Study: Humour doesn’t always help with work stress 

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HUMOUR can help people deal with the stress of juggling work and family commitments, but it’s the timing and situation that counts, reveals a new ANU-led study.  

Co-workers exchanging laughs before an important meeting might be having an adverse effect, lead author Dr David Cheng and his team found. 

“If you seek out humour – if you’re the one cracking the joke or pressing play on the video, it very clearly helps reduce stress,” Dr Cheng said.  

“Basically, it’s all about whether you are in control of the situation and can seek out a distraction when you need it. 

“I suspect it also has to do with whether you feel supported by your colleagues. For example, if they say: ‘I’ll handle the meeting, you go and pick up your kids’, and then crack a joke, it might help. But if they’re not picking up the slack, you’re less likely to appreciate the humour.”

Dr Cheng said thinking about humour and how it can affect stress in the workplace is especially important when more and more people return to the office following COVID-19 lockdowns. 

“A lot of people have been able to ‘switch off’ from their colleagues while working from home over the past 12 months,” he said. 

“You can finish the Zoom meeting and then have some time to yourself.

“While working from home very much presented its own set of challenges, for much of 2020 we weren’t juggling a long commute or drop-offs and pickups.  

“As we come out of lockdown and head back into the office, we may have to re-adjust and think about how we deal with work-life conflict.” 

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