Let’s face it. Times are tense. People are stressed out, overworked, and juggling a variety of personal and professional challenges. Laughter can help.
Studies show that laughter can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve your immune system, and boost your mood. Even in challenging times, there is place for humor in the workplace, but there need to be some parameters.
Consider some activities designed to promote healthy laughter:
- Laughter yoga. This is an organized wellness exercise that focuses on prolonged voluntary laughter. It is based on the idea that laughter has physiological and psychological benefits. These activities are usually done in groups, with playfulness between participants.
- Daily jokes or cartoons. Send out daily missives of humor. These should be light (even silly), non-political, and broad in appeal. There are even apps that promote laughter or share jokes. Not everyone will laugh at every joke, but these humorous messages will send a positive, uplifting message to staff.
- Start meetings by having a staff member share a funny story about something that happened to them. This not only promotes laughter but gives your team a chance to get to know each other better.
- Give people opportunities to be silly. Have special days for costumes, funny pet pictures, tacky holiday sweaters, etc.
- Have comedy movies or TV shows in the break room or common area. Choose programs that are light. Classic comedy such as Abbott & Costello or Charlie Chaplain can have universal appeal.
Like most forms of entertainment, humor is very subjective, so not every person will find humor in the same things. But laughter is contagious, and all of these activities can help lighten the mood and energize your teams even on a busy day.
Of course, there are some basic rules about humor in the workplace:
- Jokes that are cruel, sexist, racist, profane, or otherwise offensive are never okay.
- Don’t make fun of people. It’s okay to laugh at a situation but not the people involved.
- Watch the use of sarcasm. This can come across as mean or snarky.
- Humor should never be used to distract or divide people. For instance, if there has been a tragedy or disaster, making jokes is beyond inappropriate. It’s cruel, insensitive, and hurtful and can make people feel worse instead of better.
Interestingly, not all laughter is the same. For instance, spontaneous, happy laughter generally produces a more positive emotional response than cruel or mocking laughter. This is yet another reason to keep humor light and whimsical.
Take a minute at your next meet to talk with your team about how you can incorporate laughter in the workday. It can help make these trying times easier and staff more creative and inspired.