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Office banter – good for business?

By Emma Musgrave | |4 minute read

Is your workplace seeing a bit of a slump? Office banter could be the solution.

A new survey by e-learning platform Preply has asked more than 1,500 people about their perceptions of banter in the workplace.

The results showed that when used appropriately, office banter can be good for business, leading to increased employee satisfaction rates.


Of the Australians surveyed in the Preply study, 52 per cent thought that banter at work was acceptable as long as it remained light-hearted and playful. A further 36 per cent of people surveyed felt that banter could create better relationships at work, allowing people to connect and make friends during the working day.

That being said, there is a fine line between banter and offensive behaviour, with the latter leading to individuals reporting it has adversely affected their confidence and mental health.

Forty-four per cent of survey respondents felt that being offensive and disrespectful towards a colleague was unacceptable, highlighting that it can often go too far. Meanwhile, 15 per cent of people thought that banter at work ran the risk of causing tension between employees, which could lead to two people finding it awkward to work together.

“Humour in the workplace is essential — it can help boost morale and reduce stress. However, employees should be wary of making jokes that stray into offensive territory. People should think about how that joke would sound if said back to them and whether they would feel uncomfortable trying to justify the comments if questioned about them,” said Amy Pritchett, culture director of Preply.

“Our survey revealed the best benefits of banter are that it helps lighten a tense situation and make conversations more enjoyable. Banter is only effective when used within the proper context – particularly when it comes to banter in the workplace. Being in an office environment can include banter, but it has to remain appropriate and professional.”

5 tips for employers to ensure banter does not get out of hand:

  1. Set the acceptable standard

“Communicate your business’s standards as part of the culture, setting the tone and ensuring everyone knows what is acceptable and unacceptable,” Ms Pritchett said.

  1. Take steps to promote a positive, inclusive culture

“Avoid banter getting out of hand and start by setting the right tone in the workplace to encourage a safe, healthy and fair environment.”

  1. Keep policies up to date and review them regularly

“Policies such as equal opportunities, anti-harassment, and bullying should be updated and reviewed regularly.”

  1. Provide training on banter and harassment

“Employers and managers must protect their employees and have regular training, including a full briefing on the responsibilities of line managers about bullying, harassment and discrimination.”

  1. Deal with any issues promptly

“If you feel certain behaviours or banter could potentially upset someone, it is vitally important that you address the issue promptly – don’t wait for it to get out of hand or escalate to a formal grievance,” Ms Pritchett concluded.