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How is group laughter good for staff and why does it work?

How is group laughter good for staff and why does it work?
October 25, 2017 Peter Vincent

Group laughter seems like a fun idea at work, if a little uncomfortable initially. But what are the benefits and what do people who have tried it have to say about laughter sessions?

And what’s the difference between group laughter and people just goofing off at work – in other words, how does anyone know it’s not just more unproductive downtime?

Susan Drew, a senior regional director at Hays recruiting in Melbourne, ran two teams of around 60 people through two laughter sessions with Mr Meditate and says it was a successful bonding exercise. “People were still talking about [its benefits] a week later, it was very memorable.”

So memorable, that Drew herself used the technique to connect with her own (sometimes-difficult) 10 year old daughter. “I did it at home with Sophie. She was in a very frustrated mood and when I tried the laughter techniques on her, going ‘hee haw ho’, she couldn’t help herself and laughed and laughed.”

How laughter sessions work

Drew says Mr Meditate’s sessions with Hays involved participants turning to the person next to them and deliberately laughing – with some coaching from facilitator Tomas Jajesnica.

“I don’t normally cry when I laugh, but the way he set it up I couldn’t control myself. One of the guys next to me had the most infectious laugh. Some of the session was tactile too – you had to hold someone’s hand. It really breaks down barriers with people you don’t know.”

Considerable research backs that up: that laughter in groups is an ancient signal to form bonds in a group.

How could laughter sessions help people achieve more at work?

“It’s a really fun way of breaking down boundaries. It would be really useful to get [team] engagement before some sort of strategic session,” Drew says.

“From a team perspective, vulnerability is an amazing thing when it comes to team culture and engagement. People had to let their guard down from being so rigid and ‘corporate’.”

In addition, science has shown laughter blocks the stress hormone cortisol and also relieves the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s also been linked to a stronger immune system too.

To book a session of ‘silence and laughter’, laughter or meditation, go to the Mr Meditate website.

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