For better business,try laughing on the jobPeople...


For better business,try laughing on the job

People aren't laughing much at work, and that's bad for business, says Reesa Woolf.

The Baltimore woman, who bills herself as a "humor consultant for businesses," says studies have shown children laugh about 400 times a day.

By the time we grow up, though, we laugh an average of only 14 times a day, she says.

And though she doesn't have a survey to back her up, she says that number has probably fallen in the last couple of years.

When she tells people what she does, workers tell her they haven't laughed at work for months.

And that means people aren't working as efficiently as they could be. Laughter can help to bond teams. And humor can help people get points across to their bosses or to groups of employees faster than a serious talk, says Ms. Woolf, a trainer for the local office of business consultants Drake Beam Morin Inc. Ms. Woolf has given presentations to Martin Marietta and the U.S. Naval Academy.

But that doesn't mean a manager should dress up in clown clothes. "Only about 1 percent of the population can tell a joke well," she says, adding that workers and managers alike should steer away from inappropriate humor, such as ethnic jokes.

Ms. Woolf says that even though she probably isn't one of the chosen few jokesters, she uses humor in her speeches. For example, she use slides of cartoons to highlight points in speeches. And she has assembled a few lines that help her get out of sticky situations.

For example, if she has just asked a question to which she is supposed to know the answer, and someone points that out, she smiles and says, "Oh, I was just testing you," to lighten the mood.

The luck of the Irish bypasses their women

Some Irish eyes aren't smiling. Despite the stereotype of the mirthful Irish, the working lives of Irish women can be bleak.

They face the most workplace discrimination in Europe, one survey has found.

Both men and women in Ireland said the prospect of a female in jobs traditionally held by men, such as bus driver or train conductor, was almost unthinkable, Manpower Inc. says.

European women have slightly better prospects in countries such as Luxembourg, Italy or Greece. Danish women are best off, the survey found.

Chances of being fired on increase, poll says

Here's some news that will make you cry: Executives say that about a third of all workers will be fired at some point in their careers, a survey shows.

Five years ago, a similar survey by Accountemps, a New York-based temporary agency, found the executives expected only a quarter of all employees would ever be fired.

The good news: Nearly four out of five of the 150 executives questioned say there is less stigma to being fired today than there was five years ago.

Faxing becomes fast and furious at offices

Fax addiction is fast overtaking U.S. offices, a new Gallup survey says.

Regular fax machine users such as mail room personnel and office managers at Fortune 500 companies send an average of 49 documents a day, up from 40 just last year, the survey found. And the faxes are getting longer -- last year, the documents averaged 4.6 pages; this year, 5.3.

And lest companies be concerned that lunch orders and Rotisserie league stats are cluttering the fax flow, the survey found that purchase orders and reports were the documents most commonly sent and received.

In the cost-conscious '90s, office managers need to be beware on another score: 72 percent of fax machine users had no idea what it cost to send a fax. (Answer: Typically, 15 to 18 cents a minute for long-distance transmission on a machine requiring 30 seconds per page.)

More repercussions from relocations

The hassle and cost of relocating workers keeps growing, one relocation expert warns.

Gloria Winkelmann, president of Clor Inc., a Fullerton, Calif., real estate company, told the Employee Relocation Council this week that the average cost of relocating a worker has hit $46,000.

Workers and companies now face lawsuits over disagreements. One company, she said, discovered that the moved employee left it with property contaminated with toxic waste.

Compensation claims fall, but rise in cost

The frequency of workers' compensation claims dropped from 1989 to 1991. But the average cost per claim jumped by more than a third in that period, a new study has found.

The study of 733 companies by insurance broker Johnson & Higgins found the average number of worker compensation claims per 100 employees dropped from 10.9 in 1989 to 10.1 in 1991.

However, the average cost per claim in that period jumped from $3,842 to $5,197.

As a result, employers are paying more for workers' compensation coverage -- 2.6 percent of payroll, up from .6 percent in 1960.

One of the causes of the escalation has been states' willingness to consider as work-related injuries things like stress-related problems, never previously covered by the systems.

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