Are you guilty of taking yourself and your job too seriously from time to time? If so, read on.
We live in an exceptionally connected world, and with that comes a significant number of burdens: fierce personal and professional competition thanks to the 24/7 social sphere, as we always know what the Joneses are up to; the temptation to never unplug or take restorative time for ourselves; and the relentless desire for perfection (or at least maintaining its appearance) in many, if not all, of our lives.
I don’t know about you, but that’s about enough to keep me under the covers shuddering and crying on a daily basis. Could it be possible that we’re going about this all wrong—starting with our approach to happiness at work?
Naturally, some of us are employed in more serious fields, such as finance or medical research, or regularly handle sensitive matters, including those who deal with loss, grieving, or major life changes, for example. In this sense, our own range of emotional expression is attuned to the kind of values and behaviors we’d expect from a professional in our position. This seems especially appropriate to uphold when dealing with external audiences, be they current or prospective clients or the general public. Few would joke about others losing their retirement nest eggs, or couples going through an especially painful and acrimonious divorce.
Yet the vast majority of remote workers aren’t likely to serve in roles such as funeral directors or palliative caregivers, and I’d be willing to wager (and truly am hopeful) that those who are can find some moments of joy or laughter in the course of a typical workday. Imagine the positive impact it could have on you and your colleagues.
Just how could you bring some much-needed levity into your work style?
There are a number of ways in which you can make conference calls more enjoyable, disarm others with a sense of humor, and bring a good-natured wit into what could otherwise become a dull digital work life:
Sharing an amusing meme or gif.
How many of us have smiled warmly at the timeless dance moves of Carlton or Elaine, or that sulking orange cat who only wanted to finish the birthday cake? Memes and gifs are zeitgeists of sorts; when selected thoughtfully, they can convey a sense of camaraderie among virtual colleagues and signal to others that you’re about more than meeting deadlines and banking ROI.
Making a routine task into a game.
When Conference Call Bingo made the rounds among remote circles earlier this year, I enthusiastically uploaded it to Trello for clients to consider and enjoy. Haven’t we all been frustrated by connectivity issues, scheduling challenges, and funky audio delays enough to be able to laugh about them? There are plenty of opportunities to “gamify” work in a remote role, turning a mundane setting into a more playful and ultimately more enjoyable one.
Poking fun at yourself.
Stand-up comedians do this brilliantly. Focusing on your own behavior, routines, or flaws is key here; the point is definitely not to have fun at others’ expense. If you actively put yourself at the center of any mocking, you have control. When you make light of a minor flub or offbeat personal habit, you demonstrate that you’ve got a healthy ego, and that it’s totally OK to not take yourself too seriously. (Of course, be careful not to undermine your own skills and abilities in the process!)
Telling a humorous personal anecdote.
Who doesn’t love a good story, especially when it breaks the ice? This could involve a wacky situation arising from someone’s past miscommunication or false assumptions, or perhaps center on a beloved pet or anonymous third party who’ll be none the wiser that it was shared. (Do keep in mind that anything you tell reflects on you, so steer clear of explicit content or that which could be deemed blatantly offensive.)
Planning a welcome surprise.
Celebrations are harder to do from a distance, that’s for sure. But it doesn’t mean that a shout-out for a colleague’s job well done or a flash-mob-style birthday serenade for your boss shouldn’t be in order. When an occasion calls for it, gathering your remote team on video for some synchronous shenanigans can simultaneously delight your colleagues and mark important holidays and milestones.
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