Keep your team connected with serious laughter

Naomi Bagdonas proved a seriously fascinating listen whilst chopping cauliflower and sweet potato for a delicious dinner last week. She teaches a course at Stanford called Humour: Serious Business and is the co-author of a new book, Humour Seriously.

I’m a big pan of podcasts, especially episodes with author guests keen to promote their new book. You get the best bits distilled into 25-40 minutes – and you can sort supper at the same time – but if you’ve only got 3 minutes to discover how laughter could help you and your team, read the best bits below.

The serious benefits of laughter at work

Here’s the main headline: Laughter makes us more primed for connection, creative, resourceful and resilient to stress. To quote Naomi, “Laughter has unparalleled effects on our neurochemistry and behaviour.”

Laughter connects us with our co-workers

  • When we laugh with someone we connect in a really powerful way. Neurochemically laughing together gives you more bang for your buck when it comes to interpersonal connection than just about anything else. That’s due to the release of oxytocin when we laugh which makes us more bonded and trusting of the person we are with.
  • Laughter helps to solidify relationships over time. If we recall a time we laughed together we will later report being 23% more satisfied with that relationship than if we recall a positive moment we shared together.

Laughter enhances our creativity

  • Laughter makes us feel more psychologically safe to share risky or unconventional ideas. When we laugh our brain supresses the release of cortisol (or fight/flight hormone). When cortisol is high it’s more difficult to access higher order thinking.
  • In one study participants were asked to watch comedy clips before trying to solve a creativity challenge. They were more than twice as likely to get the challenge right compared with participants who hadn’t been primed with comedy.
  • When we laugh our brains are more primed to see connections we had previously missed.

Humour can enhance our status

Brad Bitterly, Maurice Schweitzer and Alison Woods from Harvard & Wharton Business Schools explored how humour impacts others’ perceptions of our competence, status and confidence. If you make a joke and someone else laughs that person will view you as more of all three. They also found that there are benefits if you fail and no one laughs. So long as the joke is viewed as appropriate, people’s perceptions of your confidence will increase. And there’ll be no negative impact on people’s perception of your status.

Laughter increases our pain tolerance

  • Studies show that laughter increases pain tolerance.
  • Watching a funny film at the very beginning of labour can pave the way to a better birth as laughter helps to release Oxytocin (a tip from Ella Mills on the Deliciously Ella podcast with Naomi Bagdonas, author of Humour Seriously).

5 ways to use humour to connect with your team

  1. Leave a voice memo for a colleague recalling a funny moment you shared together.
  2. Pepper team meetings with recollections of funny team moments (probably best to give this some thought ahead of time).
  3. Kick off teams meeting with a comedy clip (this could be a roving responsibility).
  4. Ask your people to come to the next team meeting ready to share a funny happening (this may well prime then to find life funnier – and couldn’t we all do with more of that right now).
  5. My personal favourite for it’s sheer cringeworthy-but-so-worth-it-ness is asking the team to just laugh. Ask your colleagues for hard, forced, ridiculous laughter for a minute. Invite them to cackle, howl, giggle or guffaw for 60 seconds with the aim of raising the roof. I’ve done it myself and it works – by the end you will be genuinely laughing.

What’s keeping your colleagues feeling connected?

How’s fun happening in your organisation? Which teams are showing up as most connected in your engagement pulse surveys, and do you know why? We’d love to hear how you get on if you try any of our suggestions.

Our mission is to keep colleagues feeling confident, connected and cared for when they take extended leave from work. This being so, remember to include your colleagues who are away on maternity, adoption, shared parental sick leave and sabbatical in the fun you’re having.

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