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Humour: A must-have quality in the new era of work?

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Recruiters don’t specify a sense of humour in job descriptions, but should they? In these bleak times, the infectious joy of laughter could be the morale boost your people so desperately need.

28th Nov 2022
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The average person spends over 3,500 days at work during their lifetime. What role does a sense of humour play during these hours? 

A sense of humour is your most valuable defence against the trials and tribulations the world throws at you. Your ability to bounce back from setbacks is thanks to your innate ability to see failure as an opportunity to look back on the hard times and reflect on what you’ve learned. Good humour creates resilience.

Humour is very much like a seed. You plant it and in the right conditions it grows all by itself, producing more laughter along the way.

The benefits of laughing

Whilst we’re all born with a sense of humour, some people have devoted their lives to developing such skills into an art form. We pay money to be entertained in comedy clubs, at the theatre and even through music that makes us laugh. We pay to laugh because laughter is valuable. It bonds us, connects us and brings us together. Laughter builds trust. 

Humour is a critical mechanism for bonding. The act of smiling releases hormones which fight stress. Smiling is a social signal too. Researchers at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen asked subjects to rate smiling and attractiveness. They found that both men and women were more attracted to images of people who made eye contact and smiled than those who did not.

Business owners are under continual pressure to streamline, increase efficiency and automate. The automation of the workplace pushes humans into more specialised roles where robots and AI simply cannot compete. 

Roles involving creativity, complex decision making, emotional connection and the uniqueness of human interaction become more and more valuable as less ‘human’ tasks become increasingly automated.

Humour matters more in the digital age

As AI and robotics evolve, some of the current limitations will be overcome, leaving only the most human of skills to the humans – creativity, improvisation, problem solving, relationship building and empathy. It’s these skills that human employees will be valued for and future careers will be built.

Recruiters don’t specify a sense of humour in job descriptions, yet it’s a key quality that makes you stand out in an interview when you’re trying to show that you fit in and have the right attitude.

This is because humour is memorable and, in business, it’s rarely the ‘best’ product or service which wins. Why not? Because ‘best’ is almost impossible to quantify.  

At the end of the day, every decision in business is a human decision. How many times have you turned down what seemed like the ‘best’ option and went with your gut?

Did you buy the car that had the better economy and the lower insurance, or the one you loved the feel of? Did you buy the house that was more for your money, or the one which felt like home? Did you choose the job that paid better or the one you felt a connection with?

It might seem strange to reduce such a complex and ethereal human gift into the harsh reality of profit but profit, for any business, is simply a way of measuring the value of what has been created. 

The real advantage comes from enabling humans to do what humans do best. Humour isn’t the only way to achieve that but it’s probably the simplest and fastest.

Planting the seed of laughter

When you plant a seed in your garden, that seed takes nourishment from the environment and converts them into another form. All you had to do was plant the seed and wait; nature did the rest. Your harvest was profit, measured not in money but in the joy of sharing something you’ve grown yourself with your loved ones. 

Humour is very much like a seed. You plant it and in the right conditions it grows all by itself, producing more laughter along the way.

As you walk through your office, listen out for the music of laughter. If you’re not hearing it, something’s wrong. Stress doesn’t go away but people might be bottling it up and taking it home. 

You can’t stop the everyday emergencies that people have to deal with in a business but you can approach them with lightness and good humour. You can be a role model for handling life’s challenges in a way which inspires others and lets them know that it’s safe to see the ridiculous even in the darkest of moments.

The future of work

In an age where jobs are being replaced by robots and HR professionals worry about the future of work, the real competitive advantage comes neither from having the best systems, the best products, nor the best people. The real advantage comes from enabling humans to do what humans do best. Humour isn’t the only way to achieve that but it’s probably the simplest and fastest.

Paul Boross is a business psychologist, performance coach, comedian, keynote speaker and author of new book Humourology: The Serious Business of Humour At Work.

Interested in this topic? Read more: 5 ways to introduce more laughter at work 

 

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