Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 18th 2013 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Workplace wellness is a serious issue.
With terms like "stress-related-illness"
and "burnout" becoming household
words, organisations are increasingly
looking for ways to keep their workforce
happy, healthy and productive.
Up to now, most organisations tended
to devalue the idea of laughter at work,
seeing it as a distraction from getting
the "real" job done. This attitude is
also reinforced by the work ethic many
of us were raised with: "No pain, no
gain," "Work isn t supposed to be fun,"
and "It s only worthwhile if you have
to suffer for it."
However, we re starting to realise
that all of this suffering is killing us.
Not only that, but we re finding that
it s actually counter-productive to the
bottom-line results so sought after in
this time of change and downsizing.
And amazingly enough, this is con-
firmed by scientific research. A recent
study conducted at Canadian financial
institutions found that managers who
facilitated the highest level of employee
performance used humor the most
The scientific data is also proving
that laughter is an integral part of phys-
ical wellness. Dr William Fry of Stanford
University found that laughing 200
times burns off the same amount of
calories as 10 minutes on a rowing
Another study found that after a
bout of laughter, blood pressure drops
to a lower, healthier level than before
the laughter began. Laughter also oxy-
genates your blood, thereby increasing
energy level, relaxes your muscles and
works out all your major internal sys-
tems like the cardiovascular and res-
Furthermore, researchers are discov-
ering that laughter also affects the
immune system. According to Dr Lee
Berk of the Loma Linda School of Public
Health in California, laughing makes
it grow stronger, with the body s T-
cells, natural killer cells and antibodies
all showing signs of increased activi-
When you need humour
So what are the specific indicators
that tell us we need to incorporate
humour into our workplace? According
to Thomas Kuhlman, a psychologist
at the University of St Thomas, there
are two major factors.
The first is being placed in no-win
situations. These include being expect-
ed to do a job but not having the nec-
essary resources in terms of time,
money, policies or people power. This
can also include having to serve a dif-
ficult or overly demanding client base
or boss, or having to enforce unpopular
rules or regulations.
The second is the presence of unpre-
dictable or uncontrollable stressors.
These can take the form of regularly
arising, but unpredictable, situations
which adversely affect stress, workloads
or scheduling. They can also include
decisions made at other levels of the
organisation or government that affect
your job but into which you have little
or no input.
Sound familiar? In order to illustrate
this scenario, Kuhlman uses the exam-
ple of the TV series M*A*S*H. Here
we have medical personnel caught in
a classic no-win situation. Their job
is to heal wounded soldiers, who when
healed, go back to the front lines to be
The stressors are also uncontrollable
and unpredictable, in that the protag-
onists never know when or how many
casualties will arrive. Furthermore,
higher-ups are making decisions about
the war, that affect their jobs and lives,
in which they have no say.
In situations where we have little or
no control over our external circum-
stances, our only control lies in how
we react to them. We can either choose
to laugh or despair, and in M*A*S*H,
Alan Alda s character made people
In some ways, laughter is the only
rational response to all of this since,
in order to survive, we need to find a
life-affirming way to cope. Being able
to laugh about ourselves and our sit-
uation helps us release tension, regain
our perspective, and accept that which
we cannot change.
Not only that, it also gives us the
physical energy and resilience needed
As more and more groups realise the
benefits of laughter, they are incorpo-
rating it into their wellness programs.
What I have found from working with
hundreds of organisations is that they
are often full of very funny and
resourceful people who just need to
be given permission and encourage-
ment to use their sense of humor on
Our "inner clown" is now our lifeline
in these times of change and uncer-
tainty. Giving him or her free rein not
only results in healthier workplaces,
but also increases bonding with the
rest of the team.
Remember, the group that plays
together, stays together!
Links Archive June 17th 2013 June 19th 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page