We live in increasingly stressful times. The terms “Stress Related Illness” and “Burnout” are becoming common words in describing the workplace experience. An epidemic of workplace stress has been blamed for high absenteeism and an increase in sick days by employees. The Health and Safety Commission reports that 33 million days were lost in the past due to illnesses, compared to 18 million in surveys from 1995 and the number is even higher, 64 million days per year in some of the latest surveys. Furthermore, The Centers For Disease Control reports that up to 90% of all doctors’ visits may be a result of stress related illness. As a result of these findings, organizations are increasingly looking for innovative strategies to keep their employees healthy, happy and productive.
Up until recently, organizations frowned upon the idea of laughter at work, seeing it as a distraction from “Not taking their work seriously to not getting the real work done.” There is a misconception that we all have to be serious in the work environment and it is unprofessional to laugh and have fun at work. However, they are finding that all of this seriousness and stress is negatively impacting the bottom line results, which are so sought after in this time of change and downsizing. Research has proven that the most productive people are those who take their jobs seriously, while taking themselves lightly. As a result of this, companies around the world are finding that laughter wellness programs can have an immediate and positive impact on their business, including making their organization more profitable.
Organizations that that have adopted regular laughter wellness sessions into their work routine report a happier workplace, with more efficient teamwork, better job performance, improved communication, increases in sales and productivity and increased creativity. A good example of this was a study performed at Canadian financial firms found that managers who scored the highest in overall employee performance, used laughter and humor the most often.
The scientific research is proving that laughter is an integral part of physical and emotional well-being. Dr. William Fry of Stanford University found that laughing 200 times burns off the same amount of calories as ten minutes on a rowing machine. Further studies indicate that laughing reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, increases heart rate and oxygen flow, strengthens the immune system and triggers the release of endorphins--- natural painkillers. It is also important to mention that laughter is much more beneficial in groups than doing it alone. In a group, you have laughter, you have happiness and you have that social connection with the other people. Laughter is the social glue that brings people together which builds a real sense of community.
As noted earlier, more and more organizations are seeing the benefits of laughter, as they are incorporating it into their wellness initiatives. What I have found in working with groups over the years is that they are filled with very creative people who just need to be given permission to laugh and find their “Inner Child.” “ Our Inner Child” is now our sense of stability during times of change and uncertainty. Allowing people to Let their hair down not only results in a healthier workplace, but creates positive working relationships that benefit everyone. Remember, work Smarter, not harder!
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