Any time you walk through the halls of an elementary school or frequent a playground all you hear are giggles and laughter, but when you walk the maze of cubicles at work or along the hallways in your office, you rarely hear those same sounds of glee. It's not that we have outgrown laughter as we have entered adulthood, but work is generally viewed as a place to be serious so that lots of work can get done. Now research tells us that a little humor and laughter at work can go a long way.
Often referred to as the "best medicine," laughter at work is gaining ground as an easy way to brighten the workday and boost the overall health of your workplace or organization. Because there is a growing amount of research that supports the benefits of laughter at work, humor is now getting the professional respect it deserves.
The benefits of laughter
The Global Coaches Network is one supporter of laughter in the workplace. The organization claims that:
- Laughter increases productivity
- Those who laugh out loud are more creative at problem solving
- Those who laugh have better memory retention
- Those who laugh experience less stress
- Laughter is a major coping mechanism
- Those who laugh together may work more effectively together
A study conducted at Canadian financial institutions found that managers who most frequently used humor also had the highest level of employee performance. Dr. William Fry of Stanford University found that laughing 200 times can burn as many calories as rowing intensely for 10 minutes, boosting your energy and giving you that alive feeling.
David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Bingham University, discusses laughter at work in his new book, 'Evolution For Everyone.' Wilson finds laughter to be a good thing for any workplace. "When it is appropriate, laughter puts everyone in a merry mood. Mechanistically, the brain releases a cocktail of chemicals similar to those that we take artificially to give ourselves a good time such as opium or morphine. So besides feeling good, we also act good."
Laughing at work
Leigh Anne Jasheway, M.P.H. and comedian, says that you don't want to encourage pranks or have everyone at work turn into the court jester, but recommends these methods for using laughter at work:
- Include humorous quotes in communications
- Encourage employees to share and laugh at their own misstep
- Use improv games as icebreakers and stress busters
- Provide crayons and construction paper at meetings for creative doodling
- Organize group activities outside of work that include community service and fun
Get creative with it. Rich Enos, CEO and co-founder of Study Point, Inc. says that his small company of mostly telecommuters uses laughter and humor to build a corporate culture. "We have impromptu theme days as well as caption contests, like the ones in the New Yorker."
Work should not feel like punishment -- we've been saying that for years -- and now there is scientific research that proves it. A little laughter at work is just what people need in this time of change and financial fluctuation. If laughter is also proven to make us happier, more effective workers, then bring on the whoopee cushion!