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The workplace is probably the last place some people would think to let loose a little. And with good reason – people are often hesitant to make jokes or do something silly to blow off steam when it could potentially disrupt their working environment. But an easygoing attitude and some good-natured humor can relieve your stress, set your colleagues at ease, and make your office a generally happier place. 

At my school, Bowdoin College, I work in an on-campus restaurant twice a week. My shifts wrap at midnight, when we close, but after closing we stay for another 30-45 minutes to clean up - hands down the worst part of the job! Everyone’s tired, a little stressed, and wants to get out of the kitchen and back to their dorms to either sleep or finish schoolwork. I’ve noticed that in that last, sometimes frustrating hour, the most helpful way to speed up the process is to crack jokes with my coworkers and boss, and try to get the job done in a playful but efficient manner. Being humorous with my fellow workers puts them in a better mood during that home stretch, and makes clean up go much faster than it otherwise would.

Not surprisingly, my anecdotal finding that humor has a place in the workplace is backed by research! Here are a few science-backed reasons why humor helps in the workplace:

·      Humor relieves stress – it triggers an emotional and physical response in you (your laughter!) that lowers your stress levels

·      Humor breaks down tension and barriers between you and your coworkers because it relaxes them and makes them more at ease around you

·      Humor boosts morale and productivity – laughter makes people happy, and creating a joyful work environment can promote your motivation and others’

·      Humor stimulates creative thinking – when people are playful, they’re less judgmental about others’ ideas and their own, and are more open to new things when they can perceive them in a positive atmosphere

Next time you find yourself holding refraining from cracking a joke a work, think twice -- you may miss the opportunity to contribute to your team's success and happiness!