Should we be Funny at Work?
According to research conducted by Dr. Allan Reiss of Stanford University, humor seems to activate brain networks that are involved in rewards. In fact, the areas activated by humor have been shown to be the same ones activated by amphetamines and cocaine, for receiving monetary gains (like when you win at the Melbourne Cup) and for looking at attractive faces! So that explains why everyone loves to laugh.
Laughter surely is the best medicine for reducing stress hormones produced in the hypothalamus section of the brain, lowering blood pressure, improving the immune system by generating more disease fighting cells and reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.
Laughter also affects the brain cognitively, increasing your intelligence, improving your memory and ability to process information.
In the increasingly demanding and uncertain environment many of us work in, humour can be an important mechanism for coping with stress.
It is also one of the key ways in which we build connections and long-lasting relationships with people – essential in work environments where convincing, persuading and negotiating with others is a prime way of reaching agreement.
Finally, the loss of the ability to appreciate humour is a common symptom of depression, which has real financial implications for businesses. According to two Australian studies (M Hilton, 2004 and Andrews et al, 1999) undiagnosed depression in the workplace costs employers $4.3 billion a year in lost productivity, and this excludes WorkCover/insurance claims, part-time or casual employees, retrenchment, recruitment and training. On average, every full-time employee with untreated depression costs an organisation $9,665 per year. Each employee with depression will, on average, take three to four days off work per month which is equivalent to over six million days lost each year in Australia. Finally, in addition to absenteeism, depression accounts for more than 12 million days of reduced productivity each year.
Perhaps humour should be included in every company’s Occupational health and Safety Strategy.
A final note
Q: When the convicts gathered in the exercise yard, what did one convict say to the others?
A: “On the up side, this is the first time the company’s entire Board has been present for a meeting.”
Norah Breekveldt is a Director of Macfarlan Lane. Norah has over 25 years’ experience as a human resources practitioner, consultant and coach. Norah completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in the Neuroscience of Leadership in 2011.