Laughter is the best medicine.

We’ve been writing a lot on how to deal with, how to handle, how to navigate, how to co-curate, how to re-onboard and how to survive through COVID-19 and beyond. We’ve seen examples of the good, and examples of the bad – which are still emerging every day, in every context. Amongst all that, we fully appreciate that safety, health and wellbeing matter immensely.

But, so does bringing the human back to work.

Through this whole pandemic, and the myriad of societal, economic and deeply human challenges that sit with it, we’ve decided we need to get right back to the heart of making work absolutely human. To do that, along with purpose, relationships, agency and accountability – the really fundamental stuff – there are some seemingly small things that matter in a big way.

Our CEO, Rhonda, took a great tack last week flushing out the apparent experts on Office Design, and stripped it back to what matters. Great workplaces are created by the unique group of people you work with, giving their full contribution, safely and comfortably, however it works best for the culture they set.

And that is spot on.

What really struck a chord were the simplest of things, that go beyond the what’s essential and expected. #1 on that list was Humour – are people happy and #2 was Music – does the soundtrack work for you?

At mwah. we get great humour from our musical differences. Why and how does our CEO move effortlessly from Green Day to Showtunes, why does our (relatively) young US connection love slow folk music and why does our Designer extraordinaire have a deep obsession with Tay-Tay (actually, this one kind of makes sense).

Whether you work in technology, on a farm, in a retail store, or even as a traffic enforcement agent, you are a human, and, you like to laugh. And not only are you still allowed to laugh, even when times are tough, but this is when you need to the most.

In fact, it’s precisely in these times, when every conversation is about safety, rules, hospitals, blame and global political concerns, that we need to keep remembering the lighter side of life.

If you do manage a chuckle, a laugh, a cackle – others will laugh too.

Yes, even if you are a traffic enforcement agent. Okay. This article cannot progress without that story.

Recently, we did a spot of shopping – in my mind, to grab some essentials, in my wife’s mind, to ensure we stimulated the entire local economy. To my understanding dismay, it was slower and more cautious with the COVID-19 rules of engagement, and we ended up running (about 45 minutes) late back to the car. Well, guess who was standing by our car – a lovely Traffic Enforcement Officer. We see this gentleman and sprint to the car, letting him know it’s ours and we are sorry we’re late.

Forebodingly, he says nothing and just starts uncontrollably laughing.

He looked nothing like Mr Burns nor Dr Evil, yet it got us wondering if his laughter was a cultural nuance we’d missed or simply a wicked sense of humour.

Should we let out a mwahahahaha or would producing some tears be more helpful?

As his uncontrollable laughing started to slow, he said ‘I love it, when people see me, they always run towards me. But y’all should be safe and just shout out to me next time’.

Now, really lost, we proceeded to have a chat. He let us know he’d raised a ticket but he would waive it. Let’s just say, there were smiles and small talk, and a few laughs – but no jokes as we didn’t want him to change his mind!

Why does laughing feel so good?

  1. It gives us a moment to lighten-up.

The Traffic Enforcement Officer was a cool case in point. This lovely man is probably used to people assuming he is a robot, devoid of humanity, emotionless, and licensed only to print tickets. But, he had a great sense of humour, and appreciated what others may assume based on his uniform and job. And he chose to lighten up.

Right now, we are busier and navigating more complexity than ever.

Laughing gives us a moment to lighten up, and it feels good.

  1. It releases endorphins that make us feel good.

It feels good, thanks to science. Smiling gets neurotransmitters in our brain, like dopamine and serotonin, firing. When triggered, they can help fight off stress, boost our mood and more – even if that smile is fake.

Hopefully you work, and interact with some fun people that make you smile for real.

  1. It gives us a very human way to connect with people (even those we assumed we wouldn’t like….yep, a Traffic Enforcement Officer..)

Sharing a laugh, a joke, a story – is sharing a connection. And while some of us have reflected on things we’ve gained with remote work – we’ve also lost some physical connectivity and proximity – like a handshake greeting or a hug to an old colleague we cross paths with on the street. And those things are Belonging.

But, a smile or a laugh can be done across platforms, time-zones and beyond.

  1. Laughter is contagious.

Spread laughs, not COVID-19. Laughter, like many human emotions, is contagious. Personally, I would much rather spread good vibes and a laugh, than negative energy. This doesn’t mean you can’t be serious, or intelligent, or important – or whatever it is you need or want to be. But, if you laugh and smile, you change your own mood, outlook and stress level – and you do the same for others. You are that powerful.

What can you do?

  1. Think about your last laugh – and don’t have it so infrequently!

This is not a moment to care about who gets the last or biggest laugh – it’s about sharing laughs. Be generous, laugh easily and frequently. Laugh at silly things, your own things, shared experiences, bad jokes, bad music, even Dad jokes.

  1. Don’t overthink your permission to laugh even though there is a lot of serious stuff around right now.

This should go without saying, but let me remove any doubt. It’s ok to worry about the world, the global economy and how to care for people – and still laugh.

Just give yourself permission to relax and find the fun.

We may be locked down, socially distanced and even masked, but this is still our lives, and our time.  Granted, it may be a little harder to see that smile with masks and all, so make the laugh count!

  1. Make some space for laughs at work – don’t sweat the perfectly timed agenda.

Everyone will appreciate you making a little space, for those lighthearted moments – so let the laughs flow! In fact, they’ll appreciate it!

So, while we find the right medicine and way to live with COVID-19, be safe and even a little cautious, but still remember laughter is a pretty great medicine to be taken daily.