Perhaps there’s never been a greater need in our country’s history than now for more lightheartedness to offset the burden of turbulence many employees feel in the world and the modern workplace. When was the last time you had a good belly laugh on the job, for example? If you’re like most people, it’s probably been a while, and comedy’s inclusion can be one good medicine for the explosion of mental health issues in the workplace.
The dark age ideas of work as drudgery and sweat equity no longer hold up. As we rebound from the trauma, uncertainty and intensity in the post-pandemic era, more companies can achieve a healthy balance by injecting job engagement and productivity with laughter, lightheartedness and fun as we work diligently. A large body of research shows that happy, stress-free employees directly correlate with higher company profits.
The Science Of Laughter
You have probably heard the adage that laughter is good medicine, and studies show that it gives your body some of the same benefits as moderate physical exercise. You might even realize that you feel better within seconds after you laugh. That’s because laughter reverses hormonal changes brought on by stressful cortisol and activates a cocktail of endorphins—the body’s own painkiller—into your system.
When you laugh, cortisol levels decrease and endorphins increase, allowing endorphins to take over and make you less-stressed. The science of laughter has profound implications for companies dealing with the mental health epidemic, the Great Resignation, “quit quitting,” “productivity paranoia,” “ quiet firing,” soaring interest rates, rising costs, record-high inflation, recession fears and all of the other post-pandemic aftershocks. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Research shows that laughing—even fake laughing—for just one minute a day dampens stress, eases pain, lowers blood pressure, stokes your immune system and brightens your mental outlook. And that leads to greater job satisfaction, engagement, productivity, retention and the company’s bottom line.
Capitalizing on these benefits, laughter yoga is built around forced laughter until it feels real. The science of laughter yoga is that even if you start with pretend laughing, your body can’t tell the difference, and momentarily the laughter erases all of your worries and relieves your mind of stress. Laughter yoga is a free-form enterprise and works in just a few simple steps if you want to give it a shot:
- In a standing position, look upward and hold your arms wide apart above your head.
- Start with forced laughing, engaging your shoulders, arms, face and belly until the laughter starts to feel real.
- Continue for as long as you can, letting it rip: ahhh-hahaha-whoohoohoo-ha-heeheehee!
- After a few minutes of hearty belly laughing, see if you don’t notice an instant lift from the endorphins your body produces.
Rebranding Laughter For Workplace Wellness
According to Kevin Hubschmann, founder of “Laugh.Events, “Once we started to understand the science of laughter, we were able to understand why we—and nearly every person around the world—love it and then consider work environments as unconventional avenues for making laughter happen more often.”
Recent research backs up the idea of treating laughter as wellness, not solely just an outlet for entertainment. It is being rebranded as a tool for increasing employees’ happiness and productivity at work. Laughter and stress cannot co-exist, and laughter always wins. “Our perception of the comedy experience started the same as everyone else’s—recreational ‘laughers’ who knew they loved the feeling that overcame them during this activity,” Hubschmann told me. “Then, as Laugh.Events grew, we teamed up with our advisor, Dr. Natalie Dattilo, director of psychology and Brigham and Women’s Health, to learn what was physically happening to us when we laughed and look at how we might be able to expand this concept into the workplace to transform this environment for the better.
“If you expose your team to laughter first, and then have a meeting, the meeting might still be experienced as stressful to the participants, but their bodies will be reacting differently,” Dr. Dattilo explains. “The endorphins and the feel-good chemicals that are released during bursts and bouts of laughter attenuate the effect of stress on the body, lessening the damaging effects of cortisol when that is released.”
Laugh.Events specializes in creating customized comedy experiences in both virtual and in-person environments. They give businesses and their employees an outlet to laugh and bond through interactive events. Their mission is to shift the perception that comedy is simply a form of entertainment and rebrand it as a tool for increasing employees’ happiness and productivity at work.
“We take a data-driven approach to ensure success, surveying the event organizer ahead of every event, matching them with the best comic for their group,” says Hubschmann. “We offer short, 15-minute virtual comedy shows called Laugh Breaks. Many companies purchase these as an opener to a longer all-hands meeting, and some have purchased multiple to use on a monthly basis throughout the year. We believe that the 15-minute duration provides teams with a necessary break and encourages productivity. It’s our version of a ‘smoke break,’ replacing nicotine with endorphins.” He added that their comics have been featured on such shows as Conan, Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Laugh.Events launched their in-person event offerings this year, known as In Real Life Laughs (IRLL). These include Stand Up Comedy Shows, Science of Laughter Keynotes, and most notably Improv Workshops. “Improv Workshops have been the most interesting, and we see these as the future for in-person corporate engagement,” Hubschmann explained. “These are geared toward professional development and developing skills like active listening and collaborating, but they’ve also just been the perfect way for teams to take a break from work and unwind and always end up being hilarious.”