Laughter with work colleagues can be not only enjoyable, but healthy as well. So why don’t we have more laughter in the workplace?
Chalk it up to current events. If the recent US government shutdown and near debt default didn’t get you LOLing, then, likely, nor did the continual pressures of your workplace to do more work with less (fill in the blank). But studies have proven that laughter can be supremely beneficial to humans.
Smithsonian Magazine looked at laughter and why we have it in our lives. First, it’s a pleasure trove: laughter brings happiness. But we also laugh when we’re nervous. We laugh to mock. We also laugh to show acceptance and pleasure, two traits that are important in group settings. And that’s where the workplace comes into play.
Polling company Gallup released results this past summer from a survey that looked at workplace engagement of the 100 million or so Americans in full-time positions. It showed that about half of all American workers (or 50 million of those workers) are simply not engaged at their workplace. They are in the office and present, but not inspired by their managers or by their work. Another 20 million wrote on their survey forms of being ‘actively disengaged’ at work. The remaining 30 million workers showed that they were engaged during their work day.
Laughter can help this disengagement to a certain degree. We can’t all be that lucky to laugh all day at work, but planned experiences around humor, fun and other morale-increasing exercises can do wonders for a workforce. Laughter is a signal that endorphins are in play. When we laugh, our body alerts us to a chain reaction that connects with physical and psychological benefits. Our body’s stress-induced levels fall when we laugh more. And that’s good. The lower the cortisol levels in our body mean the lower risk of high blood pressure, excess belly weight and heart disease.
If you work with a group of introverts on computers in a quiet office, the opportunities for laughter in the workplace may be few. But in a less technologically dependent workplace, where human personalities and social skills are important to the job, laughter can be a large part of the work. Here are a few ways to bring laughter into the workplace:
Brainstorming: If you work in a creative environment, no-holds-barred brainstorming is often a link to group laughter. In group brainstorms, sometimes the imagination goes off the rails and ideas become sillier and sillier, leading workers to fits of laughter. But that’s incidental laughter. What about scheduled, planned humor practices and methods to bring your team into a new paradigm of thinking to boost sales, productivity and overall results?
Humor Contest: Get funny. To some workers who aren’t naturally gifted with humor, being funny is a challenge. So use the coming holidays to start up a humor contest. Use an office creative craft for a charity or organization to bring people together for fun. Pick a few people to lead teams in designing photo Christmas cards by Minted for your holiday parties. Using hilarious card options with company photos on the Minted.com site will ignite the laughter around your office holidays.
Timing and context: Individually, workers can share humor in meetings and group activities. But make sure the context is right, the timing is good and the attitude is right, as the Wall Street Journal notes.
Culture shift: Some companies hire extroverts to come in and create change within companies. This planned change can show immediate benefits to workers. At first, these change agent antics may seems strange, but if the top management gives blessings to their work, then others can follow suit and lighten up more often.