“As necessary as sleeping” – why having a laugh in the workplace is essential for mental health

It’s 5 pm on a Thursday. The whole team is heads down, and the music has cut off because things are too hectic to put on a new playlist. In fact, you don’t even hear the silence because you’re so in your head about the work you’re trying to get done. You’ve missed lunch, and you’re skipping dinner at this rate, too. Things are tense.

And, just when you think you’re going to close off your evening feeling irritated and highly strung, someone spits out a one-liner that instantly makes the room giggle. Suddenly, the room seems lighter, and you’ve noticed yourself exhale and drop your shoulders after holding your breath unknowingly for 6 hours.

There have been many times where humour has pulled us through a long day, and it’s been the main sound in the air on a good day.

It improves mental health

Laughter is crucial for mental wellness. And, in an industry which can be stressful, fast-paced, and demanding, it matters even more. Throw in the aftermath of Covid, and you have a potential recipe for a cocktail. The kind you actually can’t finish for once in your life. It’s a cocktail of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.

Statistics show that less than half of professionals in New Zealand rate their mental health as positive in the post-pandemic world (Hays Recruitment). That means there’s no better time than now to inject some light-hearted vibes into your office.

Laughter counteracts emotions like anger, anxiety, and sadness, and it changes your perspective. Things that seemed threatening or difficult suddenly appear a lot more manageable and, well, less threatening. By triggering the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine, and reducing cortisol (a stress hormone), laughing is just a no-brainer.

Boosts productivity

After examining the effects of laughter in the workplace, two academics from Stanford University found that it makes us better bosses and employees.

The study, which involved 1.4 million people in 166 countries, found that we start laughing less when we hit 23 – and brace yourself, we don’t start again until we’re 70. Yikes. That’s a long time spent being serious. And, seeing as we spend half our lives at work, that collective loss of humour has the potential to wreak havoc on your business.

It’s been shown that laughter in the workplace boosts engagement, confidence, creativity, collaboration, precision, and productivity. It also helps people bond, and it promotes inclusiveness.

Less sick days – it’s as crucial for our body as getting proper sleep every night

The saying that laughter is the best medicine might actually be true. Doctors have found that laughing stretches out muscles both in our face and body, and our pulse and blood pressure go up, therefore helping us get more oxygen-rich air to our tissues and organs.

One researcher found that the effects of laughter and exercise are pretty similar. William Fry, a pioneer in laughter researcher, claimed that your heart rate after one minute of hearty laughter is the equivalent of spending 10 minutes on a rowing machine.

Perhaps most relevant for the workplace is that laughing strengthens the immune system. By reducing stress, laughing raises the level of infection-fighting cells and antibodies in the body. A stronger immune system and a stronger resistance to bugs and becoming run down means less absenteeism. Winning!

Let’s be honest, is there anything better than a giggle, a hearty cackle, or the kind of laugh that gives you a bellyache and makes you forget about everything else for a moment? A good laugh can literally lighten your mental load and make you feel physically relaxed and motivated.

At Attain, we think laughing in the workplace is essential. In fact we deem it so important, that we are urging all businesses to laugh. On LinkedIn, we can like, support, and encourage. But we also want to laugh.

Join us this month in prioritising some laughter in the office and with those around you.

LaughOnLinkedIn #LOL

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