Warning: Jim Halpert is not an EHS compliance expert. Seriously. Any such claims made are personal opinion and don’t necessarily reflect actual facts.
Jim Halpert here. I’m a salesperson/occasional slacker at Dunder Mifflin paper company. We haven’t met, but it feels like we know each other because we’ve shared so many confused and awkward stares through the TV screen.
Today, I want to talk about office prank safety. Now, as someone who’s tasked with managing EHS compliance, mitigating health and safety risks, and ensuring employee well-being, the idea of workplace pranks might give you a little heartburn. BUT I can happily report that through all my experimentation, no one has ever been seriously injured on my watch.
Look, building a strong culture around EHS is pretty important, and is not something Dunder Mifflin has excelled at, but comradery is an important piece of that and if pranks do anything, they bring people together. When it comes to office pranks there are definitely lines you don’t want to cross—and I say this as someone who’s had colleagues both start a fire and accidentally discharge a firearm in my workplace. We’ve already got enough to worry about at our jobs—from insane bosses to relationship drama to the occasional loose bat—we don’t need to add physical danger to the list as well.
So with this in mind, I humbly present my list of five pranks you can plot without running afoul of OSHA. Let the pranking games begin!
1. Encasing a Coworker’s Desk Accessories in Jell-O or in the Vending Machine
The best pranks are those that inconvenience someone without completely ruining their day. (There’s a difference between needling and cruelty.) That’s why I’m a particularly big fan of this one. To see the expression of someone opening their desk drawer and finding their stapler suspended in a wiggling gelatin mold is amazing. The person in question should be able to remove it without much hazard, although sticky remnants are a common and hilarious side effect.
Placing your target’s belongings in the break-room vending machine is also delightful, provided you have a way to get into the machine that doesn’t involve equipment tampering. (On a related note, befriending your facility maintenance people can be highly valuable.)
2. Moving a Coworker’s Desk or Workspace
Imagine walking into the office one morning, plodding to your workspace out of routine, setting down your bag and then— wait… where’s your desk?
There are plenty of approaches one can follow here. One is to slowly move the desk an inch or two each day, to see how long it takes Dwight (er, your hypothetical coworker) to notice. Another is to straight-up move the whole thing to a new location, like — say — the restroom.
It is important to note that when handling heavy objects, you should always observe best practices for lifting and moving. Use your legs, bend your knees, etc.
3. Attempting to Convince Coworker It’s Friday, Not Thursday
Executing this properly will take some methodical planning. You’ll want to drop subtle hints — changing their desk calendar, casually making “TGIF” references, enlisting other colleagues for easily-overheard conversations — without giving away the game.
4. Sending Your Coworker a Fax from the Future
The funniest part of this one, from my view, is the notion that faxing still exists in the future. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware it existed in the present until Pam told me that the printer at reception doubles as a fax machine.
Given the obscurity of these devices in modern society, it’s pretty easy to trick a gullible victim by firing a fax out with the date fudged and a few plausible details pertaining to the future. The reactions are priceless, in my experience. Just make sure to recycle any paper used for the exercise.
5. Impersonating a Coworker
I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by individuals with some extreme quirks and eccentricities, which makes this a low-hanging fruit. Not everyone is so lucky, but if you can make it happen it’s a great way to get under people’s skin while avoiding any hazardous risks. (Relationship risks are another matter, of course, so know your audience!)
Final Thoughts on Office Pranking
At the end of the day, what’s important is that your team’s pranks are well-intended instead of blatantly mean-spirited, and that you ensure everyone’s physical safety. Despite my frequent grumblings, I love my coworkers, who bring so much life and color into this bland, dull paper supply firm. Our penchant for joking around with one another ultimately strengthens our bonds and builds a real sense of community at Dunder Mifflin.
And now for a few moments I’m not (not) proud of. Take a peek at these five cringe-worthy workplace safety moments from “The Office.”
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