One thing we all could use these days is a good laugh. No, really. The personal health benefits are well documented. In the short term, it enhances the intake of oxygen-rich air, releases beneficial endorphins, stimulates circulation, and aids muscle relaxation. Longer term, laughter causes the body to release neurochemicals that fight stress and makes it easier to connect with other people.
We challenge you to laugh in a business meeting
Organizationally, shared laughter can positively transform a work environment. During this month’s Organizational Wellness Challenge, we are going to explore how humor can improve the effectiveness of team meetings, boost the health and well-being of you and your teammates, and make work less stressful. And yes, we’re very aware of the challenge of trying to be funny while being serious!
Laughter in a work meeting seems wrong, doesn’t it? It harms our credibility and prevents people from taking us seriously, right? Actually, the opposite – it builds trust, improves perceptions of confidence, and makes our content more engaging and memorable. In fact, Andrew Tarvin has compiled 30 benefits of humor at work, backed by research, case studies, and real-world examples. Watch his TEDx Talk about these benefits: “Humor at work.”
Improving your team with laughter
Practically speaking, and according to a paper by a couple of Finnish economists, laughter improves the functioning of team meetings in four specific applications:
- Opening a meeting with laughter creates a relaxed work climate, reducing tension and asymmetry between the members of the team.
- Laughter closes down a topic or a phase of a meeting, functioning as a signal of mutual understanding and readiness to move to a new topic.
- When demanding tasks are assigned, laughter can reduce tension and stress resulting from the assignment.
- Laughter helps parties smooth difficult communications or to save face during micro-negotiations or other remedial issues.
Rather than slog your way through this paper, we recommend listening to an episode of the podcast Squeezing the Orange of Social Sciencefrom London Business School Professor Dan Cable and his partner comedian Akin Omobitan. This dynamic duo laughs their way through peer-reviewed and published social science papers, and as they say, “squeeze them for their best bits so that you, the listener, don’t have to sift through pages and pages of academic literature.” You never have more fun learning about social science experiments! So go ahead and listen to “Laugh it Up: The Way Humour Transforms Workplace Meetings.”
And as every comedian knows, timing is everything. The key is not the joke, but how it’s deployed. To improve your humor, notice opportunities to laugh that are rooted in your day-to-day life. In stressful situation, I like to say, “We’ll laugh about this later.” And it’s true! As former CEO of Twitter Dick Costolo, put it, “You don’t have to be the quickest wit in the room. The easiest way to have more humor at work is not to try to be funny; instead, just look for moments to laugh.”
Sidebar: My biggest issue with meetings is that, despite their name, they are rarely about me.
We challenge you this month to leverage laughter during a business meeting to either:
- Open the meeting,
- Transition to a new topic, or
- Reduce tension when assigning difficult work
Laugh with your team and watch how the interactions with your teammates start to smooth out and communication improves. Laugh more while you CEEK…a better way!
Need help with introducing humor? Check out some of these resources: