This Durham office is a bit like 'The Office' - WRBL

This Durham office is a bit like 'The Office'

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DURHAM, N.C. -

It's not in Scranton, Pa., and the set of the NBC hit "The Office," but a Durham health insurance company has found a way to mix in the quirky with the fun and be successful along the way.

"You have to have a little dysfunction to have fun because the word ‘fun' is in dysfunctional," said Rich Walters at Hill, Chesson and Woody.

Just listen in at one of their meetings, and you'll hear comments you might expect to hear on NBC on Thursday nights, such as, "We didn't hit our numbers for Pictionary last month, either."

And they might break out into a cheer for "free queso" or sound a great deal like the "Party Planning Committee" on the "The Office." That's what control freak Angela Martin does in the show.

WNCN went looking for an office similar to "The Office," whose long run ends Thursday. And while the people of Hill, Chesson and Woody aren't exactly like the off-beat characters in "The Office," but there are some similarities – including at the top.  

"This is my rate wand. So often times what I'll do is use the wand to get what I need to get accomplished," quipped Skip Woody, a partner at the Durham firm, while raving a pink wand around his desk.

Even Woody's co-worker Walters, the Triangle Regional Manager, says of Woody, "That is Michael."

As in, Michael Scott, the boss in "The Office" and the famous character played by Steve Carell.

"People tell me I'm the best boss they've ever had and I don't know if I'm really the person that could be a judge of that, but I guess I am," he said. "So, I guess I agree with them."

"Skip. Michael. Same person," Walters said. "You never see them in the same room together, do you?"

Others at the Durham office, though, say Woody is more like a different "Office" character - Andy Bernard.

"Unfortunately I've had several people suggest I look like 'Office Andy,'" Woody said.

"I think he may resemble him a little bit, but I'm not sure he'll agree with that," said the firm's Courtney Justice.

"I have done everything short of plastic surgery to make certain that that is not the case," Woody said.

But Bernard, in "The Office," is known for his singing and Woody can do a bit of that, too.

"Musically gifted management is probably my favorite," said Katherine Fernandes, the consultant coordinator at Hill, Chesson & Woody.

"I came up with something as an intro to who I am," Woody said. "And, it goes a little something like this: ‘Now all my rhymes are ready and totally completed. From this moment forward I won't be defeated. Because I have a little rhyme that just won't miss. This is for the people didn't know I exist.'"

"You don't know what's going to come out of his mouth. So, just go with it," Fernandes said. 

Fernandes can identify with one of the characters on the show herself - Pam Halpert.

"On the show, Pam is kind of the buffer for Michael in a lot of ways and that's a big part of what I do," Fernandes said.

Fernandes had to adjust to her new environment when joining the firm four years ago.

"The person who strolls by my desk is rapping into a chocolate chip cookie about HSAs.  which I later learned were 'health savings accounts,'" she said. "I think that was when I realized I was not where a lot of my friends worked."

There are pranks at Hill, Chesson and Woody, too, such as cell phones in overhead panels in the ceilings, a prank that was inspired by the show.

And there is also the "Golden Funnel," which goes to the top business development person at Hill, Chesson each month.

"We try to make certain that new folks coming in know this is a good place to come to work, have fun, but we do expect a lot," Woody said.

And that makes for a successful – and fun – environment.

"I don't think there's ever a day I wake up and don't want to come to work," Fernandes said.

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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