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The tradition of April Fools’ Day goes back further than many people think, with some attributing the first reference to the day of light-hearted antics to part of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, from 1392! It was celebrated throughout the middle ages all across Europe and has developed its own themes depending on region and culture. Practical jokes and hoaxes have come to be expected on April 1, and it’s common for newspapers, magazines, and websites to publish outlandish stories on that day, typically explained in very small print, or on subsequent days. Since April Fools’ Day isn’t an actual holiday, if it happens to fall on a workday, it’s only expected that pranks will take place in the office. Here’s how April Fools’ Day can help or harm your company culture.

Improve company culture

April Fools’ is a tradition going back centuries and crossing many Western cultures.

What Is Your Corporate Culture Like?

To understand whether pranks are appropriate, and what kinds of pranks might be acceptable, it’s important to intimately know your corporate culture. The more buttoned-up and formal your company culture, the subtler and more minor any April Fools’ pranks should be. The workforce itself influences how well April Fools’ shenanigans will likely go over. If other holidays are not celebrated in a work context (such as with a Christmas party or Memorial Day picnic), then elaborate April Fools’ hoaxes would be out of place. On the other hand, workplaces where everyone feels more like family, and where light-hearted fun is a regular occurrence can be the perfect settings for some tomfoolery.

How to Gauge Whether a Prank Is Appropriate

If your workplace is typically host to some April Fools’ Day pranking, you’re wise to remind everyone of guidelines beforehand to prevent safety violations and hurt feelings. Ask that everyone consider their co-workers’ feelings when planning pranks. If a prank is overly personal or plays upon a characteristic someone is particularly sensitive about, then it’s probably inappropriate and should be nixed.

Likewise, pranks that result in damaged property (personal or work property) should be off-limits. And it’s also important that everyone understands the difference between light-hearted trickery and mean-spirited revenge pranks. If revenge is a motivating factor at all, then it’s probably inappropriate. Pranks involving gender, religion, or race should be off-limits, and people who dish out pranks should expect to be the object of pranks as well.

Company Culture

Anyone who initiates a prank should also be willing to “take one for the team.”

Some Ideas for Office April Fools Pranks

Here are some ideas for office pranks that are considered acceptable at most workplaces:

  • “Googly eyes” stuck onto items in the refrigerator, posters, or other pictures
  • Opaque tape under someone’s mouse to block the laser and render it inoperable
  • Replacing faces in a co-worker’s family photos with celebrity faces
  • Placing a large box from your local donut place in the breakroom, but filling it beforehand with healthy, cut up vegetables
  • Placing an upside-down paper cup with a weight of some kind on top, along with a note saying, “Do not move unless you’re ready to kill it. It moves really fast!”

Morale and Corporate Culture Are Important Year-Round

Of course, a single day of light-hearted trickery can’t make up for a corporate culture that’s soul-crushing the rest of the year. Perhaps the advent of April Fools’ Day should be a reason to take a look at corporate culture overall and see where there is the opportunity for improvement. You don’t have to turn the workplace into summer camp, and you shouldn’t allow inappropriate activities, but having a workplace where just plain humanity and looking after one another is valued can make a tremendous difference in productivity and motivation.

If your workplace is simply where people show up and accomplish what they must so they can clock back out, then you’re probably not getting maximum productivity from your team. Your subordinates and co-workers aren’t machines, after all, but are real, complex human beings, and their need to relax and have fun once in a while in the context of the workplace isn’t unreasonable. I invite you to have a look at my blog, which addresses leadership and corporate culture in detail. Corporate culture affects everything from hiring to employee retention to earnings, and I would enjoy being of help to you as you make your company culture the best it can be.

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