First off, the best ways to have fun at work are deeply individual: you can’t cookbook your way there, although some of these ideas might help you get the ball rolling. Humor is a mindset, an attitude, and a skill set that takes practice. You encounter countless inspirations for fun and funny ideas every hour of every day, but most people are blind to them: too busy, too serious, too distracted. Fun moments typically require extremely little time or energy: usually a few words or a few seconds. That paltry investment earns enormous payoffs:
- Improved attitude and mood, proven by much research to enhance energy, motivation, creativity, and problem-solving skills,
- Entertainment for others, quickly building rapport, liking, coöperation, and trust,
- Power: you teach yourself by experience that you can promptly improve any situation with humor,
- You can convert the vastly absurd and inefficient swamp that is health care from a burden to a source of great material for smiles and giggles,
- At least here and there, you can ENJOY WORK, and
- It only gets better with time and practice.
Humor is extremely individual, and there’s not much point trying to become someone you’re not. Find a style that works for you, that’s natural and pleasant: authenticity is essential. Find material that matters to you. Again, with all human interactions, authenticity is king and queen. People notice and reject fake. Find your own path, not someone else’s.
For example, I don’t often go with jokes, as they’re time-consuming and difficult to remember and deliver properly. Every so often I do come up with one. One joke once made an extremely depressed nun laugh out loud. I made it up on the spot:
A patient had some sort of complaint related to one of human anatomy’s worst design flaws: our shared airway/foodway. It allows us to breathe cake or steak, and often enough, that’s exactly what we do. Honestly, if God were a car maker we’d all have been recalled long ago (I just made that one up, and it’s not “the” joke). Other animals have two separate tubes, but humans suffer this design flaw. So what’s the joke? Here it is:
I can prove to you that God uses the bathroom. Hear me out! Picture God working on human anatomy, way back when. He says to His assistant: “I need to use the bathroom. I’ll be right back. You’ve done good work so far: figure out the airway while I’m gone.” When God comes back and sees the result, he cringes: “My ME – you can breathe cake and steak!!!” Seeing the assistant’s sadness, God feels pity and says “No no, don’t feel bad, I’m sure they’ll manage… One thing, though. I think I’ll move you from human design to… to funguses. A promotion! Yes, you’ll fit right in on that team…” Whenever you choke on cake or steak, blame God and the Heavenly Bathroom.
I enjoyed that one, as have many others. But as I said, jokes are heavy lifting, and difficult to delivery correctly. I usually go with self-deprecating and other observations, point out the oddities and absurdities around us. I also often offer frankly bizarre behaviors, little surprises to break up the monotony and distract folks from their suffering. It’s not easy to describe out of context, but here’s a list of possibilities off the top of my head:
- When you show up for work, throw your arms in the air and give everyone a hearty “Ta Da!”
- Wear interesting clothes. I have a tee-shirt from a circus museum, and a Scottish Rugby jersey, and so on.
- Bounce a ball. I have a racquetball printed to look like an official NBA basketball. It comes with a joke: another time.
- Watch Patch Adams, the movie. I met him in person once. Apply what you learn.
- When your computer is slow, openly make fun of it. Tell the patient it’s busy playing chess with a Russian machine, but it will come around in time.
- When pushing an empty wheelchair, introduce everyone you meet to your patient from the fancy new Invisible Patient Department. Trust me, I’ve tried it. It’s fun!
- Whenever a patient asks you if you’re a Doctor, tell them “Of course not. I’m here talking to you, right?” or some such.
- A clown nose grants you bonus points, as do giant clown shoes.
- Make fun of the hospital food. It’s certainly better than trying to defend it!
- Juggle. It’s not that hard to learn, honestly. Make fun of your ineptitude at it for bonus points.
- Whenever you can’t find something or a supply runs out, openly thank management for their contribution.
- Whenever a rule or policy or procedure makes absolutely no sense, smother it in cleansing sarcasm.
- Create your own personal mythology. I have the Isle of Redikulos, vaguely Greek, where all those most absurd and dysfunctional coworkers, policies. etc all live together in absurdity, heartily greeting each other with “Redikulos!!!”
- My unofficial title at work is The Distractor. I created it myself, of course. Get yourself a fun title.
- Whenever someone tells you that you “Have to,” give them a mysterious smile and a “Really?” and walk away…
- Use dance steps to enter and/or leave the room. Humming offers bonus points.
- Give patients unofficial titles. Mine, I keep to myself.
- Give docs unofficial titles: even better!
- I sometimes point out that international law requires lots of redundant forms. It sure seems that way!
- In summary, figure out what works for you. Push past your comfort zone, or you’ll never make progress. That’s no fun!
People too often confuse professional with boring. Don’t suffer that way. Don’t make yourself bored and boring. Having fun is the way to get more done, to build more energy, motivation, creativity, and LIFE.
Enjoy, and please tell me your success stories. I love them!