5 Important Lessons About Work and Food from Office Space

5 Important Lessons About Work and Food from Office Space

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Jen Cantin
Sep 16, 2016
(Image credit: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Films)

If you haven't already seen Office Space, the 1999 movie starring Ron Livingston and Jennifer Aniston, it's definitely worth watching. And even if you have seen it, it's worth re-watching. The timeless depiction of the strained interpersonal dynamics in the workplace makes this a winner no matter how many times you view it.

And while the moral of the story can be read as a somewhat bleak "find what little joy you can in life," the movie also contains some smaller, food-related lessons along the way. For many of us who must both eat and work to survive, it's worth heeding the following wisdom, gleaned from my recent re-watching of this cult classic.

1. Choose your work-adjacent hangout with care.

The movie: Protagonist Peter and his pals Samir and Michael (Bolton, but not that Michael Bolton) long to escape their unbearable software jobs at Initech, yet they proceed to suffer through coffee at Chotchkie's, a chain where the gimmicky atmosphere only irritates them further.

Real-life learning: While we can't choose whether we're next door to a bright, airy coffee shop with killer cold brew and homemade croissants versus a KFC/Taco Bell, it's important to establish some version of a sanctuary, however modest, nearby. Choose a midday escape with some combination of cleanliness, comfy seating, solitude, a satisfactory menu, and (in our modern times) free Wifi.

2. Attend a coworker barbecue!

The movie: A car accident puts a coworker in a full-body cast, but also yields a huge settlement that eliminates the need to ever work again. He has a barbecue to celebrate, and Peter and the guys rightfully show up to show their support.

Real-life learning: Crossing the work-friends boundary out into the real world can create some anxiety, but it's worth an effort. Give it an "I'll stop by," scope it out, and leave if you're not into it. Who knows, it could be fun, not to mention the free food and drink!

3. Don't gut a fish at your desk.

The movie: After a botched hypnotherapy session, Peter completely disregards the 9-to-5 and lives a montage of general leisure activities including fishing. When he does show up to work on a whim, he brings along his recent prize and guts it at his desk!

Real-life learning: It's not only inconsiderate and smelly, but completely unnecessary, as any fishmonger will happily clean a whole fish for you. Also to remember: fresh fish smells like water, old fish smells like fish; and the freshest shrimp is frozen shrimp.

4. Do the math re: sheet cakes.

The movie: Like most companies, Initech celebrates the boss' birthday with a mediocre sheet cake with sugar-glue frosting. The pass-it-down method of cake distribution shown in the film works well, but when there aren't enough pieces to go around, feelings get hurt, which can lead to greater consequences. In this case, it's the quietly disgruntled, stapler-cherishing Milton who gets left out and — spoiler alert — he burns down the building soon after.

Real-life learning: Despite knowing it will fail to satisfy, we're all burdened with the evolutionary desire for cake. Do a proper headcount once and for all and determine how to cut the cake accordingly.

The Best Cake Ever: Yellow Butter Cake

5. Find inner peace by bringing your lunch.

The movie: After Initech and the futile struggle contained therein have been literally burned to the ground, Peter finds professional fulfillment in construction work where he can breathe the fresh air, be active, and hang out with his easy-going, mulleted neighbor all day. Michael and Samir, following the catharsis of destroying a dysfunctional printer and a nearly catastrophic attempt to scam their former employer, are content to take similar software jobs. They stop by the rubble, which Peter is currently clearing, and invite him to lunch at Chotchkie's. He declines and informs them he's brought his lunch today.

Real-life learning: A brown bag lunch is the true key to happiness. Be like Peter and become the master of your own fate.

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