April 1 is a time for heightened caution and lightened moods – and it’s always much better to be the pranker than the prankee. As April Fools’ Day rolls around, you might be considering some on-the-job shenanigans, and we can help.

But first it’s worth establishing some ground rules. Most importantly, know your audience and whether your antics will be appropriate. And remember not to cross the line between light-hearted frivolity and a cruel joke.

“Ask yourself what or who the punchline is?” suggested Matt Doyle, a Toronto TV writer who was a writer/producer on two seasons of a hidden camera prank show. “A good rule of thumb is to make the pranker the punchline.

“A cruel or inappropriate prank is one that would involve a lot of physical cleanup for the mark and/or emotional trauma,” he added. “After the prank, you should be saying ‘you should have seen your face,’ rather than: ‘Look what I did to your face.’”

With those boundaries in mind, consider these office pranks to get a comic rise out of your colleagues.

Air supply

If you’re looking for a light and uplifting laugh, pack a coworker’s office with balloons and give everyone a quick helium high.

It’s such a popular prank that the Internet abounds with recommendations for exactly how many balloons to buy to fill your space. Past prankers have testified that it can take over 500 balloons to fill an office of only 100 square feet, with preparation taking hours – even with the help of an air compressor.

When the time comes, deflate the balloons carefully, because an afternoon of thunderous pops is unlikely to go over well, even on April Fools’ Day.

A sticky situation

If you’ve got some time (noticing a theme here?), an underground parking garage and a really good relationship with your mark, break out the post-it notes and ensure your co-worker has a colourful commute.

Last year, NBA forward Patrick Patterson gave new meaning to the term “glue guy” when he victimized his young Toronto Raptors teammates by wallpapering their cars with sticky notes, going so far as to scrawl “Loser” in colourful paper on their windshields.

Of course, Patterson was off the team by the following season, so it might not be the best idea if your plan is to stick around long-term.

Impractical interior redecoration

If you have the access, you could encase the entire contents of a colleague’s office in newspaper, gift wrap, or aluminum foil, giving them a deep morning shock (and perhaps, some valuable sandwich wrap for lunch).

If you know your target a little better, your impromptu interior decoration could instead feature a wallpaper of photos of Nickelback, grouchy cats, or their most-hated sports team.

Doughnut decoy

Hiding a veggie tray inside a Krispy Kreme box is a great gag to play on those colleagues who aren’t counting calories.

And if you’re worried about a sugar-deprived co-worker coming for your head? Go incognito and drop the box in the lunchroom anonymously, then sit back and enjoy.

Cyber capers

Any office provides countless opportunities for computer tomfoolery, most of which are relatively harmless.

Some ideas:

  • Put some scotch tape on the bottom of a co-worker’s mouse and watch them scowl as they scroll.
  • If you can commandeer their keyboard, install a Chrome or Firefox extension like nCage – which turns almost all Internet images into Oscar winner Nicolas Cage – or Poltergeist, which constantly and randomly rearranges your Chrome tabs.
  • Drive a workmate up the wall by controlling their computer remotely, either by discreetly connecting a wireless mouse or, if you’re sufficiently tech-savvy, by installing a Virtual Network Computing (VNC) desktop sharing system. If your office runs on Mac, you can simply activate your co-worker’s screen scaring feature.
  • Take a screenshot of a co-worker’s desktop while they’re out getting coffee, then quickly move to consolidate all their desktop folders, files and links into one folder, and hide it. Leave the screenshot up on their screen and enjoy the vicarious frustration as they click around fruitlessly.
An office staple

OK, go ahead: get your Jim Halpert on and submerge a co-worker’s stapler in Jello.

But keep in mind: even with a practical joke as innocent as this one, it might be advisable to be a good sport and help your poor fool with the aftermath.

“If the prank is literally messy, you should be the one to clean it up,” Doyle advised. “I was a big fan of The Office, but even that prank – while funny – is probably a huge pain to clean up. They’re going to be leaving Jello stains all over every paper they try to staple for months…and there should really be no after-effects of the prank.”