Celebrating employee birthdays never gets old. Between the confetti, balloons, and cake, office birthday parties offer employees a brief respite from their day-to-day, not to mention an opportunity to appreciate peers.
With early autumn accounting for the majority of birthdays—Namely’s database shows that September 14 is the most popular birthday date—what better time to unwrap how companies are celebrating? We asked professionals across different industries how they celebrated birthdays in the office:
1. Enjoy a Team Lunch
“We celebrate each employee’s birthday with lunch at the office (from the place of their choice) and dessert. We decorate the conference room and give the honoree a birthday card signed by everyone in the office. During lunch, we talk about the honoree’s birthday plans and enjoy each other’s company.”
“Each month, our offices have monthly birthday parties to celebrate those who had a birthday that month. However, we also have a number of home-based workers who we aren’t able to celebrate in the office. We do something extra special for them to ensure they know they are loved and made to feel special on their birthday. Each of our home-based employees is sent a custom mug with a hand-illustrated portrait and card wishing them a happy birthday. While we know it’s not the same as being able to celebrate their special day with others, we hope it makes them feel a little more part of our Inuvo family.”
“Our company has a monthly all-hands meeting in our common area. We go over exciting things happening, have a different department present what they’re working on, and [cover] the usual housekeeping stuff. At the end of each meeting, our CEO reads off a list of everyone with a birthday that month and has them come to the front of the room. As a group they’re sung to and everyone enjoys some kind of company-provided treat. With 130+ employees, we’re just big enough to keep it fun and still make sure it’s a little awkward for those being sung to.”
“I like to surprise my contractors with something creative...The latest present [I gave] was a spa package for one of my writers. She’s a mom that works from home, and I thought she could use some me time. It really meant a lot to her that I made the extra effort to think of something she might like. With so many options online, there's really no excuse. Nowadays, you can send a SendOutCard, a gift basket, flowers, movie passes, even legendary pizza from Chicago or New York (I'm planning on doing that this Christmas)...it's really endless.”
"At our digital marketing agency, birthdays are acknowledged by giving a free day of paid vacation within your birthday month. Although the office doesn't do a group event or celebration, it enables our staff to spend their birthday doing whatever they like most!"
“At Aceable, one team member will realize it's another team members birthday and will call it out in a Slack channel. Then, all employees will proceed to share a birthday or celebration themed gif based on the birthday honoree's personal likes and interests (or just the weirdest gif we can find).”
“At Trupanion, there are more than 500 employees (not to mention 300 dogs and a few brave cats that come into the office). With so many team members, we celebrate employee birthdays once a month with a highly anticipated Cake Day. Imagine, once a month a lunchroom is filled with 20-30 cakes of all shapes, sizes and varieties – carrot cake, ice cream cake, chocolate cake, cheesecake, fudge cake, Boston cream pie, coconut cake and more. We also make sure to have a few vegan cakes on hand!
We also list all the employees who have birthdays during that particular month in a company-wide email so if people spot them they can give them a birthday high five as they go grab a piece of cake.”
“At Blueboard, we love recognizing top employees, so we make a big deal out of birthdays and anniversaries. Because we're still a growing company (~50 employees), we have the ability make each one personalized. Volunteer Culture Crews across our main offices are tasked with gathering submissions for a shared Kudoboard, dedicated to the birthday guy or gal (an interactive birthday card where anyone can post notes, videos, gifs, or photos), as well as organize a gathering break centered around the employee's favorite food or snack. We'll unveil the Kudoboard as we gather to sing happy birthday, and give the employee time to read through the wall of notes.
“Our birthday tradition is largely breakfast-based. The birthday boy or girl gets to choose what they want for breakfast and the whole office benefits. This usually takes the form of bagels or donuts—though I don't think there is a requirement that the food be round and holey. If that wasn't enough, someone usually queues up the heavy metal happy birthday song unique to the name of the special person for the Sonos.”
“Our birthday tradition is two-fold! On our birthday the entire team goes out to lunch at the restaurant of our choice! The second part (my favorite) is a $150 credit towards shoes. Last month for my birthday I got to design some custom Nike's that I'd been eyeing for months.”
“We like to make our employees feel special on their birthdays by sending a personalized birthday card. For each employee, a member of our senior management writes a personalized note—either the CEO, COO or CTO—to indicate how important they are to the team. The rest of the team in the office signs as well.”
"Our team members celebrate birthdays in the office by decorating desks for the occasion. They cover the computer screens with taped on, cut out memes, add a 'happy birthday!' banner, and include fun accessories like flowers and little sweet treats all around their keypads."
“The day before the employee’s birthday, we order cookies from a legendary local cookie chain here in Austin called Tiff’s Treats. It’s something everyone in the office looks forward to and is a fun way to celebrate birthdays with a really awesome local treat to break up the day in the middle of the afternoon.”
“When we were small, celebrating birthdays was pretty easy, but as we grew we had to figure out a scalable way to recognize everybody. I got an idea from reading the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg—she talks about how at Facebook, as they scaled, the company adopted a monthly birthday party with a sheet cake with a square with everybody’s name on it. We started doing that this year, and it’s turned out to be a great way to recognize everybody on their birthday month—without wearing everybody out with multiple birthday parties every day.”
“At GoodHire, each location has its own traditions, but celebration and recognition are important. At the Bay Area office, we have a monthly celebration of birthdays and anniversaries with cake and snacks. We also decorate the team members’ workspace on their birthday (and anniversary) with balloons and such, and they receive a greeting card and a small donation to a charity they support.”
And if those fifteen ideas don’t inspire you, one of our favorite traditions comes from across the pond—Alistair Dodds of Smoking Chili Media in the UK shared that every company he’s worked for flips the equation: “It's always up to the employee whose birthday it is to bring in cakes for the rest of the office! I've always found it rather bemusing, but it’s what employees and the team expect, so I'm happy to go along with it… ‘Happy birthday! Now where's our cake?!!’”
Want to easily track employee birthdays on your own? Namely’s HR software allows teams to easily track and celebrate important milestones like work anniversaries and birthdays. See it in action by watching our product video here.
Annie Shapiro is the Director of Content & Communications at Namely, the HR, payroll, and benefits platform built for today’s employees. Connect with Annie and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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