What do you do for your employees’ birthdays? Show them you care by celebrating their trips around the sun. Office birthday festivities can build camaraderie among your entire team and help employees feel valued: 85% of Americans say it makes them feel special when others celebrate their birthdays.
Keep reading to discover seven meaningful ways to recognize employees’ birthdays, and learn best practices to ensure your celebrations make your employees feel valued and motivated.
Honor and Celebrate
Consider one of these popular ways to celebrate your employees on their birthdays:
- Paid day off
Want to give your employees a gift that boosts health and productivity while decreasing stress levels? Give them a paid personal day during the month of their birthday. In one survey, 80% of workers said more vacation time was an appealing perk.
- Office party
Looking for a celebration that transforms one employee’s special day into a fun day for your entire team? Throw a party. Go traditional with a cake, candles, and singing, or take your office parties up a notch with an ice cream or donut bar, chair massages, bingo or trivia games, or other creative group activities.
- Catered lunch
Who doesn’t love free lunch? Treating an employee to lunch on or near her birthday is a great way to make her feel appreciated. And treating the entire team to lunch on someone’s birthday provides an extra bonus: It encourages employees to get up from their desks to socialize and enjoy a nourishing meal together, which may boost workers’ health and productivity and increase on-the-job collaboration.
- Monthly celebration
Birthday celebrations are fun and novel, unless they happen every day. If you have a big team, consider throwing an event each month to honor of all the people celebrating a birthday that month. By celebrating less, you may be able to spring for more lavish celebrations. However, consider giving something personalized to each of the birthday celebrants so they feel honored at the event.
- Desk décor
Break out the balloons, ribbons, streamers, and flowers. An employee has no choice but to feel special when working under a “Happy Birthday” banner. Plus, this option has the benefit of being the most budget friendly.
- Gift card or streaming subscription
Gift cards may not be the most unique gift, but many people appreciate the ability to choose something they love. Pick a nearby coffee shop, restaurant, or grocery store that most of your employees frequent. As an alternative, gift your employees with a subscription to an online music streaming service, which may be especially appreciated if they’re able to listen to music at work. (Research suggests music is beneficial for employees who do repetitive tasks or work in noisy workplaces, but distracting when people need to learn new things.)
- Charity donation or team volunteer event
It may sound paradoxical, but giving makes most people happier than receiving, even when they think it won’t. In one experiment, researchers gave one group money and directed them to spend it on themselves. The researchers gave another group money and directed them to spend it on others. The people who spent money on others ended up being far happier at the end of the experiment. You may be surprised how satisfied generosity makes your team. Ask employees if they’d like to pick a favorite charity for the company to donate to on their birthdays. Or, if you have a small team, offer to organize a team volunteer event at the person’s charity of choice. One caveat though: Forced giving doesn’t make people feel as good as voluntary giving. Make charity an option, rather than an obligation.
The key words for office birthday celebrations should be inclusive, respectful, and optional. It’s important to celebrate everyone who wants to be celebrated so nobody feels left out. However, while consistency is important, so is personalization. An employee with a restrictive diet won’t appreciate a conventional cake, and a shy employee may cringe if everyone sings to them. Some employees may want to avoid celebrating birthdays altogether for cultural, religious, or personal reasons. The only way to know what people prefer is to ask.
In general, the more personalized employee recognition is, the better. You don’t need to develop an entirely different birthday celebration for each employee, but you may need to adjust your celebration to suit different personalities. Develop a basic way to celebrate birthdays that fits with your company’s culture. Share your birthday protocol with the team, and include information about it in your welcome paperwork. Explicitly ask if it’s okay to celebrate each employee in the traditional way. If food is involved, ask for dietary preferences and restrictions.
Follow these best practices to make sure your celebrations don’t accidentally offend someone. Keep ages and birth years private, and avoid potentially insulting phrases such as “old” or “over the hill.” Don’t publicize anyone’s birthday on social media without permission. If possible, avoid asking employees to pitch in for colleagues’ birthday celebrations; even small donations can be a hardship for some workers. Finally, be sure to double check the spelling of names on cakes and gifts. Nothing says “token gift” like the wrong name on a generic card.
Celebrating birthdays is a great way to let your employees know you care about them. Thoughtful and personalized birthday celebrations make employees feel valued and appreciated, which can translate to a more engaged, dedicated, and productive staff.