HAVE you ever calculated how many hours you spend every day working in the office? What attitude do you hold towards your manager or subordinates? Do colleagues who banter with one another work better together? Are bosses with a good sense of humour easier to get along with?

No matter the attitude towards the job or work relationships, one would surely agree that an office full of humour is much better than one full of tedium and boredom.

The effective use of humour has been one of the most difficult balances to achieve. With a “never mix business with pleasure” attitude, many bosses have difficulty appreciating the value of humour in the workplace.

There is also a fine line separating comic relief from bawdy, tasteless humour in the workplace.

Indeed, finding the right balance of seriousness and positive camaraderie is never easy, but there is no denying that a good laugh in the workplace can contribute to a positive work environment. The challenge is how to do it right.

The importance of humour

Displaying levity can help build rapport among managers and colleagues, facilitate open communication as well as bolster overall office morale.

Those who have a good sense of humour are also better able to build relationships and ease stressful work situations. When people enjoy working with each other, they are more productive and willing to help their colleagues.

Just as importantly, having a good sense of humour is key for career advancement as it helps you work more effectively with your team and colleagues, stay motivated and perform better under pressure.

People magnets

Managers with a good sense of humour are more approachable and can often communicate more effectively with employees. It is also easier to develop a relationship with a boss who can keep things light-hearted when necessary and does not take himself too seriously.

However, there comes a point when humour can go too far, and managers must be cautious not to overdo it. They need to balance having a good sense of humour while upholding the need to accomplish business goals, inspire outstanding performance and maintain professionalism.

What to avoid

Humour must be low-key, even understated, and should never be used at inappropriate times or to demean someone. Never make another person the target of a joke, and never make jokes about race, gender, sex, age, national origin, religion and disabilities.

In addition, do not make light of mistakes. Instead, acknowledge them, correct them, and maintain the proper perspective for you and your colleagues.

How do you know if you have gone too far?

There are obvious signs, such as a visible display of emotion or a deterioration of relationships. More subtly, you could see a drop in productivity if people no longer trust you or are as motivated by you.

However, it should never come to this. If you keep your humour appropriate, this should not be something you have to worry about.

Unleash your humour

There are some strategies, but most importantly, you should be willing to laugh at yourself and acknowledge the humour of others. Showing you can handle a joke, or even poke one at yourself, can go a long way towards showing your lighter side.

Here are some tips.

* Tailor your approach to each individual. For example, you could share a light-hearted article with a colleague who’s having a bad day or discuss a funny episode of a television show with one who watches the same programme.

* Avoid sarcasm. People often use humour as an indirect way of berating others. For example: “I can’t believe you’re here on time — what’s the occasion?” Sarcasm is rarely a good idea, so keep these type of comments to yourself.

* Create a “funny file”. Are there comic strips or quotes you find particularly funny? Is there a photo that makes you laugh or feel better when you are having a rough day? The next time one of your colleagues feels overwhelmed or under the weather, you can surprise him or her with a snippet from your file. Just be mindful to avoid items that are offensive or in poor taste.

* Laugh with others. You can be perceived as having a great sense of humour without ever telling a joke. Just tune in to the humour styles of those around you and share in the fun.

A culture of fun at work can improve communication, reduce stress and increase productivity. Managers and employees alike should not be afraid to flex their funny bones — just be sure to do so in a business-appropriate way.