A new study from Deakin University’s School of Psychology on the effects of laughter yoga – where even the most serious employees are reduced to hysterics – has found it has a real and positive effect on workplace wellbeing weeks after the sessions are finished.
Using validated psychological methods, workplace wellbeing and overall job satisfaction increased by about 6 per cent to 73 per cent.
Dr Melissa Weinberg, who works on the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, said getting even small increases in people’s natural levels of wellbeing is difficult so a change of this magnitude is significant.
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This increase was measured three weeks after the sessions of people doing yoga breathing techniques and simulating laughter until they simply can’t stop.
The trials were conducted inside traditional office-based businesses.
With 420,000 Australians made redundant or retrenched in the 12 months to February this year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the move is part of a wider trend of employers looking for increasingly unorthodox ways to keep their staff happier and thus more productive.
Organisations such as Australia Post, accountancy giants KPMG, insurer AON and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission have all been involved in recent years.
Dr Weinberg – the study’s author – said laughter yoga had an immediate increase in mood – which is the primary driver of wellbeing.
“We saw an increase in the sense of optimism, sense of control and overall life satisfaction,” Dr Weinberg said.
“It had helped to facilitate the connection between people at work and made them feel more comfortable about being there.
“Just that the employers had done something to boost their workers’ wellbeing was also significant factor.
“It’s free, it’s easy and everyone can do it. It works for people who have been going through a tough time and looking for a booster. We found an increased wellbeing for people who were already quite happy.”
Laughter Yoga CEO Merv Neal said he was laughed out of offices ten years ago as being insane, but things have changed.
“There is a huge need for anything in business – it doesn’t necessarily have to be laughter yoga – that helps employees manage the stress they are under at the moment,” he said.
“There are so many rules at work now that we are losing that social connection. Touching and laughing are critical for good human relationships.”