5 Ways to Do April Fools’ Day at the Office

office prank

Most people enjoy laughter, especially when it happens at the office. Humor can lighten the mood and make the workday seem manageable when it might otherwise be dragging. April Fools’ Day presents a prime opportunity to inject laughter back into the office, but it can be easy to cross the line and have a prank turn into harassment.

Would-be pranksters should be careful not to overstep this April Fools’ Day, as should employers who could be liable for any wrongdoing that occurs on company time or premises. Anyone can take a joke too far, bosses included, which is why it helps to have a little tact going into the act of pranking while at work. (Remember our talks on unlawful harassment!)

To help companies navigate April Fools’ Day, we’ve come up with five points to remember—before you get into any office prank wars this April 1.

1. Avoid “physical” comedy

Any prank or joke that relies on physical touch or ‘rough housing’ should be avoided, even if you know the person very well. Other people at the office could see this and take issue with that kind of joking, a bystander could be hurt in the process, or the prank could result in injury to the participants. Worse, they could cause damage to the office, too.

2. Keep company culture in mind

If you’re not sure where the line might be, consider your company’s internal culture. Is it a very serious and no-nonsense kind of workspace? Are people more social and outgoing where you work? Understanding the personalities of the people you work with and the overall culture can help you answer “to play or not to play.”

3. Don’t be inappropriate

There are a few ways your April Fools’ Day joke could read as inappropriate. If it involves a client—during a meeting or conference call, for example—then you risk upsetting a lot of people. You also want to make sure any pranks don’t make people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, so avoid crass humor and stay away from anything sexual as this can definitely give people the wrong impression and could get you seriously reprimanded or even fired.

4. Be honest with yourself—and others

Some people can handle the occasional prank with a smile, even if they didn’t find it particularly amusing. If something makes you uncomfortable, be upfront and honest about it. It lets other people know you have boundaries and could spare you from future pranks. Don’t think that because something was done to be comical, doesn’t mean it can’t upset, offend, or put people off, including yourself.

Everyone has boundaries and when you don’t know someone well enough, or even if you do, it’s possible “playfulness” during April Fools’ Day can end up feeling more like harassment. As the prankster, you don’t want to be responsible for harassing anyone at work. And as the victim of harassment, you don’t want to feel unsafe or uncomfortable at your place of employment.

As the prankster, make sure your joke isn’t singling out any one person or characteristic, such as gender, religion, race, etc. Jokes that single people out for those traits almost always offend someone, including witnesses to the prank.

5. Consider all the consequences

This requires taking a step back and examining the prank and the intent behind it. Is there room for someone to get offended? Could it result in lost productivity, injury, or damage? If it COULD go wrong, reconsider it. You can’t control how someone will react and if there’s a possibility that an April Fools’ Day joke could be ill-received, it isn’t worth it.

For a prank to be harmless, it shouldn’t injure anyone or damage anything in the office. It should also be done while taking your company culture into consideration, as well as the wellbeing and personalities of everyone at the office. Being able to joke around with your officemates can be one of the most rewarding parts of working with others, so long as you know how to ‘read your audience’ and respect boundaries.

Need help setting up some ground rules or talking to your employees about handling April Fools’ Day with some tact? Give us a call!

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