Employee Birthday Ideas That Won’t Make Your Team Cringe

Business birthdays: What comes to mind? Workday fun, or obligatory activities that make you say, “I shoulda just asked for PTO”? If you’re still gathering a crowd in the breakroom to sing the painfully slow Happy Birthday song, you might be in the dreaded awkward-business-birthday category. But don’t worry! We have employee birthday recognition ideas that your entire team will enjoy. Read on to learn how to make your happy birthday sentiment a success, including what employees want on their birthday, the best employee birthday gifts, and the least awkward birthday games. 

The Ever-Changing Landscape of Employee Birthday Ideas

Once upon a time many companies were all office-based. Birthdays were festive affairs, including treats like gourmet butter-laden bundt cakes and birthday cards signed by everyone. Cubicles were strewn with banners and glitter on an employee’s special day. Ahhh, the heady days of card keys, coffee bars, and obligatory group activities. We complained but it was kind of nice. Working on your birthday? What’s not to love?! Take a long lunch, eat an extra slice of cake, leave early. You know the drill. But then that pesky virus made its rounds. And all of a sudden many of us were working from home (many of us still are). Birthday celebrations have adapted as a result.

Looking for employee birthday ideas in the new era of working from everywhere and wanting employees to truly feel they belong? You’ve come to the right blog post. Below we share employee birthday recognition ideas for all kinds of work environments and employee types so everyone on your team can still feel special on their big day.  

Employee Birthday Ideas for Remote Team Members

For employees who are working remotely, making their birthday fun is a piece of cake! Check out these ideas and apply what works for your culture and your budget:  

  • Make It Count: Don’t invite the whole department to a Zoom call to honor an employee they’ve never met, never worked with, and didn’t even know was on board. This results in bored faces, multi-tasking, and worse yet—cameras off. If you do a birthday-specific shout-out, make it part of a regularly scheduled meeting. If you reserve special time for a celebration, invite folks you’re pretty sure want to participate.
  • Get Something in the Mail (Email Counts): Could be a gift card to their inbox or a box of gourmet cookies to their front door. Just be sure something shows up on their day. Working from home, or a café, or an AirBnB, can feel, well, remote. Small gestures mean a lot.
  • B in Birthday Isn’t for emBARRASS: Even if you’re dealing with an introvert or a socially awkward writer (like me), find a way to acknowledge the day and the person. Highlight a characteristic, talent, or trait that your employee adds to the team. We don’t hear enough what it is we contribute and this kind of recognition helps to build community and promote inclusion. Use their birthday as an excuse to call out value.

Tip: For more on celebrating birthdays among virtual team members, check out our blog post, Virtual Birthday Ideas for Employee Celebrations: Keep the Party Going! 

Employee Birthday Recognition Ideas for On-Site Team Members

Give your team a reason not to call in sick on their birthday! Following are some ideas to make things special without making them unbearable—meaning, read the room, and don’t go overboard with an employee whose happy place is Wordling.  

  • Let’s Do Lunch: Everyone appreciates a free meal. And if it’s lunch, your employee doesn’t have to spend extra hours going to dinner with colleagues whom they may love but only during working hours. Ask your employee where they want to go and who they want to celebrate with. It’s their day—make them feel special!
  • Make Memories for Everyone: Yes, definitely give a gift to your star birthday celebrator. But give colleagues a little something as well, in honor of the occasion. This ensures everyone leaves the day with warm fuzzies around your employee on their birthday. Your gift could be particular to that employee, like their favorite snack, or a personalized gift their colleagues can use daily to remind them of the event. This helps create a work community that celebrates a culture of individuals, not cogs in the corporate wheel. See our gift recommendations below.
  • Play Games: It doesn’t have to be Bingo, or Pin The Tail On The Donkey. Those are fun, but a surprise game element always makes a party memorable. To make things personal: Include a bowl filled with folded cards; each party goer picks one out. Each ticket has a question about the birthday person. if the cardholder answers it correctly, they get a prize. Thought you knew the bloke in the cubicle next to you? Well, what’s his favorite color? Does the gal you work with on every project eat meat? Have they ever been to Europe? Married? Kids? Office etiquette pet peeve? See below for games prize options everyone will love.

Create a Culture That Cares About Birthdays

Use the occasion of a birthday to show your employee and their colleagues that your company is comprised of a diverse group of individuals, recognized for their unique talents and their commitment to your business goals.  

  • Lighten Their Load: Assign fewer tasks on their birthday. Encourage an early quit time but allow it by rearranging a deadline or two.
  • Give a Thoughtful Gift: See our ideas below. It really is true, the giving is more important than the gift. But… if you really want to show you care, step it up a notch with a MiiR tumbler or a luxury pen.
  • Don’t Plan It Solo: Show employees your company sees full people, not simply workers, by engaging the team in birthday planning. This doesn’t mean you need to send a colleague to Target for party supplies (although certainly you might do that), but rather, if you’re organizing the celebration, ask others what the birthday person would like to do and receive. Make it a team effort. Use birthdays to show you value and invest in every employee as an individual.
  • Curated Guest List: Though it’s easy to simply invite the whole department, sometimes it means more to have a smaller group celebration that acknowledges strong ties among colleagues and includes friends from other departments as well.

Corporate Birthday Gifts Employees Can Count On

Make birthdays fun for everyone on your team with corporate birthday gifts for the guest of honor as well as attendees and game participants. See our favorites below:  

16 oz. Ree Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Tumbler: Make sure your employee feels special on their birthday, with a tumbler they can show off all year long.  

Colorful Birthday Balloons Greeting Card: Mailing envelopes are included, and trimmed with silver foil, so your employee knows there’s a special sentiment inside (and perchance, a gift card!). Tip: Be prepared for birthdays on the fly with customized corporate birthday cards on hand. 

 

Metal Soft Touch Molly Stylus Pen: Add your company logo and a birthday message, and you have a party favor for every team member involved in the celebration. 

Bright Alpha Soft Touch Pen with Stylus: Make one employee’s birthday an event everyone can get behind, with a bright metal pen they can keep as a souvenir. Add your company and the birthday person’s name, for memories that matter in a culture that cares. 

Employee Birthday Ideas as Varied as Your Team

Their birthday might be gluten-free, Zoom-free, and even song-free, but it sure can be special. Whether it’s an open bar cocktail hour or an Amazon gift card via email, use the big day as a chance to recognize the character behind every team member. 

Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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