One of my favourite responsibilities as a parent is dropping my son off at pre-school. School drop-off used to pull at my heartstrings as the parental guilt sunk in when I left him behind confused and uncertain...but now he genuinely thrives in the environment and I attribute it to both inclusivity and laughter. When we arrive, he has a crew of little mates who give him THE BEST welcome ~ it eases him into the transition and is a bucket-filler for both of us. Then, when I'm leaving, they all run to the fence and wish me well, giggling and screaming 'good-bye Mum' ..... it's the best feeling, warming my heart for the rest of the morning.
It got me thinking about happiness, laughter and social well-being and the need for "us", as adults (and organisations) to make the effort. Particularly when life (and work) get so busy.
Babies laugh on average 300x/day while adults laugh a mere 20x/day, with laughter typically peaking at just 5 years of age. Laughter is good for the body and soul. It's been demonstrated to: reduce levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, increase health-enhancing hormones ~ such as endorphins and dopamine ~ beneficial neurotransmitters and infection-fighting antibodies. It also improves blood flow to the heart and oxygen to the brain. All of this resulting in enhanced immunity, greater well-being, improved mood and positive outlook.
Laughter also engenders positive feelings and optimism, more hope and engagement. When we're laughing we're friendlier, more resourceful, more attractive, more approachable. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why the aspect of 'play' at work has become so popular. Organisations can get so caught up in the 'doing' that they neglect the 'being' and the thriving and only now, are they noticing. When colleagues connect at work through play, authenticity prevails through laughter and human connection and there are correlational increases in innovation, collaboration and meaning.
"Being playful at work allows you to better understand the person working next to you; it helps increase positive communication, which then builds bonds and inspires people to do better work."
–Brian Lim, founder and CEO of The Emazing Group
As humans, there are fundamentals in life that we need to be happy; once we have food & shelter, we need to feel a sense of belonging. The happiest people have at least one person they are in a close relationship with ~ whether it be friendship or partnership. This highlights the support for having close connections with colleagues and the need for organisations to make both the time and effort to cultivate a culture where this is supported. The old-school mentality of work not being an environment for friendships (& fun) is long gone, at least for those organisations who are newly emerging and those who are evolving with the future of work.
I genuinely believe that hanging out with my 5 year old makes me a happier person, I'm laughing ALL of the time. When I reflect on the best times in my corporate life, those times always included others and having a good laugh. Many organisations today don't place enough emphasis on creating a culture of fun and light-heartedness and perhaps that's because they fear it will detract from the seriousness of the work, but the science tells us otherwise. When organisations focus on happiness, it's good for business.
Happier employees are more productive, make better decisions and offer more insight. Perhaps it's time for your organisation to focus on lifting their happiness quotient?
Kirsten works with individuals and organisations through initiatives in positive psychology and well-being. Contact her today to lift your happiness quotient :)