Office humour can boost spirits and improve your relationships with colleagues, but there are some pitfalls to sidestep. Here's how to safely flex your funny bone at work.

A little levity can make hectic workdays slightly easier to handle, while reducing the symptoms of stress. But a good chuckle can benefit the overall health of your office, too. 

Laughter enlivens the workplace, tames tension, sparks creative thinking and makes bad meetings more tolerable, all of which are critical to a successful creative firm or department. When crises arise, humour can be employed to restore perspective and build a sense of camaraderie.

But in order to soothe problems instead of creating them, office humour must be used in a positive and productive way, particularly if you are a manager. Here’s some advice to heed:

Go with your gut 

Even if you think you know your audience's sensibilities, tread carefully. Each colleague likely has a different idea of what's funny, which can create a dangerous gray area between amusing and offensive. Be very careful with anything that could be construed as off-colour humour. If you think to yourself, "Hmm, I wonder if I should say this?" that's a clue you shouldn't. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Don't use humour to criticize 

Using office humour as a vehicle to mock, vent or generally make a coworker look bad is no laughing matter. Saying, "Oh, I was just kidding" or "Can't you take a joke?" after making a mean-spirited wisecrack doesn't negate the snide comment or repair any damage done. If you want to address a frustrating situation or offer a critique of a colleague’s creative work, be straightforward instead of sarcastic or passive-aggressive. And if you realize you’ve offended someone, acknowledge the person’s feelings and offer a sincere apology quickly.

Poke fun at yourself 

The safest target for a witty barb is you. Being able to laugh at your own quirks shows that you're self-aware and don't take yourself too seriously. Yes, you generally want to project the image of being confident and capable, but a well-timed self-deprecating comment can be endearing.

Watch what you write 

Conveying your sense of humour with the written word isn't always easy because recipients of your messages obviously can't see your face or hear the tone of your voice. That makes it difficult to discern whether you're kidding. And adding an emoticon or emoji rarely clears up the confusion. Proceed with caution to avoid having your message fall flat or be misinterpreted.

Don't force office humour

Not everyone can tell a good joke. And that’s fine. If cracking one-liners doesn't come naturally, use other ways to show your lighter side. Simply smiling and laughing along with jokes or witty comments can demonstrate you have a good sense of humour.

Happy workers are better workers. Check out The Secrets of The Happiest Companies and Employees, a guide from our company that you can use to increase happiness in your office.