What if laughter truly is the best medicine?
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
I have realised of late that one of the things I lack working from home is the laughter. The ferocious, raucous laughter that you only really get from being shoulder to shoulder with your colleagues at work... I realised this when I recently stepped back in the office, and there is was… It came from one direction and rippled across the floor, it was infectious, momentarily the world felt less serious and more like how it used to be.
So, am I alone here? I know organisations are pulling out all the stops, well-being being one of them, but what has and will continue to be the impact of the lack/reduction of laughter? Unlike becoming a reducetarian and lowering your meat intake for the benefit of your colon, this is reducing something that has long been a crucial part of our health and well-being and our collective spirit in humanity.
Wharton, MIT and London Business School all completed studies regarding the positive impact of humor in the office. Alison Beard in the HBR talks about how the studies have evidenced that laughter relieves stress and boredom, its boosts engagement and well-being and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but analytic precision and productivity.
When you laugh it's the mental release, it’s oxygen rich guffaws, it increases the release of the happy chemicals in your brain. It stimulates circulation, increasing blood pressure and heart rate all resulting in leaving you feeling good, more relaxed and recharged.
So how do we keep this going, how do we not lose sight of the rich value we gained from the office community? How do we balance this with remote working? How, do we lead teams to ensure that what was once a novelty (WFH!!) isn’t becoming something tedious and mentally exhausting?
Laughter brings people together. As leaders of remote teams how are you adjusting? how are you making people feel safe and creating a sense of belonging? Are you mindful of the formality that comes with remote working? Particularly with new starters, they aren’t familiar with what the culture really is as they have been welcomed (heart warmingly) through zoom and the formality of that can strip away the value of the office spirit. They are also missing out on the learning tit bits you get from sitting alongside someone, over hearing conversations that enable the full picture of what it’s like to work here, how to navigate the system, who to talk to, who has influence. The elements that come from observation, but has such a valuable imprint on a new employee joining and integrating into the organisation quickly.
So, here's a few thing you may wish to consider:
Make Real Time: Set up social meetings, separate to work meetings. If you bolt them on to the same meeting you are already diluting the social aspect. Make time for social interaction, take time to find out how your teams really are, not surface well-being but meaningful interaction. Consider a team build, this is still possible! Get creative, put it to the team and let them come up with the ideas.
Happy Hour: If you are a business that relied on happy hour for socialising then keep it in, make sure that everyone is tee’d up with a drink of choice and book it in, have a house DJ that has the tunes on in the background, set a theme and ask the team to bring props and create the ambiance that you would have in some salubrious drinking hole.. and if happy hour wasn’t your thing then you can still make it your thing, and this doesn’t need to be with alcohol. Ask each member to bring with them the best clanger of the week…. We all have one but creating a safe place where people can share their most cringe moments and to then laugh freely will benefit all. Invite a mixologist and have a lesson in cocktail making virgin or non..
Gamers Game but why not you: Link up a game together, play together, let the competitive spirit flow and the laughter to. Everyone is on tech so use the tech you have for a new purpose.
Get Creative: Guess the baby competition, kids inappropriate moment of the week, animal disaster, wig day, dress as your initials competition what ever is going to float yours and your teams boat and lastly…. Don’t forget
Celebrate: Now more than ever. The small successes need to be acknowledged, show your team how through all this you’re not losing sight of what they are doing. Celebrate the wins and keep giving feedback, little and often. It makes people feel that your there and that your present.
Studies have shown that the proximity of your team equates to overall team effectiveness. The closer the desk the better the performance. Don’t let this be the case, however far away the team, show that you can still be there for each other and create the space for laughter. We all need it, it’s a physical reaction and is a signal of acceptance for being part of a group…. And as we all know It can be truly contagious, so make space for it. Your team will value you for it and the benefits, endless.