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ARTICLE: Laughter Will Keep Your Team Connected — Even While You’re Apart

Videoconferencing has been around for more than 20 years, but until the pandemic, most remote meeting attendees conferenced in from a room full of teammates. Now, we have 100% virtual videoconferences regularly, introducing a problem technology can’t fix: we can't bear much isolation. Much of our wellbeing, and what makes us productive, is predicated on physical proximity, and the removal of that proximity for any period of time can be severely damaging. One surprising casualty of social distancing? Laughter.

Normally people laugh about 18 times per day, and 97% of that time we’re laughing with others. People laugh because others laugh (like a yawn). Laughter releases dopamine in our brain that creates a sense of euphoria and can enhance learning, motivation, and attention. The overall benefits of laughter and the neurochemicals involved include improved immune functioning, stress relief, increased tolerance for pain, improved cardiovascular health, reduced anxiety, sense of safety, improved mood, and higher motivation and productivity at work.

The isolation imposed on us to combat the pandemic is severely curtailing social interaction, leading to decreased laughter and a consequent reduction in the beneficial chemicals that our bodies need. Even worse, associated stress and fear we are experiencing alone is causing our bodies to release cortisol, resulting in weight gain, headaches, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and high blood pressure.

What can you do as a team leader to mitigate these effects? Get your team to laugh more and stress less. Here are five concrete steps you can take to do that:

  1. Slow down. Socially, psychologically, and emotionally connect and reconnect the team. Laughter is one of the best ways to keep a team emotionally connected—give it time and space, even if you have to put off some of the actual work.

  2. Get the video working. Humans are amazingly good at reading both visual and auditory clues and cues when it comes to laughter. Make sure all your people can and do attend via video, which will increase the cue-flow for laughter.

  3. Smile a lot and talk in a slightly higher voice. People naturally look to the meeting leader for signals as to what is okay in terms of behavior, including permission to laugh. The simplest and strongest facial signal that laughter is okay is a genuine smile. The key auditory cue is the pitch of your voice. Almost regardless of culture, a slightly higher pitch in your voice signals that you want to set a lighter rather than a more serious tone for your group.

  4. Set the example. Laughter sparks laughter—nothing is more powerful in generating laughter in your team than laughing yourself, but don't fake it (read on).

  5. Get in the mood. Start with your own chemistry before any meeting. It’s easier to keep laughter (and its neurochemicals) going than it is to start cold in front of all the faces on your Zoom page. Get yourself laughing — even for just a few seconds — in advance. Watch a funny video just before the meeting starts.

It is very likely that even after the coronavirus crisis is over, more people will work more often from home and alone, which means the laughter issue is here to stay — and leaders are going to have to get good at making laughter happen.

Read the full article here.

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