From the lab rat to the desktop nerd, there is no researcher who has never nabbed some material or resource from the office or lab. We use internet bandwidth with downloads, we take some stationary or supplies from workshops to make small fixings at home, we borrow lab coats to pain a wall…
It’s common procedure. To everyone’s defense, I think it only happens because our work floor is like a second home. Whatever you use in one home, you use in the other, right?
1 – Snitching office pens is the most common and innocent manifestation of work material thievery. When I’m out with friends who are also colleagues and someone asks for a pen, immediately 4 or 5 similar ballpoint pens are handed out. We all smuggled them out from the office and we didn’t even mean it. You clip it on a notebook and head for a workshop… Next thing you now, you have a bunch of office pens stationed in your kitchen counter to make groceries lists.
2 – Distilled water is generally used to iron clothes. In labs, it’s used instead of tap water, which has chemicals and contaminants unwanted in experiments. Everybody knows someone who snuck into the lab in the weekend to fill a bottle to take home. Unless, of course, there is a tacit agreement between colleagues that that lab is everyone’s official supplier of water for ironing.
3 – Safety gloves are awesome to do the dishes and clean the bathroom, particularly for people with small hands which never fit in those rubber ones from the supermarket. Indeed, it’s not eco-friendly and, unless you smuggle out the non-allergic type, you are playing with (immunological) fire. It’s a trade-off between that and breaking two glasses a week or using 1 l of hand cream a month. (To my defense: I choose the hand cream. Actually, I rarely do the dishes…)
4 – I’ve heard testimonies about people who save up in the water and gas at home by taking their daily shower at work. I also heard of people who do their thing in the toilet before leaving the office, just to save on one flush. Doesn’t seem very common, but it’s quirky enough to make it to this ranking.
5 – Parafilm is a malleable paraffin film. It’s a bit like the plastic wrapping we use in kitchens, only better. It’s used in labs to protect containers like or to seal them for long term storage. It’s my personal favorite thing to loot, because it’s really geeky! And it’s great for several applications at home: from jam jars to leaking pipes and even plant grafts!
Got tips for 5 more?