Businesses, corporations and companies all over the globe are finally realizing that a happier workforce is much more effective and productive than listless, dissatisfied or bored staff.
Once this fact is grasped – and there is plenty of evidence to prove it to be true – action can be taken immediately to stimulate workers to move up the happiness continuum. The goal is not merely to make unhappy employees happy. Wherever you are on the happiness continuum, you can still go a little higher. The contented may become more cheerful, the cheerful more enthusiastic, the enthusiastic more elated and the elated can become blissful and joyous.
Appointing a CHO to achieve these goals, all of which will boost productivity, is not as crazy or as expensive as it may sound.
An existing employee, usually from the HR department with a good sense of humour and heart can be trained to do the job.
Before we examine how a business could immediately get started in promoting happiness and laughter, let’s examine exactly how laughter and comedy can not only nudge us up the happiness continuum but also benefit our physical and psychological health directly.
The physical benefits of laughter
These are now well-known and evidence-based; Professor William Fry spent 25 years documenting the physical benefits of laughter which I have summarized in this mnemonic.
- S: Stress reduction shown by lowered adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol
- M: Muscular relaxation proved by myelography
- I: Immunity increased shown by increased antibody production
- L: Lungs empty themselves of old air
- E: Exercise. A belly laugh is actually good exercise
- E: Endorphins (the body’s natural high making hormones) are increased.
More recent studies show that people who laugh stay in relationships longer, live longer and have less heart disease. While longevity may not be advantageous to insurers and pension companies it is certainly what modern people aspire to. Staying physically and mentally well is also massively good for the health of businesses.
The billions of pounds lost to companies due to highly preventable illness are well documented. Even back pain alone (a common complaint definitely exacerbated by stress) costs companies millions of pounds every year in lost hours of work.
Of course, a healthy diet, exercise, positive thinking, mindfulness and deep relaxation are very important to health but none of these can be as easily or naturally incorporated into the workplace as an injection of fun and laughter.
Laughter in the workplace does not mean that people are not taking their work seriously enough. When teams laugh together it can show connection, compassion and shared understanding. This can help foment and develop a healthy work culture.
General psychological benefits of laughter
Who has ever heard anyone say “I hate laughing. I dislike it when my body convulses with joy and I lose control for a while as I breathe deeply with a big smile on my face.” Most of us love to laugh. It absolutely infuriates comedians that someone who laughs at a friend in a funny hat gains benefits from the laughter as much as someone who pays to see a top comedian.
When it comes to the physical and general psychological benefits of laughter it makes no difference what you laugh at! In chuckle clubs all over the world, people laugh long and hard at other people laughing at nothing in particular. So as long as the appointed CHO gets everyone laughing, it doesn’t really matter how that is done.
Specific psychological benefits of laughter
Provocative Therapy is the cutting edge of the use of humour and reverse psychology in counseling. This is a useful approach to support people who are enduring stress, life changes and struggles to get specific benefits from comedy and laughter.
Its ethos is based on the idea that if we can be induced to laugh at the parts of ourselves that are holding us back in life, those parts (or sub-selves or sub-personalities such as the ‘inner child’ or ‘the one who is always late’ or the ‘control freak’ and so on) will indeed quieten down because as Mark Twain has stated: Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.
While a CHO may not be trained in Provocative Therapy, s/he can learn one very important principle which the founder of this approach, Frank Farrelly dubbed its Golden Rule: Only ever use humour and reverse psychology when you have affection in the heart and a twinkle in the eye. I would add that you should always get explicit permission from the recipient before using this dynamic method.
How a CHO can help your staff
The simplest, most cost-effective, but powerful way of stimulating laughter and happiness in a business setting would be to book a laughter coach (of which there are many these days). Just one half-hour session a week could make a big difference.
Laughter coaches are excellent at getting people to laugh – pretty much at nothing in particular and as I’ve said, you get the all physical benefits of laughter no matter what you are laughing at. So the only duty of your internally-appointed CHO would be to arrange the visit of the laughter coach and warmly encourage staff to attend.
Workshops using comedy and reverse psychology
These aim to allow the team to get psychological insights and increased awareness as well as all the physical benefits of laughter. A trained coach can facilitate a group meeting where team members could present issues of concern and have them dealt with in a humorous but highly professional way. People remember laughing at the session and then crucially remember what they were laughing at.
When you are warmly encouraged to laugh at the sub-selves that are too loud in you and holding you back, you instantly disempower those parts of your personality. As the psychologists say ‘name it to tame it!’
Neohumour: A new type of humour?
Laughter is the best medicine, or so they say. OK, I’ve seen better treatments for appendicitis, pneumonia and heart attacks. Still, the business world is now very aware of the need to look out for the wellbeing and welfare of their teams. I have coined the term ‘neohumour’ to define the specific use of humour that aims to take people up the happiness continuum.
As more businesses are employing CHOs to promote wellbeing at work, we can start to make a distinction between increasing general happiness to facilitate a speedy resolution of work issues. When we laugh at our troublesome subselves, the neohumour is a powerful stimulus to grow and become a more congruent person and happier employee.
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