In today’s age of distraction, with constant news, pings and memes, attention is fleeting. Technology has encroached on every aspect of our lives, with our devices taking up more time than ever before. Beyond productivity, how is the rise of negative and damning global news affecting the well-being of our employees? Also, how does the information overload we receive throughout our day affect them? personally?
And, most importantly, what can we do as leaders to cut this Gordian knot?
As we turn to technology to ease our anxieties and decompress, we also turn to it in a professional setting to improve communications, workflow, and skills. However, technology can be a double-edged sword if it is not a managed property. A recent Pega report studied five million hours of live desktop activity and found that the average employee switches between 35 applications more than a thousand times a day. With this in mind, leaders have an important role to play in mitigating information overload.
This culture of constant connection has an impact, both professionally and personally. This is where humor comes in. Stress management and information management should be embedded in the corporate culture and modeled from the top down. Introducing leanness to the workplace can improve employee engagement, well-being and performance, and ultimately become a competitive advantage for any business.
Fact: Organizations where humor is part of the culture have reported shareholder returns 19% higher than their competitors, according to a Study Huet & Associates.
Humor connects people and encourages them to be present. Injecting humor and levity into our daily business interactions, even virtually, can actually change how our brain works, generating more alpha brainwaves that help us develop creative solutions, reduce stress, and solve problems. More importantly, it builds resilience, which can help employees cope better with the challenges and changes we face on a regular basis and bounce back faster.
However, incorporating humor into the workplace is not always easy. Business leaders need to be strategic about boundaries and approaches to ensure levity without offending their staff.
Devalue yourself, not others
In general, humor can be a powerful coping tool, even in the most challenging environments. Additionally, self-deprecating humor can be an effective way to improve employee engagement with leaders. Search by harvard business review found that people who divulge negative or sensitive information about themselves using humor are seen as warmer and more competent than when delivering in a serious way.
Choose topics carefully
It’s important to stay away from taboo topics when using humor to lighten the discussion. Now is not the time to get into a debate about politics or religion or focus on a particular colleague or employee. Spoken or written from a position of authority, words carry added weight; they can be used to promote additional anxiety or create supportive space. Whether it’s global conflict, business disruption or social unrest, we will continue to face psychological challenges. Humor helps establish a culture of openness and discussion, providing a solid foundation and creating a comfortable space before a crisis arises.
It’s very hard not to like someone who makes you laugh. Use it to your advantage when meeting new teams or clients, discussing potential changes in the organization, or simply to break the ice or the tension in a room. When used appropriately, humor can build rapport and empathy, and even get a meeting back on track. It’s important to learn the right balance for your organization, especially since humor isn’t right for every business (like an autocratic, top-down culture).
For eons, most corporate America has demanded a strict code of professionalism and stiff upper lips. But where did that get us? At a time when employees feel stressed and overwhelmed. Fortunately, humor in the workplace creates an open channel of communication and understanding, even in difficult situations, and encourages creativity throughout the company. A culture that includes levity encourages people to be more authentic, creative and innovative, three factors that every company and its people need today.
Steve Cody is the CEO of peppercom.