"There is little success where there is little laughter." ~Andrew Carnegie
(this entry inspired by this other blog entry over here)
I never have worked in a place that didn't have laughter. I guess in some ways I turn down opportunities where i know that laughter is even a little bit less likely. I mean there are other reasons that I shy away from stodgy financial companies but the formality of their situations which can reduce the freedom for fun or laughter is one of them.
One of the best professional compliments that I've ever received came at the end of the era where the railroad company i worked at was breaking up and the entire IT dept was going their separate ways. The Director I worked under thanked me personally for my time, telling me that I had brought life back to the department. Even in those days, starting as a junior employee and leaving years later as a lead, I worked hard at bringing joy and laughter to the work place. This doesn't just mean being friendly and jovial, always having a joke at the ready, although that is also an important factor in workplace enjoyment. No, I was definitely an instigator of hi-jinks. Pranks on people's cubicles, roasts when people were leaving, awards for silly things - these were all things that I was a major driving force behind.
I have maintained this habit throughout my career. I have had to dial some of it back a little as I became a more senior manager but even my scrum challenges bring laughter to my teams and to other teams either through through-the-wall laughter contagion or in hearing the war stories of the last challenge.
"What's the benefit really?" you might ask. Isn't laughing in the work place a sign of low productivity due to frivolity? I couldn't disagree more. To my mind, laughter is the grease that keeps things moving. It fosters stronger team building, it builds positive relationships that allow for easier to trading of favours, it pulls your brain out of the rut that it falls into after staring at the same screen for too many consecutive minutes and allows it to refocus in a more positive way, it leaves you in a better mood, allowing to have higher more positive energy towards your work and most importantly of all, it helps you love your job.
Having a good time during your work day means that you're going to enjoy going to work every day. When your job has dreary parts, as they all do, getting a laugh here or there helps you through those parts and makes them not so bad. People who like their job are more pleasant to be around, get more done and make the jobs of others around them more pleasant as well. In fact, they are the type of contagion that you most want in your work place.
Maybe every workplace doesn't need the distraction of nerf-gun wars but a little laughter certainly makes the day go by a little faster.