Was your office ever like ‘The Office’?

When it comes down to it, The Office and your office are probably a lot more similar than you realize.  

The original version of The Office was inspired in part by a reality-TV trend popular in the U.K. at the time, depicting regular people doing regular things. In casting both the British and the American version, a group of unknowns overcame the odds and changed the face of television. It was created to replicate real looking people so the audience could empathize with the characters. Watching these ordinary-looking employees was different.  

The Office follows the daily work lives of the employees at Dunder Mifflin, a small-town paper company. In its mundane setting, the true-to-life humor made the office friendly yet off-color. Foolish remarks, racist slurs and sexist comments were the magic that kept the team sharing jokes, side glances, and moments of mayhem. Political incorrectness was a constant premise, exemplifying bad manners and inappropriate behavior, whereby if this happened in your office, it would be the bane of any HR Manager’s existence 

At Dunder Mifflin, ineffective management personified clueless micromanagement, more focused on being liked while creating a fun workplace focusing on him and not his team. If you have had an ineffective manager working for, with, or above you, you would tread lightly. An effective manager will groom future leaders to enhance the company’s future: an ineffective manager just hinders success. In fact, in 2005, Harvard Business Review published a study that found employees preferred to work with a ‘loveable fool’ over a ‘competent jerk.’  

The Office culture was somewhat professional, kind of stodgy and the traditional workplace seemed nonexistent.  They implemented bonding events like showing 30 minutes of a feature film early Monday mornings to motivate staff to shake off the weekend. Just like the real world, The Office rewarded the best employees at the annual staff meeting for doing nothing you would post on a resume. 

Office culture in your office and the absurdity we experienced is part of the reason we love or loathe our jobs. Your co-workers you have formed bonds and friendships with are the best part of your day, making your co-workers like a second family. Friends at work makes each day a bit better, even when work seems daunting.  

Romance in The Office highlighted unrequited, ill-defined romance-friendships while flirting around the water cooler. In your office, there are plenty of reasons not to couple with co-workers’ in the next cubicle. Should a romance extinguish, it creates palpable tension. Office romance is inevitable: office romance is real: remember, if things do not work out, working with an ex can be awful!  

The Office was relatable as we rolled our eyes at our colleague’s behavior. It was about random, boring bits of everyday work life and the comedy from being surrounded by the same people every day. How we work now has radically shifted, imagine if half of The Office’s cast suddenly stopped showing up because they could conduct calls and meetings from anywhere. Until the spring of 2020, workers shared the human experience of commuting to somewhere else, being surrounded by people doing what you do, hoping to get along, get your work done, wave good-bye or go out for cocktails before going home to do the same routine next working day. One of the most prominent depictions of office life was that it seemed to highlight the truth in the tedium.  

If The Office were still running and reflecting the Pandemic, what would we see? Staggered shift patterns or arrival times, signage reminding us to stay 6 feet / 2 meters apart in a one-way traffic pattern. Co-workers wearing face masks as they moved around but removing them at their desk…. as you wonder if you misinterpreted a side glace because you only see half of a face. The party planning committee works through social distancing, touch free zones and non-sharing of food as staff tries to reconnect. Would some of your favorite characters be absent due to pre-existing medical conditions or self-isolating?  

Revisiting The Office made us yearn for a simpler time when we were entrenched in the normalcy of a workday routine. And as The Office went off the air, so did the idea that day-to-day work would look the same as it did in 2005 (more than 55 million gig workers stopped having an office to go to) as more people were working from home than ever before.  Our younger generations may never experience that type of work setting. 

As we streamed episodes of The Office, we wished we had our co-workers around, complain about the food in the microwave, s, pull a prank on that annoying intern, or gossip around the water cooler. Those subtle moments that seemed mundane before the Pandemic really touch us now as we crave the human interaction that we took for granted. Moving forward, going to the office may be more like going to a concert…but we ARE coming back!  

Why Do We Still Love “The Office”? By Sarah Larson December 7, 2020 

The Office celebrates a work life that does not exist anymore How would Michael Scott behave on Zoom and Slack? By Julia Alexander  April 2020 

Posted in Our Thoughts.

Sharon Miller-Trackman

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