How to start great workplace birthday traditions 

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Photo of women celebrating, laughing.

Is your birthday celebrated at work? If you’re close to your colleagues, you may be surprised with a card and gifts. Or, depending on your workplace culture, you may enjoy a birthday lunch where colleagues take their break to spend time with you. However, not all of us are so lucky. We get that not everyone likes to be made a fuss of on their birthday. But if you want to cultivate a strong culture and celebrate your team, here’s our guide on how to start great birthday traditions in the workplace.

1. Do your workplace birthday research

First of all, make sure to ask all employees their birthday preferences. Would they like their birthday acknowledged or celebrated, or not? People should be able to opt in or out. Just be sure to look for opportunities to celebrate those that opt out in other ways later on (e.g. give them praise after showing good work).

2. Be organised

Noone likes a last-minute run-around the office with the team birthday card. Besides, who can ever think of the right thing to write to someone on a card when put on the spot? Be sure to record all birthdays in one central place so no one (that wants to be celebrated) gets missed. Start a birthday thread in Slack (or whichever project management platform you use). Or go with a tried and true planner or notebook to record the dates so they’ll never be lost. (What do you know… we’ve got a few stationery recommendations up our sleeve here).

Too often the birthday calendar and celebrations get palmed off to the receptionist. But celebrating your team should be regarded as an important priority by leaders and management. If you want extra buy-in from team members, invite them to be ‘culture leaders’ and look for opportunities to get others onboard.

3. Use the workplace birthday to express gratitude

A company we know celebrates birthdays by gathering its team of a dozen staff members around a platter of treats. Then, they share their positive thoughts about the person whose birthday it is. While this idea might seem daunting, it’s great for boosting morale through expressing gratitude for others.

It can even be worked around the personalities and closeness of your team. For example, you can ask everybody to say one word that describes the birthday person (think ‘funny’, ‘creative’ or ‘hard-working’). Or, for more bonded teams, you can open it up to their favourite memories of working with that person (like a birthday card message on display!). If you’re going to try this method, it’s important to do it with sincerity. And remember – keep it positive!

4. Don’t hold back on workplace birthday decorations

What you’ll need: streamers, confetti and balloons. Enough of each to “over-decorate” the desk space of the office person (this looks best when you don’t spread the decorations outside of their personal work area). To do this, you’ll need the element of surprise, so stay back to decorate the evening before their birthday or do it early the morning of.

5. Think outside the box, boundaries and borders

If your team is working remote and is unable to celebrate together in person, don’t despair! Call everyone together for a birthday-themed trivia party online. There are plenty of apps that allow you to do this. Just have some trivia about the birthday person handy when you create the quiz.

Now this idea might be a HR-nightmare for some companies, but giving employees their birthday off work never disappoints! If this simply isn’t possible, do some advance planning to alleviate deadlines and stress for the birthday person on their day. Ask for volunteers to step in and assist them with their work projects. Free up space to allow the birthday person to take a long lunch break and/or leave early for the day.

Our favourite brand birthday campaigns 

We’ve seen a lot of well-known businesses take their creativity and love of birthdays to a larger scale and build marketing campaigns for their company and customers to enjoy. Here are some of our favourites to inspire you to think big.

  1. For Facebook’s 10th birthday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted about his plans for the company’s next decade, and personalised Look Back videos launched for Facebook users. Ahh, the memories.
  2. Remember the rolls of LifeSavers sweets? They celebrated their 100th birthday back in 2012 with giving codes on specially marked packs. Customers were encouraged to enter the codes to donate to a select nonprofit. Giving and fun!
  3. Imagine being an employee of Marmite and being given a limited edition gold jar for the company’s birthday! These jars were exclusive to employees until Marmite released Marmite Gold (with real, edible gold flecks) to the public on their 110th birthday some years later.

Whether you eagerly await your birthday each year or you’d rather let it slip by without a word, we hope this article has given you some ideas on how to think big, celebrate others and keep building that strong workplace culture. And if your birthday is right around the corner – Happy Birthday! We hope you have a fantastic day.


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