The Laughter Effect
Tuesday, August 8, 2023

The Laughter Effect

Research shows that it pays to bring your sense of humor to work with you.

We experience many emotions in everyday life, but none is quite as therapeutic as laughter. Giggles, sniggers, chuckles, huge guffaws. It doesn’t matter how you laugh, it all has the same effect. From lightening the mood and relieving stress to improving the immune system and easing pain, there’s a reason that laughter is considered the best medicine.

But, did you know that laughter also has a positive influence on the way we work? We take a look at why laughter is good for us and how introducing humor into your day can improve working relationships, bring job satisfaction, and boost creativity and productivity. We also offer some tips to help you bring humor into your place of work.

The Positive Effects of Laughter

Research has long suggested that laughter stimulates the mind and body to bring about a variety of positive effects and outcomes.

Woman laughing with colleagues in office.

Relaxes the Body

Laughing helps relieve physical tension and stress. Some studies suggest that your body and muscles are left relaxed for up to 45 minutes after having a good hearty belly laugh.

Protects the Heart

When you laugh, you take in greater amounts of oxygen-rich air, helping to lower blood pressure and increase your heart rate. A healthy heart can protect you against a range of cardiovascular problems.

Boosts the Immune System

In addition to being good for the heart, humor increases the body’s production of antibodies and immune cells. By giving the immune system a boost, laughter helps ward off infections and improve your resistance to disease.

Improves Overall Well-Being

Humor triggers the activation of mood-boosting and feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These have a natural euphoric effect and promote an overall feeling of well-being. It’s also suggested that when the production of these chemicals increases, it can bring temporary relief from pain.

Benefits of Laughter in the Workplace

Coworkers laughing in meeting.

So, how does all this help in the working environment? Obviously, whether it’s employees, managers, or top board members, everyone who laughs reaps the health benefits. But if a healthier workforce isn’t enough, you’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of other reasons why introducing humor into the workplace is beneficial.

Relieves Stress

Laughter is a great stress reliever. In addition to activating those mood-boosting chemicals, humor decreases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, helping to relieve anxiety and making you feel happier.

Allowing yourself and other people to have some fun and a good laugh during a busy workday can make tackling difficult tasks and stressful situations a little bit easier.

Better Managers

Studies suggest that humorous managers are better at motivating employees, while a survey by the human resource consulting company Robert Half found that 84% of workers feel that people are better at their job when they have a good sense of humor.

It seems that employees have more respect and engage better with a leader who injects humor into their managerial style.

Increases Job Satisfaction and Boosts Morale

Working in an environment that prioritizes humor and laughter can lead to employees being more engaged with the task at hand. And, workers who know that they will have some fun at work genuinely look forward to going into the office.

When people are happy, energy levels are high which reduces feelings of negativity, minimizes conflicts between co-workers, and helps the whole team, department, or workforce deliver better results.

A sense of humor may also help you get on in the company, with more than 90% of the executives that took part in the Robert Half survey believing it’s an important trait for career advancement.

Enhances Team Building

Laughter brings people together, helping build more cohesive teams. As we’ve seen, a humorous manager is better at motivating employees. By sharing a funny story or telling a joke, everyone gets to have fun together and laugh at the same thing. This camaraderie goes a long way toward turning work colleagues into actual friends, helping people communicate better and work well as a team.

Humor is also a great way to onboard new team members who may be a little nervous. There’s nothing quite like a good laugh to break the ice.

Boosts Productivity and Creativity

Healthier, happier employees and teams that work well together can only lead to one thing: improved performance. People who laugh tend to think outside the box, giving them the ability to come up with more innovative and creative ideas and solutions than those who don’t.

During a 2015 study, researchers used comedy to make participants laugh. The result was a 12% increase in productivity. The theory is that happy people are more focused and work more efficiently, so they’re able to complete a task in half an hour which may take someone less happy 40 minutes or more to do.

How to Introduce Laughter to the Workplace

Group laughing while participating in a tug-of-war.

Too often, laughter in the workplace is frowned upon. Employees make an effort to suppress laughter so they appear more serious and focused. So, it’s down to you to introduce humor and a bit of lightheartedness into the office environment. Here are our top tips for bringing some fun into the office.

  • Start every meeting and presentation with a joke, a hilarious video, or a funny icebreaker.
  • Email a daily joke to your team.
  • Host a fun day. Make it a fancy dress day or get everyone to wear something silly. Maybe set aside time for a fun game, such as Pictionary or Heads-Up.
  • Organize a group outing to a comedy club or invite a standup into the office.
  • Host an awards ceremony with amusing awards, such as “The Pen Thief,” “The Walking Wikipedia,” or “Most Likely to Become a Reality TV Star” gongs.
  • Introduce a weekly contest where employees vote for the team member that comes up with the funniest video, the best one-liner, or the most amusing anecdote.

Many of these ideas can also work well as virtual activities. So, even if you and your team work remotely or have hybrid working arrangements, it’s still possible to get everyone involved in the fun.

Things to Remember

Before introducing any of the above into the workplace, there are a few things to beware of:

  • Some gentle teasing is OK but avoid being condescending or offensive.
  • No matter what funny story you’re telling, keep it positive.
  • Humor should be inclusive and kind. It’s important to remember that it is OK to laugh with your employees and colleagues, but not to laugh at them.

Laugh Your Way to Success

Humor can transform a working environment from somewhere people have to go to earn a living to the place they want to go to every day. From lowering stress levels and boosting morale to helping build teamwork and improving performance, the benefits of laughter are indisputable.

Of course, the humor has to be appropriate for the workplace. But, if you get it right and introduce laughter into your workplace, you’ll see improvements across the board. After all, a happy employee who enjoys a good laugh will be much more productive.

Jackie Smart
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