Earlier this week, I met with the women in my new Sweet Spot Group Coaching Programme for the first time. For real. In one room.
What a joy that was.
Half-way round the sharing circle, I noticed how much laughter there was in our small meeting room, high up over a sunny London square. This, despite some of our updates being upsetting and difficult.
No-one was cracking jokes or being particularly ‘funny’ but we were laughing, a lot. It was sign that we were relaxed, that we wanted to bond, that we trusted each other. As Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat Podcast host, Bruce Daisley, says in The Joy of Work, “we laugh to warm a room, to lift a mood, to create a sense of connection”.
Our laughter told me that our awayday was going to go beautifully – and it did.
So, what makes us laugh at work?
We’re not talking wise-guys cracking jokes kind of humour here (although that can be fun). Or enforced ‘fun’ activities, which for most of us are a total heart sink. No, according to research by Daisley, office laughs tend to come from the most innocuous of comments and conversations. Someone just saying something as mundane as “I think I’m done here”, after a crazy long day is enough. It’s more about creating the conditions for relaxed communication.
When was the last time you had a real laugh with your colleagues?
We all need laughter and joy in our working lives. But the new hybrid working is definitely making this kind of connection more difficult. In the last lockdown, I did a review for leaders in a not-for-profit organisation I know well. One message came through loud and clear –
“There used to be so much fun and laughter in the office.” “I miss having a laugh with my colleagues.” “I loved just hanging out at the end of the day.”
Staff were missing having a laugh at work.
How to up the laughter
Many of us have enjoyed working from home and have appreciated its pluses, but we’ve also longed for the spontaneous, joyful humour that bubbles up from being among colleagues we like and appreciate. But how can you get more laughs into work, now that we don’t necessarily have everyone in the workplace for those lovely spontaneous moments?
1. Make time to be relaxed and playful with your team
Maybe at the beginning of a Zoom meeting? We’ve all had fun with Zoom backgrounds in the pandemic. What else could you do to lighten the mood and show that you’re up for a laugh too? Leaders no longer have to be booted and suited and serious to show that they’re up to the job.
2. Create relaxed meetings
Ploughing through a packed agenda with gritted teeth is not fun, and when people are stressed or under pressure they don’t tend to be so open to spontaneous laughter. Research shows that laughter helps with creativity and finding innovative solutions to problems, so it’s a win-win all round to get the laughter quota up.
3. If you’ve got a genuinely funny person on the team, make the most of them
I’m a huge fan of ‘this organisation’s got talent’ opportunities. These show-case staff members’ personal skills, from leading yoga classes on line to baking cakes. Yes, we don’t absolutely need a comedian on the pay-roll for there to be joy and laughter, but if you’ve got it, you may as well use it.
4. Play around with the space that you have available
If you still have office space after the down-sizing of the last few years, how about finding a way to create an appealing area for informal social interaction? How can you encourage time away from desks for your team just to hang out together and have a laugh without any agenda at all.
5. Get some rituals going
Think of ways that are likely to lead to relaxed unstructured conversations, for those working at home and in the office. Four o’clock donuts on a Friday, maybe? Or old-fashioned elevenses where everyone downs tools for a bit? Get creative with a small bit of time-out and the laughter will follow.
Over to you
Do you and your team have a laugh and enjoy relaxed times together, despite the pressure you may be under? Have you noticed the difference that working remotely has had on the joy of the team? As a leader, do you make an effort to ensure there is a lightness amongst all the hard work?
Would you like support in leading your team in 2022? I’d love to hear from you here or via the form below. I can help you shine in your role and help others to do the same, with my one-to-one coaching or within my Sweet Spot Group Coaching Programme for women leaders.