague’s chair to collapse while he is in it or disturbing someone’s desk area in a way that impedes work are pranks that might be expected in junior high, but not in an office.
There’s no question that adding a little levity to office life can make work more enjoyable, and employees who are known for their jovial personalities are usually appreciated by coworkers and viewed as assets by their managers. So go ahead and resolve to have more fun at work this year – just be sure to do so in a business-appropriate way.