4 Ways Humor at Work Improves Productivity

humor at work productivity

photo by JD Hancock

When I travel the country and talk with people about humor at work, they are often already aware of some of the soft benefits humor provides: it makes you laugh, makes things fun, and helps you relax.

What most people don’t know about humor in the workplace is that it can make you more productive, e.g. it’s not just that humor helps you enjoy your work more, it actually makes you better at it.

Here are 4 ways using humor at work makes you more productive.

1. You’ll do repetitive tasks longer.

Some of the tasks you have to complete day-to-day can feel nauseatingly repetitive: data entry, factory line work, email.

Humor can help you find ways to enjoy the task more so you work on the task longer without feeling bored.[1]

Doing data entry? Establish a rhythm in your head that you enter the data to. Working on a factory line? Come up with the lyrics of a rap song in your head. Going through your email? Read them in a British accent.

Small changes like these help you focus while staying energized about the work.

2. You’ll solve problems faster.

Regardless of your role, one part of it is likely to solve problems. Whether you are tasked with finding a way to save your company $10,000 or you’re working at a grocery store solving the problem of a cart getting stuck together, you have to find solutions.

Humor helps you look at things in a new way and see new connections. [2] Studies show that a dose of humor releases serotonin in the brain which improves focus, increases objectivity, and improves overall brain power.[3]

Watch a funny comedy clip or read interesting trivia before generating possible solutions to your problem and get those brain juices going.

3. You’ll learn material better.

If you want to get better, you have to get smarter. No matter what you’re working on or how long you’ve been doing it, ongoing training and learning will help you do your job more effectively. That’s true if you’re an IT person learning a new program or a manager learning a new leadership style.

Using humor when learning can help you understand material better and remember it longer. [4] It will also make the process more enjoyable. [5]

One of the easiest way to do this is to create your own mnemonics for material you’re learning. Remember SohCahToa, Spring Forward / Fall Backward, and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge? They are mnemonics that make it easy to remember Trigonometry, Daylight Savings Time, and notes on a treble clef (or a life philosophy I hold).

Find a way to turn key points of what you’re learning into a helpful mnemonic so you won’t have to go scouring to your notebook every time you want to implement something (or worse, so you won’t forget you learned something helpful in the first place).

4. You’ll have more energy.

Finally, in order to be productive, you have to actually have the energy to do the work. It doesn’t matter how much time you have if you can’t get yourself to be productive with that time.

Humor helps boost your energy by burning calories [6], increasing bloodflow to the brain [7], and relaxing your body [8]. It also counteracts the negative effects of stress, helping to prevent burnout, and can improve your mood so you’re in the right mindset to get stuff done.[9]

Be sure to schedule breaks throughout your day as a knowledge worker, factory worker, or whatever-kind-of-worker-you-are, and boost your energy with humor. You might even try the Pomodoro Technique to force periods of strategic disenagement.

Using Humor at Work Makes You More Productive

There you go, 4 research-backed ways humor improves productivity at work. Want to get started with levity? Pick up the 501 Ways to Use Humor App available for Apple and Android.


[1] Humor in the Workplace: Anecdotal Evidence Suggests Connection to Employee Performance by Lauren Breeze. Perspectives in Business, 2004.
[2] “Let the Good Times Roll Building a Fun Culture” by David Stauffer. Harvard Management Update No. U9910B.
[3] A Dash of Humor Ups Performance and Creativity at Work by Robyn McMaster, PhD. Brain Based Biz, Sept 2008.
[4] Humor, Analogy, and Metaphor: H.A.M. it up in Teaching by Randy Garner. Radical Pedagogy, 2005
[5]  Learning about and through humor in the second language classroom. Nancy D. Bell Washington State University. Language Teaching Research 13,3 (2009).
[6] “Give Your Body a Boost with Laughter.” R Morgan Griffin. WebMD
[7] “Humor in the Workplace: A Communication Challenge” by Robert A. Vartebedian, PHD. Presented at Speech Communication Association, Nov 1993
[8] Ha! Laughing is Good for You! by Amy Toffelmire. Canoe.ca, April 2009.
[9] De-Stressing Though Laughter by M Thomas. Huffington Post, March 2013

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