Levity In The Workplace —Tips To Help Employers And Employees Find The Balance
Cheese and rice, it’s great to have a sense of humor! It’s even better than great if you have a good one! With everyday stressors following us around, we all want to feel as light as possible … as often as possible. But, in the workplace, it can be tough to know when you’ve gone too far or even when you haven’t gone far enough. Levity in the workplace is awesome, but it requires a balance. A balance that can be exercised by employers and employees alike.
You may be familiar with Zappos and the company’s incredible strive to promote some serious levity in the workplace. But if you aren’t even close to familiar, here goes! I recall a time (one of millions) when a call to their support team left a smile on my face. The representative apologized for the noise in the background and gave an explanation that some employees were actually having a NERF gun fight! With that said, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that one of their core values for employees is to “create fun and a little weirdness.” That’s pretty stinking cool. Maybe a NERF gun fight is too far for you or maybe you find it to be absolutely brilliant. Either way, Zappos’ reasoning behind allowing such behavior is spot on as they believe workplace levity to be the reason for such a happy and productive team.
To keep them, you have to keep them happy! Whether you have a team of 2 or 2,002, maintaining proper company culture is key to employee retention. Creating a light environment where people actually enjoy showing up for you every day, provides an opportunity for everyone to work harder and smarter.
So, how do you become the cool boss without being too cool?
Don’t underestimate the power of levity: The success of a company has been linked to whether or not employees find the environment to be “fun.” On Fortune’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For”, companies that were deemed “great” were also considered to be “fun” by 81% of the employees.
When your employees feel light at the office, their attitudes and actions become more positive. That can lead to better working relationships and better overall performance. According to David Summers of the American Management Association, “You don’t have to have a team of comedy writers, managers just need to give employees permission to be human, open to giving and receiving humor at work.”
Remember to approach your employees with a little humor as well (when appropriate). Keeping things light establishes trust and even helps to empower the bunch.
Ask questions: Just as it’s important for employees to understand your needs, it is important to understand their needs as well. And in order to find out what those needs are, you may have to come out and ask. After all, you want them to stick around! Stay in touch by regularly asking what can be done to make the work environment better. Find out what it will take to make the work environment fun and a great place to be. Allow your team to give honest suggestions. Then, take that information and find your level of comfort with implementing those suggestions.
Create a policy and stick to it: Perhaps some people need a room in the office where they can have 10 minutes (paid) each day to do a little dance, color a Ninja Turtle, or break out in a NERF gun fight. You are wasting time and money if employees are not focused and feel consistently overwhelmed. Allowing a little time each day to unwind can make all the difference. Create a policy that allows for a little daily freedom and figure out which activities are permitted and when.
Hopefully, you’ve had the opportunity to choose an employer based on compatibility and not just necessity. But, like many, you may have accepted a position simply because the employer was the first to say, yes. Whether your latest employer makes you want to stick around for 20 days or 20 years, remember you have a duty to make the best use of your time while there. You owe that to your employer and yourself. Sure, your work life would be so much easier if everyone would just lighten up a bit, but there is a balance.
So, how do you become the cool kid without being too cool?
Don’t underestimate the power of levity: Life can be nuts outside the office and you may also find it difficult to stay sane at your desk every day. When you begin to feel the pain of monotony at work, it is super important to find a way to alleviate that pain. Otherwise, you risk losing your sense of purpose … your “work purpose”. To fight through the many workday challenges, you must stay strong, sharp, and whenever possible … light. Find little moments throughout the day to bring a little cheer to yourself and the rest of the team. Without that, those 8 hours can start to feel pretty torturous.
Ask questions: If your workplace is a bit stuffy, don’t be afraid to ask if certain things are permitted to lighten the mood. Figure out what those things are by asking yourself what type of environment is needed to perform your best. It may also be useful to ask your employer if suggestions are welcomed. That way, you can come up with a few ideas to pitch.
Create a policy and stick to it: Create a set of rules for yourself that will help keep your humor and playful nature in check. You should always be yourself, while still keeping in mind that even though you may think you are the most hilarious person to sit in any office chair, your colleagues may disagree. Pay attention to cues and use common sense. See what makes others laugh and what doesn’t. Bringing appropriate laughter to the office environment can help put everyone in a great mood and make the workplace so much better. And you never know, being a part-time comic may warrant a raise!
Naturally, some professional fields are more stressful than others, but regardless of your field, employers and employees work in stressful environments. Just the pressure to earn is a huge stressor all on its own. Focus on what it will take to become a better employer or employee while remembering the bottom line is for everyone to keep on earning. Those earnings will depend on the whole team working and working well. Employers, showing your employees it’s okay to have a little fun will go a long way. And employees, showing your employer how much harder you work when a little fun is allowed will go an even longer way.
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