Yesterday at a meeting with a water Utility our Materials expert said that one of their stored pipes would degrade with exposure to CO2 - carbon dioxide. In the meeting minutes this was noted, and I added that special care should be taken not to breathe on the pipe (large diameter prestressed concrete cylinder pipe). Is a joke like this okay? I have read Forbes articles that say humour at work leads to more success and makes the customer more relaxed. Is it okay to have fun when it is not offensive, or should every document be completely serious all the time?
At best, it's harmless. But typically it's not productive in work documents.
Humor tends to work in personal, verbal communication. Verbal humor usually includes tone and body language, and tends to perform based on timing and context. With good timing and delivery, humor can be a useful device for relaxing people (both co-workers and clients) and making yourself seem likeable, thus being useful in one's professional life.
With written humor, however, you lose those personal and temporal factors. The reader may not find the joke humorous, or may not understand that it's a joke, and instead they may be confused as to why it's included in meeting notes. For business documentation (like meeting notes) you usually want to keep the text to the intended point; anything else is likely considered excessive or fluff.
Meeting minutes, specifically, are supposed to be matter of fact summaries of what was discussed in a meeting. If you were releasing an email or something to that effect it would likely be fine (although depends on how stuck up your bosses are, and what kind of jokes you make), but in meeting minutes it is directly contrary to their purpose to add in colorful language and humor.
Generally to be avoided.
If something should go wrong, or the minutes need to be raised in some kind of conflict or complaint, then humour can be interpreted as the meeting members not taking the subject of the meeting seriously.
The actual outcome of the meeting is then pretty irrelevant because people are making light of a situation that subsequently someone has taken very seriously.
Depends on who sees the note, but in my experience it is best to avoid it in nearly every case. Just to give you an idea we once had a alias email that went to the dev team. People posted jokes and so forth on it but nobody realized the alias grew in size (you couldn't see who was in the alias). A CTO requested all dev team aliases to add his email. He didn't find the jokes that amusing.
In best case, it's best to keep professional notes as professional as possible. You never know who will read it. Even if you email just your team, don't include the joke as you never know who can forward those jokes and to who. Typically people just forward the entire message and not edit out the jokes.
As far as that Forbes article, I'm pretty sure they meant to joke with your co-workers in casual conversations by the water cooler and whatnot, not with your professional meetings and attempt to turn it into a joke.