Laughter Increases Productivity? Surely You Jest.

Have you ever walked through your office while everyone is hard at work and found the atmosphere a little stifling?  Everyone may be hard at work, but the layer of stress in the air is so heavy you can cut it with a knife.  Deadlines, budgets, and projects – oh my!
Sometimes I long for the “good old days” back on the playground, where almost anything brought on fits of laughter and giggles were plentiful.  It was such a stress free time.  My enjoyment level associated with even the most menial task seemed amplified as a child.  Why is it that when we enter adulthood, we let go of the freedom to laugh?  It’s not really that we have outgrown laughter, but more about work needing to be taken seriously.  Research is now showing us that a little laughter can make us better performers.
According to a survey published by Training and Development magazine, 84% of the HR Managers stated that employees believed to have a sense of humor performed better at work.  Multiple studies have shown that humor can greatly reduce stress and may also have the following positive effects:
• Increased job satisfaction – if you enjoy being at work, you will have more enthusiasm toward your day to day activities
• Improved work relationships – sharing a laugh can help put people on a level playing field and weaken some barriers that may normally impede the exchange of ideas
• Increased creativity – a little fun and a few giggles can breathe some new life into a creative project or problem solving
• Improved employee retention – if work is a nice place to be, odds are you and your co-workers will want to stick around
Laughter is also good for your health.  Did you know that we change physiologically when we laugh?  Our heart rate and blood pressure increase, we take in more oxygen, we stretch muscles – we even burn a few calories.   Researchers have shown that laughter eases tension, promotes better quality relaxation and sleep, sometimes even relieves pain – the list of benefits goes on and on. 
So now you may be asking yourself how to best incorporate a little fun into your workday in an appropriate manner.  You may try a couple of these suggestions and see how they work for you:
• Include humorous quotes in communication, when appropriate
• Grab a co-worker and take a play dough break – see who can create the best sculpture.  Just 5 minutes of goofing off can strengthen your focus when you are ready to get back to work
• If you’re a manager, encourage a little levity with your staff.  Happiness can be infectious.
• Toot your team’s horn.  When you experience success, celebrate a little.  Hand out kudos and take a few moments to enjoy your victories, both large and small.
Just remember to keep your humor work friendly.  Teasing, off color comments, and sarcasm are not productive additions to your workday.  Keep it light, keep it fun, and begin enjoying a better work experience today.  A little silliness may be just what you need.
Stephanie Barr

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