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The Office is one of my favorite TV shows, and apparently, I’m not alone in loving it. In 2020, while we were seeking comfort from the anxiety of dealing with a global pandemic (and going out of our minds with boredom during mandatory lockdowns), millions of us turned to The Office. In fact, Americans cumulatively streamed more than 57 billion minutes of the show in 2020!
If you’re not familiar with the show, it is a “mockumentary” that chronicles the antics and work lives of office employees at a small Pennsylvania paper company, Dunder Mifflin. Michael Scott is the lovable but cluelessly inept “World’s Best Boss.” He manages a staff of 15 employees, including a receptionist, accountants, salespeople, a thoroughly unpleasant HR manager, warehouse workers, and even a couple of interns.
While the plot of the show is fictional and comedic, its popular appeal is based around the idea that the characters are just normal people going to work at an office job. The show offers boundless material about mistakes people can make when it comes to running a business effectively. In this blog post, we’ll discuss four episodes in which it’s abundantly clear that Dunder Mifflin could have benefitted from using a Professional Employer Organization (PEO).
“The Meeting” and Workers’ Compensation
In this episode, Darryl, a warehouse worker, tells Toby, the HR manager, that he fell off a ladder while working in the warehouse, breaking his leg. Darryl lets Toby know that he intends to file a workers’ compensation claim, but Dwight, a zany salesman who is proud to be the “assistant to the assistant regional manager", is suspicious of Darryl's explanation and Toby agrees to help him prove or disprove his theory. After a series of comic mishaps, Dwight and Toby discover that Darryl was lying—the lift was being misused and he was not following proper safety protocols when he was injured.
Keeping employees safe is a top priority for business owners. If Dunder Mifflin had partnered with a PEO, they would have been able to help ensure that their business and employees were protected from workplace accidents by providing a proper risk management strategy, including:
- Onsite assistance reviewing safety conditions in the workplace
- OSHA and compliance training
- Training employees on the latest HAZMAT, Hazardous Waste Operations, Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) CPR, and First Aid Training certifications
- Customized safety manuals and programs for supervisors and employees
If Darryl had injured himself in a legitimate workplace accident, a team of PEO experts would go to work on Dunder Mifflin’s behalf to ensure compliant and quick claims administration.
“Healthcare” and Employee Benefits Administration
In this episode, Michael learns that he has to choose a new healthcare plan for his employees. With downsizing looming, it's important that he chose an inexpensive plan for the office. However, Michael desperately wants to be liked and therefore isn't enthusiastic about cutting any benefits. He assigns the task to Dwight, who picks the cheapest possible plan with virtually no benefits. The plan is so bad, Oscar likens it to a pay cut.
Taking care of your employees by offering robust health insurance benefits and 401(k) options is important to every business owner; however, it can easily turn into a costly expense. If he had partnered with a PEO, Michael could have avoided the comic catastrophe of this episode.
With a PEO partner, he could have leveraged economies of scale by joining a network of other PEO clients, allowing Dunder Mifflin better access to a network of A-rated insurance carriers that they would not be able to access independently. Offering competitive benefits that come with an easy enrollment process could have helped Michael turn his disgruntled staff into a team of happy employees.
“Lazy Scranton” and Employee Onboarding
In this episode, Michael airs an orientation video he and Dwight created for the employees who just transferred from a different branch. A parody of Saturday Night Live’s Lazy Sunday, the video is meant to familiarize the new employees with relevant details about their workplace. It is presented as a masterful rap battle between Michael and Dwight:
They call it Scranton. What?
The Electric City!
Lazy Scranton—the Electric City
They call it that ’cause of the electricity.
The city’s laid out from east to west
And our public parks and libraries are truly the best!
Call poison control if you’re bit by a spider
But check that it’s covered by your healthcare provider!
Plenty of space in the parking lot
But the little cars go in the compact spot!
Outside of a comedy show, hiring people takes a great deal of work—and so does ensuring that all the proper documentation has been collected, documented, and stored for a smooth transition into the daily work life. Partnering with a PEO would have helped Michael implement and maintain an organized onboarding process to help his new employees feel welcomed and hit the ground running.
This is important, because employee turnover is expensive! According to a recent study conducted by the Center for American Progress, losing a salaried employee earning $50K costs a company 20% of that employee's salary, while losing an executive-level employee can cost upwards of 213% of the employee's salary.
A PEO partner could have provided a more engaging onboarding experience that would help Dunder Mifflin’s employees connect to their work culture and feel like they are part of something bigger.
“The Fight” and HR Administration
In this episode, Michael expresses feelings of work-induced malaise to his receptionist because he’s overwhelmed by having to tend to HR-related tasks:
Pam: Michael tends to procrastinate a bit whenever he has to do work. Time cards, he has to sign these every Friday. Purchase orders have to be approved at the end of every month. And expense reports, all he has to do is initial these at the end of every quarter. But once a year, it all falls on the same Friday and that’s today. I call it the Perfect Storm.
Michael: [singing and tapping on his coffee mug] I don’t want to work, I just want to bang on this mug all day.
As a business owner, managing day-to-day HR responsibilities can be time-consuming, tedious, and take you away from what you love to do. Did you know that the average small business owner spends 25% or more of their time handling employee-related paperwork? Factor in recruitment, hiring, and training, and that jumps up to 35-45% of their time—leaving them with less time to devote to running their business (or, in Michael Scott’s case, banging on his coffee cup).
Engaging with a PEO could have helped Michael relieve the administrative burden of tending to HR-related tasks, including payroll processing, tracking employee time off, compliance and employment law training, and employee relationship management.
When it comes to running your business, you know how much work it takes to achieve the distinction of being the World’s Best Boss. When the human capital cost of managing HR operations becomes too high, a PEO may be the right fit for your business. They work as a trusted partner and have the resources and expertise to ensure the job gets done right. A PEO can also guarantee that your employees have access to the benefits that they want and need. Best of all, the PEO model is fully scalable and can allow you to grow as fast as your business demands.
A graduate of the Plan II Honors program at UT Austin, Amanda Harr has been the Marketing Content Writer at SWBC since 2019. A clever wordsmith who appreciates artful persuasion and authenticity in writing, Amanda uses a structured creative process to craft marketing strategies, develop communications solutions, and deliver top-notch content.