Putting Humor to Work at a Home Office
Managing a home office can be a rewarding experience. It’s also one of the most challenging. Too few hours in the day, isolation, a lack of motivation and balancing an active home and work life are issues home-based workers wrestle with daily. When I suggest that to help manage these pressures we need to mix generous portions of fun into our business, some people look at me like I’m crazy. “You can’t be serious?” is often the response I’ll get. And you know what? They’re absolutely right. If you want to enhance your creativity, improve productivity, motivate yourself to new heights, depress your stress and look forward to entering your home office every morning then you can’t be serious. You can’t be serious because humor is one of the most undervalued, underutilized and under-appreciated human resources we have at our disposal.
Using our sense of humor isn’t about being funny or telling jokes. Our humor allows us to recognize absurdities in our lives and use that ability to cope with stress and problem solve in a creative manner. Our humor sense helps us maintain a healthy perspective on our work lives, and reminds us to take ourselves lightly, but our work seriously. As a home office worker, the opportunities to mix humor with your business are literally right on your doorstep.
Here’s a few ways to add the humor ingredient into your home-based business:
Lighten Up Your Office
Studies of patients recovering in hospitals, prisoners in pastel-colored environments and naval crews in pink submarines have reached the same conclusion – our physical environment has a profound impact on our mental health, creativity and productivity. A wonderful advantage of working out of the home is your ability to design a fun setting that reflects your personality. So go wild! Decorate your office with lively colors, fun posters, props and photographs, put up a humor bulletin board for work-related cartoons, quotes, and funny articles, create a wacky screen saver or program your computer to play inspirational music each time you start it (the theme from Rocky works wonders). Even if you meet with clients in your office there are still many appropriate ways to liven up your environment and include them in the fun.
Take a Humor Break
Working out of your home often ends up as a round-the-clock venture where fun takes a distant back seat. Yet research suggests that people who take frequent breaks are more productive, manage their stress better and are more creative. So schedule yourself fun time during the work day, not just as a reward at the end of it. Learn to juggle, shoot basketballs, listen to comedy tapes, play silly songs on the piano, read from your favourite comedic writer, visit your 4 year-old or play with your dog (even Thomas Edison played with his dog).
Humor as a Stress Buster
As a stress-buster, humor is one of the most powerful resources available. In fact, some psychologists believe humor is the opposite of stress. Humor acts like mind floss – cleaning out the cob webs that clutter our minds so we can think more clearly and focus on the problem at hand. It also helps put our worries in perspective – preventing us from catastrophizing every time a problem arises. And physically, a good laugh acts like a wonder drug. Laughing relieves tension in the neck and shoulder area, massages internal organs, oxygenates the lungs, reduces blood pressure, reduces stress-inducing chemicals and increases pain-killing endorphin chemicals. Some of these positive effects last up to 24 hours. One doctor found that 20 seconds worth of laughter is the same caloric workout as 3 minutes on a rowing machine, while another study found the laughter works faster on the body than either Valium or vodka.
So use humor to practice the 3 R’s of stress management. Re-frame stressors – look for the humor in a stressful situation by finding something to laugh about or by imagining how a sitcom writer, cartoon character or stand-up comedian would view the problem. Reward yourself when you really need it (which is when things go wrong!). When your printer goes on the fritz use it as a cue to remind yourself it’s time for a fudge sundae, a walk through the park or foot massage. And finally, remember the all important third “R”- relax by finding ways to access your sense of humor when you feel stressed. Keep a “humor first aid kit” in your office filled with toys, props, wacky clothing parts (shower caps look silly on pretty much everyone), cartoon books or funny photos – anything that brings a smile to your face or, better yet, makes you laugh out loud when the going gets tough. And start a humor file to collect humorous material related to your particular home business or profession.
Humor as a Catalyst for Creativity
It’s tough brainstorming with your dog (I know, I’ve tried). Tough, but not impossible. If you feel creatively bankrupt, stop what you’re doing and put on your humor glasses. Humor and creativity are close cousins – both involve looking at the same thing as everyone else, but seeing something different. And humor and play are proven creative catalysts, so if you need a thunderbolt of inspiration dance around the house, ask your four-year old for their ideas, look at your problem from the opposite perspective, or imagine how your dog, James Bond, or a dentist would solve the problem. As silly as these methods sound, they really do work by forcing your brain to make associations you may not have otherwise thought of.
Patting Yourself on the Back
People who work out of their home office know there is only one source of motivation that really counts. Of course, if you don’t live with your mother, then the job naturally falls onto your shoulders. If you work alone, it’s up to you to provide those much needed perks, rewards and pats on the back. Successful organizations celebrate all their small successes – they know that’s the key to reaching bigger milestones faster and more often. The same thing applies when managing “You Inc.” – learn to celebrate and reward yourself for all your small victories. The rewards don’t have to be big, just something a little extra that is special or fun for you.
Start a Humor Epidemic
There’s an old saying, “Humor is like manure to a farmer, it doesn’t do any good until you spread it around.” Fortunately, humor is highly contagious and can be easily distributed to those around you also responsible for the success of your home business: namely your customers, partners, friends and family. So find humorous and creative ways to say “thanks!” for their support. Dole out fun prizes for the “Most Helpful Family Member of the Month” or the “17th Customer of the Year”. Add work-related cartoons or quotes to your invoices, purchase orders, faxes, e-mails or letters. Include family and friends in fun aspects of the business by holding a contest for the best company slogan or by getting them to brainstorm wild marketing ideas.
There are hundreds of ways to put humor to work in your home office. The first, and most important step, is to simply give yourself permission to have fun. And if you are finding it difficult to NOT be serious, then try posting this paraphrase of an Oscar Wilde quote somewhere in your office – “Work is far too important to be taken seriously.”
Copyright Michael Kerr. Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker, very funny motivational speaker, trainer, and author of six books, including Inspiring Workplaces and The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. www.HumoratWork.com
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