Laughing at Work Is Good for You — and That’s No Joke

Researchers have found that taking time to laugh during the workday is not just good for relieving stress and boosting engagement. It's also good for business.

It was one of those days. Too many to-dos, another missed deadline. Enter a shot of motivation, courtesy of a colleague. "I can relate," said the email, which included a link to a short video that perfectly captured the feeling. (Think small dog, big stick, narrow gate, plans thwarted.) Watching the video a time or two (or 10) provided a much-needed laugh — just the fuel needed to get the job done.

More than just a virtual coffee break, taking a timeout to laugh is a recipe for success that has even caught the attention of the wonkety wonks over at Harvard Business Review. "According to research from institutions as serious as Wharton, MIT, and London Business School, every chuckle or guffaw brings with it a host of business benefits," the publication reports. "Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity. … A group of researchers even found that after watching a comedy clip, employees were 10 percent more productive than their counterparts."

The journal turns to for more on what makes laughter such good medicine, inside the office or out of it. "When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body," according to the site. "Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people."

The folks over at Inc. agree. Laughter can be a powerful tool, they write, to "enhance collaboration and camaraderie within teams." The publication suggests that leaders can use laughter "as a powerful form of communication, a tool to soften the blow of change … and a means to raise your likability index." The site calls out the late Southwest Airlines founder and original CEO, Herb Kelleher, as a master of this. "His beloved and highly effective company culture was built upon humor and laughter, which led to decades of record earnings and profitability," according to Inc. (If you've flown Southwest, you know that culture extends to those on the frontlines, as this safety message will attest.)

"Laughter evolved to defuse tension, improve social connection, and create bonding," Amit Sood, M.D., writes in this Mayo Clinic News Network article. "When we laugh with others, we send the message, 'I like you, and I am willing to play with you.'" Or, willing to work with you, as the case may be.

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