Humourby Kate Hull Rodgers
Quick ‘n’ quirky
Where there is humour there is R–I–SK: Rituals – Ideas – Skills.
The following list of RISKs is not intended to be definitive. It is meant to trigger your own ideas. Some of us need stimulation; others just need vindication.
These suggestions are in no particular order – though many ideas complement each other and work well when run in parallel. You can use this list as a resource to dip in and out of.
Quick ‘n’ quirky ideas can all be implemented individually, in small teams or throughout an entire organisation.
There are many forms of fun, but the following ideas are comprised of tried-and-tested workplace activities that require little or no budget to implement.
People who have fun get more done.
Implementation will best occur if your workplace has a Humour Officer or Fun Society who can oversee, gauge, and modify programmes.
Forced frivolity will always fail, but an encouraged, enthusiastic organic growth will reap rewards. Fun is not an alternative to work, with the following ideas it can easily become a way of working.
- Doctored pictures – the head of the chief exec on the body of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever...
- Circulate jokes and cartoons – email or hardcopy: decide on how much policing is required – should it be approved through the intranet or office newsletter or should you allow free reign? Having a clear policy is best, so workers can engage in this fun activity while knowing the boundaries.
- Tell jokes – at meetings, at lunch, during presentations...
- Outsourcing – be selective, sometimes keeping a job in-house is equally important. Watering the plants, doing the washing up, even vacuuming can be a way of encouraging ownership and pride in an office.
- Humour journal – this can be a personal or an office journal, a scrap book that records when good or funny things happen. The greater the focus put on positive happenings, the more positive happenings occur.
- Dressing down – use sparingly. Research shows optimum value occurs when it is allowed no more than 20 per cent of the time. Thus the creation of Dress Down Friday – one day in a five-day week. More than that and dressing down is no longer a treat and can encourage sloppiness.
- Dressing up – use fancy dress to celebrate. When the team from another country visits, wear something that is from their tradition. This can help with diversity...
- Fun audit – create a fun audit: survey staff and discover what they have enjoyed in the past and what they would like to see in the future.
- Theme days – coffees of the world, hats, cheese, make a fruit smoothie, wrong trousers, bad hair, harvest festival, bring a pet to work...
- Venting – a problem shared is a problem halved. Venting that is facilitated will diminish ‘whispering at the water cooler’. Allowing a bitch session, where workers can air grievances, doesn’t always have to include looking for a solution, but it can always embrace looking for the lighter side, finding the humour. A good moan or whinge that is exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness is one way of regaining perspective. Problems only have the power with which we endow them. Giving them air is often the beginning of the end.
- Random acts of kindness – being nice is a powerful workplace practise.
- Pools – Work-life balance is enhanced if the workplace is watching the rest of the world. Sporting events are only the beginning: births, divorces, jelly beans in a jar – the odder the better. One Home Office department in Sheffield has a Celebrity Death Pool. Ronald Reagan netted £144 for one happy worker!
- Self roster – allow staff to schedule themselves. This works particularly well in organisations that have more then one shift, and where several employees do the same job.
- Extended health care – this shows concern for the worker as a person and will reduce absenteeism. Illnesses are caught sooner; recovery occurs faster.
- Laughtercise – laughing is the product of fun. In and of itself the activity is very health giving. Increasing your laughter quota begins as a discipline... More...
- Stress management
- Offer training courses.
- Distribute information on recognising signs of stress in self and others.
- Clear the path allowing a worker who is concerned about another worker’s well being to report it.
- Posters – decorate your work space with flare:
- Funny stickers
- Fridge magnets
- Inspirational artwork.
- Caption competitions
- Hydrate – drinking more water, seeing and hearing water, all these have benefits in terms of increased concentration and stress reduction.
- Music – choose it carefully; some music uplifts, while some relaxes. If your business is not conducive to having music, allow it at certain times, such as before the shop opens, or in certain areas. Research shows that the rhythm of rock and roll music is opposite to that of the human heart and will increase movement. Mozart has been clinically proven to increase focus and attention.
- Meditation – this is easier than one might think. Three deep breaths will fully oxygenate the blood, which encourages continuous healing. Simple visualisations, such as stroking a cat or relaxing in a favourite holiday spot, can have a profoundly calming effect. Reciting a prayer, poem or inspirational phrase can rejuvenate. Rhythm and repetition help to restore the body and mind to their natural balance. Doing an activity consciously, that is with your consciousness focused on that activity only – whether it is walking to the elevator, eating a meal or washing a cup – will refocus a weary mind.
- Anthem – write and sing a silly anthem; parody a well-known song with new words.
- Talent competition – create your own attempt at a Guinness World Record, developing odd talents or creating different categories.
- Quizzes – make them about the workplace; personalise the questions.
- Video lunch hours – nice to do as a once-a-week gathering, with lunch brought in...
- Commune with nature – going for a walk, looking out the window, watering the plant on your desk...
- Nutrition – offer alternatives to caffeinated drinks:
- Encourage drinking water
- Have a filled fruit bowl
- Provide information on the Intranet.
- Amusing rhetoric – develop a shared language which has a humour history. More...
- Nicknames – the elevator outside the boss’s office becomes ‘The Room to Doom’, the first aid officer becomes the ‘Goddess of Mouth to Mouth’ – subjective, but fun.
- Leave work behind – develop an end of the workday ritual to help separate work from home. More...
- Joy lists – lists are so easy, so clear, so darned helpful, that they aren’t appreciated as a fantastic business and personal development tool. But that’s what they are – fantastic. Joy can be defined as ‘things that sustain my desire to stay in this job.’ Any list can quickly clarify where we have been, where we are and where we are going. Past, present, future. They work best if you write them down.
- To do lists
- To done lists, which celebrate achievements
- SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (a popular business application)
- Stop, start, continue. What do you want to stop, start or continue?
- Goals – personal, professional, short term, long term
- Blessings count – get an attitude of gratitude
- Countdown – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1: 5 things to do, 4 things done, 3 people who are supportive, 2 new joys, and 1 thing to quit. Do it weekly. It always helps.
- Start late – extend lunch – leave early – probably best not to do all of these on the same day!
- Secret handshakes – personalise your greeting and meeting with colleagues and clients.
- Practical jokes – the planning can be as much fun as the execution.
- Humour bulletin board – put up pictures of the last outing; post the office joy list.
- Charity – here’s a fact: British people donate more per capita to charity than any other country in the world. Corporate Social Responsibility is generally an organisational decision; charity is personal. ‘Charity begins at home’ but ‘I gave at the office’ is a healthy workplace ethos.
- Jigsaws – it’s great to have these in the staff room. They can be customised with photographs of the staff.
- Sleep screensaver – ever-changing silly messages
- Mouse mats – funny ones, or customised with company logo or special photographs
- Delegate – have a special day where everyone can give away a job. After all, you don’t want to be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.
- Stress balls – these can be squeezable, silicon filled balls or you can use a paper clip in an emergency container.
- Praise – praise loudly; criticise in whispers.
- Office golf – this can be played with rulers for clubs, wadded-up tape for a ball and waste cans for holes. Any game that re–invents office equipment is a great example of humour in the workplace.
- On site massage
- Chill-out room – set aside a communal area that has plants, nice lighting, music, picture magazines, comfy chairs and smelly plug ins.
- Awards – applying for external business awards will put the emphasis on the organisation’s accomplishments. For team benefits, create some internal awards – funny, weekly, yearly, major accomplishments and so on.
- Rewards – these are the awards you give yourself. You make up the rules, do the judging and award the prizes. Also known as – having a piece of chocolate!
- Colouring competition – think about activities you found fun as a child or would plan for a children’s birthday party. After all, adults are only grown-up kids.
- Fun fund – create a budget for endeavours that put personal development ahead of business development. Self-actualised people make better workers.
- The gong – sound a bell; make a public fuss when someone reaches target or makes a sale.
- Wow days – surprises are wonderful mood lifters. Any of the ideas from this list can be implemented without notice.
- Innovate – make up your own Humour in the Workplace: R–I–SK.