Five Utterly Hilarious and (Hopefully) Harmless Office Pranks

Five Utterly Hilarious and (Hopefully) Harmless Office Pranks

Don’t be the office that takes itself too seriously. With tactful execution, playing a prank or two on your co-workers can be good for company culture. So says Justin Dorsey, the senior human resources manager at Ben E. Keith Company: “A laughter meter is better than any employee survey you can take.”

Now, we could get into how pranking can lighten the mood and build camaraderie, but let’s not ruin the fun with superfluous pleasantries.

Let the shenanigans begin.

Illustrations by Charlie Marsh

Keyboard Plant
What you’ll need:

  • An old or unused computer keyboard (not your employee’s actual keyboard, please)
  • Chia pet or grass seeds
  • Potting soil
  • Spray bottle with water
  1. Pick a co-worker who’s going out of town for a few days.
  2. Take an old or unused computer keyboard that looks identical to that co-worker’s keyboard.
  3. Evenly sprinkle seeds and soil between the keys.
  4. Spray the keyboard with water.
  5. Place the keyboard by a window where it can get a lot of sunlight. Continue to spray the keyboard with water over the next few days.
  6. Watch as grass sprouts all over the keyboard.
  7. Swap the co-worker’s keyboard with this one and watch their face as they discover their “welcome back” present: a brand-new desk plant.

The “Good Luck” Box
What you’ll need:

  • Cardboard box
  • Sharpie
  1. Choose an employee to pick on.
  2. When that employee is out, take a cardboard box and have other employees sign it with messages like “good luck,” “wishing you the best on your next endeavor,” “we’ll miss you,” etc. 
  3. Leave the box on the employee’s desk. 
  4. Watch the reaction when the employee returns to their desk. (After a few minutes, kindly explain to them that they’re not actually getting fired.)

AutoCorrect Fail
What you’ll need:

  • Just a computer and good ‘ol Microsoft Word

On PC:

  1. Get on your co-worker’s computer.
  2. Open Microsoft Word.
  3. Go to File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options.
  4. Fill out the “Replace” and “With” boxes with the word you want to replace. (Maybe your co-worker’s name is “Charles,” and you replace his name with “Chicken.”)
  5. Click “Add,” then “OK.”
  6. Watch your co-worker open up Word and laugh as their name autocorrects to a new one.

On Mac:

  1. Repeat Steps 1-2 above.
  2. Go to Word > Preferences > Authoring and Proofing Tools > AutoCorrect
  3. Select the “Plain Text” option.
  4. Fill out the “Replace” and “With” boxes with the word you want to replace.
  5. Click the “Add” button.
  6. See Step 6 above.

The Keyboard Ghost
What you’ll need:

  • A co-worker with a wired keyboard and Bluetooth-capable computer
  • A Bluetooth keyboard
  1. Find a co-worker with a wired keyboard that’s connected to a computer with Bluetooth capability.
  2. Get a Bluetooth keyboard, and when your co-worker steps away from their desk, pair the keyboard with that co-worker’s computer.
  3. Sit at a distance with the Bluetooth keyboard and wait for your co-worker to return.
  4. When they open an email or document, use the Bluetooth keyboard to remotely type messages on their computer.
  5. Watch them stare in terror as their computer seems to type all by itself.

The Un-Clickable Desktop
What you’ll need:

  • Just a co-worker’s computer to pull the prank on (works best on a Mac)
  1. Get on a co-worker’s computer.
  2. Press Command + Shift + 3 to take a full-screen screenshot. The screenshot will save to your desktop. Tip: If you’d really like to be a knucklehead, before you take the screenshot, pull up a web browser window and Google search “frozen Mac desktop.” Leave the window up, then screenshot the whole screen. Proceed as normal.
  3. Click the Finder. In Documents, create a new folder and title it “Desktop.”
  4. Grab all the files on your co-worker’s desktop and put them in the “Desktop” folder you just created. This ensures that your co-worker’s files are all saved.
  5. Right-click your co-worker’s desktop and select Change Desktop Background.
  6. From there, go to Folders, then click the “+” sign and find the “Desktop” folder you just created.
  7. In the Desktop folder, find the screenshot you took earlier. Click Choose.
  8. Back on the Desktop and Screensaver window, select the screenshot image. This will change the desktop background to the image of your screenshot. You may then close the Desktop and Screensaver window.
  9. Navigate to System Preferences > Dock and change the Size to “Small” and Position to “Left.” Then check the box that reads “Automatically hide and show the Dock.” This hides all of the desktop’s icons.
  10. Voila! When your co-worker sits back at their desk, they will frantically click all over their screen — now just a background photo — unable to open anything on their desktop.
  11. Not to worry — the Finder bar at the top of the screen still works, so after getting a good laugh, you can set everything back to normal.

“The Office” Jell-O Prank
What you’ll need:

  • A co-worker’s office supply (e.g., stapler, tape dispenser, etc.)
  • Jell-O mix (amount depends on the size of the office supply)
  • Plain gelatin powder (amount depends on size of office supply)
  • A bowl that’s large enough to fit the office supply and Jell-O
  • A slightly larger bowl than the one above
  • A plate upon which to place the Jell-O
  1. Make half a bowl of Jell-O as directed on the box. Tip: Adding an extra pack of gelatin helps make the Jell-O firmer.
  2. Let the Jell-O harden in the refrigerator.
  3. Once Jell-O is firm, take out the bowl and press an office supply into the Jell-O.
  4. Make a second batch of Jell-O and pour it over the first batch, enough to fully cover the office supply.
  5. Put bowl back in fridge to set.
  6. Once Jell-O is firm, take out the bowl and place it in a slightly larger bowl filled with warm water. This loosens the Jell-O and makes it easier to pour out.
  7. After a few minutes, when the Jell-O seems loose enough, turn the bowl over onto a plate.
  8. Present your co-worker their office supply, suspended in Jell-O — just like the classic scene from “The Office.”

BEST COMPANIES

We asked our 2019 Best Companies to Work For in Fort Worth about what sorts of mischief have taken place in their offices. Turns out things got pretty serious.

“In order to help with financial requirements, we have a company-wide policy to lock your computer’s screen any time you leave your desk. Most people forgot, and we didn’t want to discipline them for just forgetting, so our CEO made a rule that if you see someone’s screen unlocked, you can change their desktop background to anything you want for the rest of the day. So, after a few people got ugly pictures, weird animals and their sport rivals’ logos on their background for a day, people started actually locking their screens. We’ve kept this up for almost a decade at this point and still share funny backgrounds around the office when it happens.

“One co-worker always remembered to lock his screen, so I could never change his desktop background. So, one day, I printed an image of his monitor, stole his monitor and taped the image on the wall behind his desk.” -Aaron McWilliams, senior director of marketing, Qualbe

“[On April Fools’ Day] we had a cookie cake made, but instead of icing, we had the bakery use mayonnaise. Of course, it tasted gross. The next April Fools, we called a doughnut shop and asked for a dozen cream-filled donuts, only without any cream in them. Yes, we filled them with mayonnaise.” -Greg Morse, CEO, Worthington National Bank

“Early one morning in October 2016, pranking payback was on the mind of account executive Julie Ornelas as she took 2,200 Post-it notes (orange, pink and yellow) and strategically covered fellow AE Aeron Lopez’s Honda Accord. Julie stealthily went into the parking garage shortly after Aeron arrived and diligently decked out Aeron’s Honda ... by the time Aeron headed out to lunch, she discovered the colorful piece of paper art her car had become.” -Mario Tarradell, bilingual communications specialist, Apex Capital Corp.

“One of our attorneys once lost a case when he was at a different firm. One of his fellow attorneys printed hundreds of pictures of the victorious attorney and hid them all over his office. It took him months to find them all.” -Travis Patterson, attorney, Patterson Law Group

“While one of our regular pranksters was out on vacation, the team decided it was time for payback. We carefully removed all items from the lead prankster’s very messy desk so we could place them back in the same messy order. Our desks are very large and made of wood, so it took at least three or four people to move the desk into the bathroom. We then placed the mess back exactly where we found it — but this time on top of a porcelain throne. Needless to say, when she returned to the office on Monday morning, we were all mentally preparing for revenge.” -Sara Hull, executive vice president of account strategy and client development, Schaefer Advertising

“This started with a customer (and good friend) pulling a small prank on me. So, I retaliated by taking an ad out in the Star-Telegram for an estate sale at his house ... People that frequent estate sales are a different breed and will not take no for an answer. He woke up to strange noises at 5 a.m. When he went to investigate, there were about 20 people in his garage rummaging through his belongings. Once he determined what had taken place and told these people there was no estate sale, they still wouldn’t leave. He ultimately placed a sign in the yard explaining there was no sale, and that didn’t help. He and the family had to get a hotel room for the weekend. Maybe next time he won’t draw first blood, and I doubt he’s ever left his garage door open again.” -Troy Moncrief, president, The Baker Firm PLLC-Fidelity National Title


One-Step Pranks

  • Put a toy snake or spider in someone’s cubicle.
  • Put a sticker or tape a silly note at the bottom of a person’s mouse to prevent it from moving.
  • Tape an airhorn under someone’s chair so it goes off when they sit down.
  • Cover an entire cubicle with foil, balloons, Post-it notes, etc.
  • Hide photos of a celebrity — or someone else obnoxious — all over someone’s desk area. See if they can find them all.

Here Comes HR
Not all human resource departments frown on pranking. HR professionals Mike Coffey, president of background screening service Imperative Information Group, and Justin Dorsey, senior human resources manager at Ben E. Keith Company, certainly don’t. But it would be remiss to play a prank without thinking through the possibility of negative repercussions. While much of this is common sense, Coffey and Dorsey have a few caveats before you try these at work.

  1. Avoid pranks that target race, gender or religion. “Harmless is in the eye of the beholder,” Coffey says, so make sure your prank isn’t one that will come across as a personal attack.
  2. Know your target. You never know what could be happening below the surface, so make sure you know your prank victim well before you execute. “What may work for one person may offend another,” Dorsey says. “You’ve really got to know your audience.”
  3. Make sure the prank doesn’t interfere with someone’s job, threaten safety or damage company property. Coffey does have a warning about putting your co-worker's office supplies in Jell-O, as popularized in NBC's "The Office" “[It] sounds very funny, but that’s company property. A lot of employers frown on that.”
  4. Don’t prank a subordinate. Unless you know them well, picking on a new employee or intern isn’t always a good idea, Coffey says. “If they are offended, they might feel like they can’t object or they can’t reciprocate.”