Why we should take laughter more seriously

Leaders might shy away from humour during difficult times. Yet, as leadership coach Tanya Livesey points out, laughter is one of the most powerful ways to help your team bond

“We don’t need more ‘professionalism’ in our workplaces. Instead, we need more of ourselves, and more human connection.” Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas, Humour, Seriously

While having a laugh isn’t exactly how I would characterise most of last year – when I think back to the moments of levity, where I actually forgot about the global horror going on outside my home office – it often started with moments of humanity shared with colleagues  over our daily Zooms. Those little glimpses into each other’s crazy lives would sometimes, for a few joyous seconds, allow us to share in the wonder and silliness of the world, often leaving us crying with laughter. Getting down to the serious business of business  after one of those morning interludes rarely felt like work.

In lockdown, it transpires, one of our last great freedoms is our ability to laugh. In fact, laughter is such an important part of being human, there’s a whole arm of science devoted to it: gelotology, from the Greek word for laughter. As such, its health benefits are well-documented. A good bout of laughing can produce a cascade of feel-good hormones that counteract the effects of stress. Just 15 minutes per day have been shown to be as beneficial to the heart as exercising for 30 minutes, three times a week. It even has a dampening effect on pain and can boost the immune system. What’s not to love about that right now?