Few things can lighten the mood more quickly than a good prank. In the workplace, it can reduce stress while also helping team members bond. One study from researchers at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill found that those who laugh together like each other more.
Through a small, harmless prank, you can get people laughing and create memories that will stay with the team for years.
But a prank can also go very wrong. First, there's the risk that someone will be angered or annoyed rather than laughing along with the jokester. Perhaps more important in today's environment, though, is the possibility a prank can go a little too far, offending employees and leading to an HR complaint or legal action.
Those risks shouldn't keep you from giving small, harmless jokes a try. Here are some fun office pranks that will keep you on the good side of HR while also helping to strengthen your team.
1. The Jell-O Trick
Anyone who's watched The Office a lot probably knows this prank. Simply make your Jell-O mix as usual but only fill the bowl to the halfway mark. Put the half-filled bowl in the refrigerator until it has set, then rest an item like a stapler or scissors on top of it, filling the bowl the rest of the way to the top with the remaining Jell-O.
I tried this on a co-worker and he actually got a kick out of it. He was always somewhat protective of his stapler at the office, like the character Milton from one of his favorite movies, Office Space.
The only harm this prank brings is a little inconvenience as the co-worker digs the item out of the mess. My friend actually ate his way to the stapler. Be prepared to buy a replacement item if the time spent in the Jell-O causes it to malfunction.
2. Wrap It Up
Saran Wrap is a minimally-invasive way to have a little fun. You can use it to wrap up a person's entire desk, including covering all of the objects on it, or just cover the phone, computer keyboard, and a few other objects. You can substitute Saran Wrap with aluminum foil or Post-It notes to similar effect. It's a far easier cleanup than filling an office with Styrofoam peanuts or shredded paper, making it less likely to offend.
3. Pull a Switcheroo
If a co-worker has a special chair or office supply, switch it out for the day and see how long it takes that person to notice. If you can get into the person's computer, you can also switch the mouse so that the left and right click buttons are reversed. Just make sure you're nearby for these pranks so that you can quickly fix the situation once the employee notices something's not right.
4. Replace It with Cardboard
If you're artistically inclined, you can harmlessly prank your co-workers by replacing everything on their desks with cardboard replicas. Save boxes and cut them up, drawing on them to match the item they've replaced. This prank will take a little extra work, since you'll need to remove everything on the person's desk, then put it back once the switch has been discovered.
This raises a thought that you might want to keep in mind with any prank you decide to try. No prank should take up too much of your time. You don't need to give anyone the idea that you have too much time on your hands by spending so much of your workday on a prank.
5. Paperclip in the Copier
If, like most offices, your copier gets a great deal of use during the day, this prank could be a huge hit. Make multiple copies of a paperclip and put it in the paper tray of the copier. When coworkers try to make a copy, it will come out with a paperclip along with their desired image. They'll likely put work into trying to find the paperclip jammed somewhere in the system, where it ends up as part of the copy. Don't make too many copies of the paperclip or you'll be accused of wasting paper.
Although pranksters should proceed with caution, there are plenty of harmless pranks you can execute without offending anyone. Make sure you offer to clean up any messes you make after everyone has had a good laugh. Avoid constantly pranking the same person, whether you're doing things alone or you have help. The victim of repeat pranks could feel as though they've been singled out and take offense.