Today, successful businesses have put a lot of emphasis on keeping their employees happy, because happiness is synonymous with job satisfaction. Individual happiness directly affects employee engagement, job satisfaction and organisational commitment. These facts are already obvious. What is not so obvious is what we can do to keep our talent happy.

One solution that might not seem obvious at first is using humour in the workplace, because it means more people are laughing and smiling at work. When people laugh, they are expressing happiness verbally, and a smile shows how they are feeling on the inside. When people smile and laugh at work, it increases employee engagement, retention and likability. Additionally, once you get people laughing, soon everyone in the office will laugh too. Remember, laughter is contagious.

If you decide you want to add more laughter and smiles to your work environment, the next question is: How do you use humour without offending or getting in trouble? The answer is to keep your jokes within these humour rules:

  • Stay away from religion and politics.
  • Don’t make sexual references.
  • Avoid subjects that can upset the audience.
  • Do not make fun of any clients, competitors or individuals.
  • Be non-malicious with your material.

While these rules can be broken, do keep in mind whether it would be appropriate to do so. Every company has its own culture, so you may be able to say things that others can’t. You may have a deeper relationship with the person you are presenting to today than you did yesterday.

One way to encourage laughter in the workplace is to incorporate humour in your internal and external communications. You can do so by simply inserting an amusing picture that coincides with the message. Simply boot up your favourite search engine, attach the term ‘funny’ to your subject, and now you have a myriad of options to experiment with.

Another great way to incorporate humour in your company culture is to have a funny event host or emcee. Consider hiring a comedian or improv actor to host your events. Alternatively, if you have one of your own people hosting the event, a comedian could help inject humour into the emcee’s announcements.

Collect and share humorous stuff. Clip cartoons and amusing jokes from newspapers and other publications. Write down comments and conversations that put a smile on your face. Then share the humour on bulletin boards. Forwarding the occasional humorous e-mail might work too, but don’t overdo it. These tend to get forwarded repeatedly, clogging up the inbox and hampering productivity. If you have a staff intranet or staff chat group, add a humorous, share a funny picture or meme occasionally.

At a management level, you might only be thinking about bottom lines, maximum output and getting the most and best work out of your employees. In your head, that might equate to ‘no time for distractions’. However, a workplace that is devoid of humour and fun is more likely to suffer when it comes to the serious side of business.