In the work environment, laughter has been shown to relieve stress, reduce boredom, increase engagement and improve well-being. It can also spur creativity, collaboration, analytic precision and productivity.

91% of executives even believe that tasteful use of humor can lead to career advancement. One Harvard Business School professor has found that a respectful, well-placed joke can make people seem more professionally competent.

Adding humor to your work-life doesn’t mean becoming a clown; it’s simply about bringing a sense of lightness that unlocks people’s confidence and professional talents.

The science of laughter

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter not only lightens the load mentally, it also means that we take in more oxygen-rich air, enhancing our neurological functionality. Laughter can result in the release of endorphins and can stimulate muscle relaxation, reducing stress levels.

Researchers have even found that after watching a comedy clip, employees were 10% more productive than their non-comedy-watching peers. In a separate study, volunteers were discovered to have improved puzzle-solving abilities (by 20%) after watching a short Robin Williams piece.

Where to stop the office laughing

Of course, overemphasis on jokes that get the office laughing can detract from productivity. Workplaces should also remain watchful for bosses who tease reports, or employees who share jokes that others would find politically incorrect or that would make others uncomfortable. Within the bounds of kindness and respect, laughter has advantages.

Other benefits of laughter in the workplace

  • Research also shows that laughter can help to build trust between people. It offers a means of forming enduring social bonds. Is laughter the secret weapon for building cohesive departmental units?
  • Humans who are anxious stop laughing and they do so quickly. Humans who feel safe and secure in their environment do indeed laugh; an indication that a group is in a good place.
  • Leaders with a sense of humor are seen as 27% more motivating than their stayed counterparts.
  • A handful of studies indicate that working in remote teams can lead people to feel as though they lack a sense of connectedness. Levity on remote teams is especially important, as connections through machines inadvertently mean that we may end up behaving like machines.

Presidents Bush and Obama were both known to leverage humor to help people relax and to help reach the truth in certain situations. While the notion of incorporating a modest amount of humor into your routine might sound frivolous, you might find that you’ll get more out of your workplace and your own role with a little bit of humor.

Interested in learning more about how to get the office laughing? Check out this Stanford course titled: Humor: Serious Business, which provides executives and entrepreneurs with strategies for improving relationships and business results.

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