Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Laugh at Work
Nothing relieves stress and decreases tension like a good laugh — and there’s data to prove it.
The short and long-term benefits of laughing
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has both short and long-term benefits. In the short-term, “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.” The sudden increase and subsequent decrease in your heart rate and blood pressure stimulates blood circulation, relaxes muscles, and reduces other symptoms of stress.
Long-term effects include strengthening the immune system by releasing, “neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.” Laughing can help relieve chronic pain, “by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.” Laughter can even help individuals who suffer from depression and anxiety. When we share a laugh with others it has a healing effect, resulting in a feeling of well-being and satisfaction.
Is laughing good for your career?
In addition to the health benefits, a good sense of humor and a hearty laugh can be good for your career. According to Jeanette Settembre, writing for MarketWatch, “If you’re a new hire and trying to relate to some of your new colleagues, you can show them that you’re approachable and easy-going with a joke or subtle sarcasm. If you’re in a more senior role, giving criticism to a fellow employee by sharing a time that you made a similar mistake with humor can show them that it’s a learning curve and they’re not alone.”
Laughter puts others at ease because it reflects the satisfaction and enjoyment you take in your work and the company of your colleagues. Laughter can build trust and boost overall morale. Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, president of Humor at Work, and author of “The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank” points out that, “in workplaces that encourage people to be themselves — that are less hierarchical and more innovative — people tend to be more open with their humor. Even people who aren’t always comfortable sharing their humor tend to do so in more relaxed environments where the use of humor becomes second nature.”
Humor can also be a source of creativity. Think of all the commercials on TV that use humor to sell their products and promote their brands. In a brainstorming session, tapping into a shared sense of humor can be liberating. It allows participants to “think outside the box,” explore new ideas, and find solutions for difficult problems.
When laughing and humor aren’t appropriate
While laughter has its benefits, there are situations where it is inappropriate at work. Off-color, racial, or sexually explicit jokes are offensive and have no business in the workplace.
Humor can also be a major distraction, particularly when it’s constant.
So, while you shouldn’t be afraid of having a laugh at work, it’s important to remember there is a difference between practical jokes that could be described as harassment, and sharing a joke or humorous anecdote to break up an otherwise tense environment.
We spend a third or more of our lives working — shouldn’t it be fun?