This Friday is Red Nose Day and as always, stars will be gathering to make people laugh and help raise money to fund life-changing projects across the world. Comic Relief says “Funny can change things. It can connect us. It can be the difference.” and that’s just as true in our professional lives as it is in our personal lives. Laughter can have huge power at work. It creates shared experiences and brings people together. A shared laugh with a coworker can help you feel more connected to that colleague and form a strong and lasting bond. Humour is also a powerful way to heal past disagreements or resentments that may have affected relationships at work.

But since the steep rise in remote working, creating laughter at work has become harder. The impact of the virus on employee mentality, on psychological wellbeing, has been just as devastating as the physical effects. Teams are tired, overwhelmed and jaded. Reports have shown that over one third of employees have displayed signs of depression and anxiety since the pandemic took hold – with that number rising to 55% for those struggling financially.

Stress levels are high, but laughter can have a direct positive impact on stress. Physically, when you laugh, you take in more oxygen-rich air, which stimulates your lungs, heart and muscles. A good laugh can relieve physical tension in the body and relax the muscles for up to 45 minutes. Laughing increases your heart rate and the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can improve vascular function and decrease the risk of heart attacks. Laughing can even boost your immune system as you adopt a positive mindset that can release infection-fighting antibodies. Laughter also increases the number of “feel-good” endorphins released in your body, fighting off stress and lowering your blood pressure as a result.

Mentally, laughter provides huge benefits too. It gives your brain a break from the worrying thoughts that cause stress. It produces a general sense of well-being and can diffuse feelings of anger and depression. Laughter can decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol by increasing your intake of oxygen and stimulating circulation throughout the body.

With all the seriousness that work brings, particularly over the past 12 months, it’s easy to forget how important it is to make time for laughter. Here are five ways to introduce more laughter to your team at work:

1. Personality quizzes

In general, quizzes are a fun way to get to know your employees and vice versa. They don’t have to be just personality and productivity-related quizzes. They can delve into pop culture, films, literature, and sports. There is a variety of topics to select, just as long as they’re business-appropriate.

You can simply create quizzes in multiple-choice format, or even polls, using platforms such as Kahoot. Quizzes can be versatile, revolving around a specific theme like music, sports, even celebrations, or more closely related to colleagues, such as ‘Match the fact to the colleague’: the more unusual and unexpected the more fun this quiz can get.

2. Singing competition

Singing can be great fun for everyone involved, but if you have a shy team of employees then it can always turn into a favourite song of the week competition. Your employees can select their favourite song and then the whole team can vote on which one is the best or the catchiest. Afterwards, all of these songs can be added to your company’s playlist, either on YouTube or Spotify.

3. The remote fitness challenge

Staying healthy while working from home can be a bit of a trial, especially if your employees aren’t used to working remotely in the first place. Therefore, why not make it an actual fun challenge with a virtual scoreboard? There are multiple ways you can implement this sort of challenge. However, the premise remains simple. Everyone should have a set exercise goal that can be tracked by phone or even a Google spreadsheet. Whoever places first gets to win a prize. 

4. Simple virtual games

Sometimes, you’ll need a game with solid ice-breaking abilities that are well-suited to a digital format. These games can be set up in no time at all. First, you can set up a time for your team to play Pictionary. All you’ll need is paper and a pencil. Second, you can always rely on charades to be a crowd-pleaser. It simple and straightforward, and all you’ll need is to set up a video call. The last suggestion would be “Draw the Picture.” This game purely relies on communication and how well in-tune your team members are with each other. It’s a game where someone describes a picture, and everyone else draws what they hear. The fun part is when you get to see the malformed and disfigured sketches that sometimes have nothing to do with the original picture the describer had in mind.

5. A group-wide bake-off competition

A great way to nurture friendly competition would be hosting a group-wide bake-off competition. Of course, it’ll have to be adjusted if employees are still working from home. Yet, it can add a great vibe to your daily and weekly meetings. In short, everyone that wants to participate can bring their baked goods to your online meeting. After the meeting is done, they can show off what they’ve baked. You can take it a step further by having your employees send each other baked goods care packages. Being the first to go is a great way to show leadership and then your employees can pick up from where you left off.