Despite all the advantages that we savour from the flexibility of remote working, we acknowledge that remote work can also be lonely. Not to mention that our minds are very good at finding ways to worry at work.
We think too much that it fuels a great deal of anxiety about what might happen tomorrow, next week, next year or decades from now. And sometimes, we aren’t even aware of its damage if we let our worries and negative thoughts control us. This is where humour can be useful to replace our useless worry. Yes, laughing at work has positive impacts, physically and mentally.
According to Annette Goodheart, Ph.D., a pioneer at laughter therapy, companies who promote the use of humour report in productivity and creative problem-solving. Other clear benefits of humour in the workplace include less burnout, more collaboration, and an increase in overall job satisfaction. Humour also increases communication throughout the workplace.
The use of humour at the workplace is like a mini-vacation that refreshes our mood. As a team leader, we believe that you would catch the opportunity to reap all these benefits.
“A sign you have a positive workplace culture is laughter. Just listen to how much laughter there is where you work. Laughter is a very good sign of positivity. You can work hard and still laugh and enjoy your workday more- Sam Glenn”
However, in today’s virtual team world, where social contact with coworkers takes place virtually through video conferences, laughter and humour are often missing from our remote calls. We know from HBR that laughter is primarily a social activity that will not happen spontaneously. A study shows that people are 30 times more likely to laugh with others than to laugh alone. We laugh because others laugh. Most people can’t help but laugh when others around them do. The infectious power of laughter is something that many of us have experienced in our own lives.
Laughter is important in the remote workplace because it keeps your team connected. More importantly, it builds the friendship and encouragement to navigate your team through hard times. Employees who are able to laugh together are more resilient to stress. For this reason, in order to keep your remote team members to stay healthy and productive, as a team leader– you need to get them to laugh more and stress less. This does not mean that you have to be a humorist. But it does mean that you need to foster a culture of levity. While laughter is a way to express humour, it is certainly important to know the difference between laughing at and laughing with.
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A good laugh leads to many physiological changes in the body that include increased activity in the lungs, lowered blood pressure and the release of pain-reducing hormones that brings a sense of wellbeing. Laughter decreases muscle tension, enhances digestion, boosts the immune system and releases serotonin as well as endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killer. It scientifically makes sense that “laughter is the best medicine”. This physical uniqueness is the motive that laughter and humour are connected to an increase in employee energy, productivity and creativity.
Lead with Laughter
Leaders can still create an environment where people are allowed to laugh without being a comedian. You can ask your employee– perhaps the one with a witty personality to start your virtual team meetings with jokes or funny stories. This is just an example that shows you appreciate how humour brings good vibes and offers other people an opportunity to contribute to a positive work environment.
“Managers just need to give employees permission to be human, open to giving and receiving humor at work – David Summers.”
Most of the time, people fear humour in the workplace because of the common belief that if you are laughing, you are not serious in learning or working. In fact, it’s just a matter of balancing on what needs to be done and encouraging fun.
The truth is humour gives our brains a rest– a rest from worrying about what’s next. When you’re laughing, you are not worrying about anything. You are being mindful in the moment and mindfulness helps you feel calm and refreshed.
Things to keep in mind: people spend the majority of their time working so they need to enjoy their time there. Of course, the work needs to be optimised but in equal measures, they need to be relaxed, comfortable and happy as well. If your team is happy, the work will get better and creativity will sky-rocket.
How to Make Sure Your Remote Employees Get to Laugh Together?
Here comes the big question: how do we make this happen with remote teams? Here are some ideas that you can practice!
- Infused Laughter/Humour in Your Business Agenda
We know that virtual meetings are all about business. It’s your job as a leader to make the laughter happen by making time to laugh. Put it on the agenda if you need to. Encourage your staff to share personal stuff. When people are just being people, that will often be funny. Honesty and authenticity are also keys to good jokes.
- Bring Out the Memes
In this modern-day, memes are altering the way people communicate. Images and videos have become the fun alternate medium to spread messages and even express feelings. Memes are beyond just entertainment; they’re also effective tools for boosting morale and workplace culture.
Of course, the boundaries must be set. Like any form of humour, make sure to stay away from memes that might be perceived as racist, sexist or discriminatory in any way. Remember that the intention of using memes is to lighten up at work and to bring people together.
- Set the Culture
To foster a team that laughs, you need to create an environment where your team feels safe to be open and have fun at work. First and foremost, be the example. Show that you can make jokes yourself but also take the jokes from others.
Join in the fun, share your own memes or jokes, and make sure that time to laugh is on the agenda of every meeting. On the next level, you could try remote team building activities and online team building games. A team that plays together stays together.
Humour can positively transform a work environment. It’s the closest connection between two people or more.
As Charlie Chaplin famously said: “A day without laughter is day wasted”, this Philosophy can be applied directly to the workplace culture. When it comes to leadership, studies show that teams perform better under leaders who make high use of humour.
Leaders who share laughs with employees, help bridge the social distance and strengthen their social influence, promote engagement and happiness among employees. Just remember to be honest and respectful when making a joke as well as pay attention to how people react.