During one of my routine activities, I overheard a group of staff laugh out loud at one corner of the office. One of them was particularly loud. The kind of laughter that in my village they call, letting it all out. It comes in measured intensities, with well calculated punctuation and ending in a long wuuui…sound. A colleague quickly turned to me, “that was so unprofessional. How can someone laugh like that in an office?”
This took me back and started to think about it. “Was it really unprofessional? Was it simply a social behavior human beings need to just feel free to express? And is it good for the staff to exploit laughter as something beneficial”
I thought about myself. I had this habit of laughing and smiling at the office whenever I had conversations with people. I make jokes during my presentations and somehow my audience respond positively. At some point I thought I need to tone down and cut off this, but I realized that the office needed doses of laughter at different points. Some of my colleagues have given me feedback that I have a stress free job. They wish that they be doing my job. I always think how far I have come in being aware of the need to find some fun while at my job. Even in those very tough moments? Yes. I have always deliberately looked for an opportunity to share some laugh with fellow workmates.
It turns out that most research done demonstrates the positive impact laughter. MIT, London Business school note that every chuckle brings with it a host of business benefits. They note that laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being of people involved. They also add that it can actually spur creativity and collaboration, and it increases analytic precision and productivity. Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks has also found that cracking jokes at work can make people seem more competent.
Wellness experts like Mayo clinic note that “When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body,” It enhances your intake of “oxygen-rich air,” increasing your brain’s release of endorphins. It “can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
So, science has really vindicated the benefits of laughter. But do we really need to laugh all day and every time in the office. Well, hell no of course. People must avoid careless jokes that can actually border on discriminatory or stereotypical connotations. The skill to know when and how to make jokes or laugh at the workplace ought to be learned. This is emotional intelligence. For example, it can be so disrespectful if a client is waiting on a staff who is on phone and she is laughing heavily with a colleague on the other side of the phone. The topic of discussion, the contextual factors must all be considered.
However, I can advise that within the rules of decency, laughing can be a whole good thing and its benefits are immense. Psychologically and medically. So, let your laugh fly out freely, be yourself. Not the whole day of course. Be conscious of your volume, the environment and the inherent context. It is a social connecting signal among humans.