As vaccinations continue across the US, many companies are making plans to send employees back to the office after over a year of working from home. According to one survey from CNBC, roughly a third of businesses indicated they’ll be back in the office full-time, while 45% will offer some sort of hybrid model.
But, mathematically speaking, all this means that 100% of everyone who is returning to work will be at risk of falling victim to an office prank.
The office prank — you know them. Tape under the mouse. Screenshotting the desktop and hiding the shortcuts. Sticky notes on everything. And the classic: scaring your coworker so badly she jumps out of her seat and yells, “Goddammit!”
That’s what Jenelle Brennan and Julie English have been up to at their job at the Marino Law Group in Rochester, New York. They both returned to the office in November, and since then, Brennan has been scaring English by quickly and loudly shouting “Julie!” and capturing her terrified reactions.
Brennan has recorded it all and uploaded the videos to TikTok, where they have racked up millions of views on the app.
“Let’s just see what happens,” Brennan told BuzzFeed News about uploading the first TikTok. “I put the video together and I stuck it on there and the first video had like 560,000 views.”
Clearly, people stuck at home on their phones missed office shenanigans of their own.
It’s a simple yet effective prank. Brennan quickly pops her head into English’s office, shouts her name, and English reliably jumps, usually throwing her hands in the air, letting out a cuss word or two, or “Jenelle, I almost put my eye out!”
English told BuzzFeed News that Brennan scares her at least once a day, but she still can't figure out why she gets so scared.
“I don’t know what it is,” English said. “Every day I try to be prepared. I try to pay attention when it’s quiet in the office. Like, maybe I think she’s going to scare me. I try to pay attention. And it never ceases. As soon as I start paying attention and start doing my work and it’s quiet, it never fails. She gets me every single time.”
Some people aren’t as amused with the pranks. Some comments left on the TikToks range from demands that Brennan be fired to claims she’s harassing poor English. One comment told English she should put Brennan in the paper shredder.
But English and Brennan want people to know they’re both having fun. English may seem terrified, but she said the pranks are “all in love.”
“I mean everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t allowed,” Brennan said. “Julie and I are friends inside the office and outside the office. I wouldn’t do it to her if she told me to stop.”
English said she hopes commenters have as much fun as they do, but getting so many views on the videos is “weird.”
Still, in a way, she understands why the videos are so viral.
“I can’t even lie,” English said. “I think it’s hysterical when other people get scared. I grew up doing it to my mom, and even when my kids were coming up, I would scare them all the time. So maybe it’s just karma, I guess.”