Goofing Off In Work Meetings Leads To Better Teamwork, Study Shows

“No more goofing off!” The next time you hear a boss say that, you might want to question whether they know what they’re doing, particularly if you’re engaged in a team effort.

According to a new study from VU University Amsterdam and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, humor during work meetings can actually enhance team performance.

Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock, the paper’s lead author, observed 54 video-recorded meetings from employees at two companies based in Germany. Supervisors were typically absent from the meetings, which were organized by teams within the organizations.

According to Inc., Lehmann-Willenbrock “frequently observed patters of humor-laughter-humor chains.”

When someone would tell a joke, others on the team felt comfortable enough to follow with more wisecracks “until the laughter finally died down.” Once the laughter was finished, communications improved, and “teams were more likely to propose new ideas and ask constructive questions.”

After the goofing off had been observed and recorded, researchers went to team supervisors and found that the “higher the number of humor-laughter-humor events during meetings, the better the supervisor rated the team — both immediately after the meeting and two years down the line.”

The only exception to the researchers’ findings was when organizations were already suffering with issues economically and with job security.

It is important to note that these findings are also limited to intellectual humor and not “horseplay,” which is defined as “rough or boisterous play or pranks that occur at the workplace,” according to a study from Emory University.

“Horseplay can be activities such as joking that includes physical contact, playing around, racing, grabbing, foolish vehicle operation, social pressure to participate in unsafe acts, harassment, and unauthorized contests.”

Emory notes that each year, “there are hundreds of injuries in the United States from pulling pranks at work.” In some states, “horseplay that results in injury can result in criminal prosecution.”

Furthermore, “courts have held that these injuries are not the result of an accident but are deliberate acts. Workplace horseplay incidents may lead to serious injuries at work, divide the workplace, and prevent employees from getting their jobs done.”

As for the study from VU and the University of Nebraska, what do you think about it, readers? Do you and your co-workers get more done if you’re given a bit more freedom to engage in activities that might be considered “goofing off”? Sound off in the comments section.

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