Fun Office Birthday Ideas: Celebrate Employee Birthdays

We know –  work is busy, and there is so much on. Do we really have time to worry about whose birthday it is and coming up with ways to celebrate employee birthdays? It’s nice – but is it worth it? 

We understand that not everyone is a big fan of birthdays and while we love them at Collection Pot and we think they bring people together – we thought it was only right that we weigh up the pros and cons of celebrating employee birthdays in the office. Let’s get straight into it. 

Selection of birthday cakes and macarons on a table with flowers.

Reasons to celebrate employee birthdays:

Celebrating Office Birthdays: Pros

Celebrating Office Birthdays: Cons

As you can see, that’s an even amount of pros and cons so really, it’s all down to your workplace. We think that the gains to be had from having even a small celebration for each employee far outweigh the negatives. If you’re worried about distractions, then you could always host a small celebration in a lunch hour, and if cost is a concern, you can insist that the tradition is for the birthday girl or boy to bring in their own treats to share, while a collection is set up to take funds from other team members, rather than just you as the employer being responsible. 

If you’re on board with hearing more about treating employees for their birthday and what that could look like, then let’s look at some office birthday ideas and ways to make the day go with a workplace-appropriate bang! 

Desk-based office birthday ideas

We asked around Collection Pot HQ as we wanted to see what unique and creative office birthday celebration ideas there were and we are not surprised that for most of us, it’s all about the food and then fun. Here are some of the best ideas. 

Birthday desk dress up 

Get into the spirit with a desk dress-up for the lucky employee. As the name suggests – you dress the desk to make it look ‘birthday-ish.’  We like this idea because it allows a wide range of people to get involved in planning and decorating – or it can be done by just one other person, so it’s great for a workplace where people come and go, or where hybrid work is the done thing.  It’s the kind of treat that people will start to look forward to and plan for, but anyone can partake in this- even if they are new. As people stay with the company longer, the jokes and trimmings might be a bit more ‘them’ – but for anyone new, a simple layout of balloons and streamers will hit the mark. It will also look great if you share on social media! This one is simple, quick and cost-effective, making it a must-try! 

Time for a birthday suit? 

We don’t mean allowing employees to don an actual birthday suit – no arrests today on our watch, please How about allowing people to wear their own clothes on their birthday? It’s a little bit of freedom (if they have a uniform or smart attire rule) – or you could make a tradition that involves clothes in another way, like some of the below suggestions: 

This may mean investing in some birthday accessories like a sash, a hat, pair of clogs, a feather boa or some plain tees, so have a think about what would suit your budget and business type. 

Summer office party outside with celebrations under fairy lights.

Desk sing song 

It’s traditional, and it’s embarrassing, but we love it really – getting the whole team gathered around a desk to sing Happy Birthday is a simple light relief and can be really great for employees to feel seen and celebrated. Even if this is the one tip you take away, why not try it? It translates well to online calls and meetings, it’s appropriate, zero cost and quick too!

Office food ideas for birthdays

What’s the best way to celebrate anything? Cake! You will be hard-pressed to find an employee who doesn’t love cake, but are there other ways to celebrate with food beyond whacking a giant Costco purchase in the office kitchen and sending an email to alert the team? Of course there are!

Themed bring a treat day

It can be nice to celebrate an employee’s birthday with a theme. Perhaps you might want to choose one a month for those with birthdays – or let them pick a theme. Good ideas are something that can be easily done EG a colour like pink, a location like ‘Great Britain’ or a theme ‘Summer sunshine / Winter treats.’ 

You can encourage everyone to bring something that fits the theme to eat, share and enjoy together. The benefit of doing it this way is even if someone isn’t close with whose birthday it is, they can still get involved in the celebration. You can even tie this into charity donations for the food, and take photos for social media. 

Decorate a cake 

Cakes are so low cost nowadays and icing and DIY piping kits are just a few pounds as well, so why not make a new tradition?  It can be nice for the business to purchase a cake, and the employees to decorate it for the colleague in a way that could be funny, in line with their interests or with a hilarious quote they said, and they can pop it on their desk. Easy! 

Remote employee cake delivery 

Cakes, brownies, flapjacks or savouries can all be delivered to homes from hundreds of businesses big and small. Food delivery and hampers are huge now, and letterbox gifts are also very popular. Offering them a choice of a few treats can be a great way to show appreciation on an employee’s birthday, or you could go for a surprise (just check their dietary requirements first.) Why not pick a good supplier or a couple of local sellers who can deliver directly to their door and make this your birthday treat for remote or hybrid team members? 

Other office birthday food ideas

If you want an office birthday treat but know that you might not be able to handle cake baking or anything too advanced, then why not consider these: 

Office team celebrating around a desk with pizza and water.

Getaways for employee birthdays 

We’ve all heard of the employers who jet their team off to a tropical island at the drop of a hat –  but we can’t all afford that. The good news is there are still ways to realistically handle birthday getaways while managing your budget sensibly. 

Early send-off 

Get it in writing or make an informal rule that a birthday warrants a day off, a half day, or an early finish. Whether you’d like them to meet up with colleagues in a cafe or a pub when they get off early, or let them have their free time as they wish, this is a nice treat that can be an asset when recruiting. 

A team trip 

If you have the budget, why not offer a treat as an experience or a hotel stay? 

What about quarterly trips where employees can celebrate birthdays by getting away from it all? You can ensure that each quarter you treat people who have birthdays in that period, offering them a gift card for a getaway (think a UK break, caravan park, train ticket or similar, up to a certain value.) Or you could have an ongoing agreement with a hotel chain where you get rooms at corporate rates. Think about what would suit your business. 

Fun office birthday ideas – should you play games? 

It can be hard to think of funny office birthday ideas that will stand the test of time for years to come, and with office birthdays, you don’t want things to get stale with the same old games. However, organising games can be a fad that’s hard to keep up with when things get busy. 

We looked at some of the ideas for office party games and asked friends who work in companies of all sizes, but we found not everyone is a huge fan of party games and the time they take – and this is certainly the case in larger businesses when there can be a birthday each week. 

Even the wackiest Gen Z-filled companies may find it tiresome to play party games during a down season at work or a stressful financial quarter – so we feel it’s important that you put the ball in the court of the colleague whose birthday it is. 

What else could you do? 

How to handle employee birthdays – allow them a choice of options

You might like to have a person in the business who handles birthday wishes and coordinates them, based on a few options. 

For example, your rule as a business could be that employees are asked to state their realistic birthday wishes. You could suggest that they pick from a range of pre-approved options. What does that look like? 

You could offer them a mix of treats: 

  1. One prize – eg from a choice of a pizza lunch, pub dinner, a hotel gift card or a coffee and cake.
  2. One event – eg leave 1 hour early, watch the next football match on the big TV or get 1 hour off work on the release day of their new video game.
  3. One charity donation – they could also be given one charity to donate to. 

This can be tailored to your ideas and allows flexibility for each person. Consider making a matrix, or speaking to your HR and admin team about the possibilities. 

How to make remote or virtual birthday celebrations fun and memorable

We’ve mentioned a few ways to include virtual and remote team members, and we know this is a hard task to get right. It’s pretty easy to celebrate employee birthdays in an office because the person is right there in front of you. Your amazing remote or hybrid workers, contractors or freelancers who have worked with you for years still need that same appreciation.  How can you create a culture of thanks with a birthday celebration for them too? 

The obvious solution is to think digital, applying the same sentiments to the online world. 

Deliver a virtual gift 

You might want to investigate some ways to send digital gifts. Whether these are subscriptions, gift cards, or bank transfers, or indeed the balance of a Collection Pot, you have plenty of options to get gifts to people anywhere in the world nowadays. Ensure that you check the local time zones so delivery arrives exactly as you need it, and get sending a small treat of thanks!

A virtual high five

It can be nice to have a meeting sing-along for a birthday, a section of a regular meeting that reflects on upcoming birthdays, or a way to ensure that everyone feels acknowledged. You need robust data on birthdays and celebrations here, so start compiling all the dates into your schedule and calendar. 

A trip on you 

Just as we recommended food or a trip for in-house employees, it can still be nice to allow remote workers to chip off early or get out for food that night, supported with a gift card on the business. They might want to take a loved one or pick up a takeaway. Whatever is on the agenda, it makes great sense to ensure that any rules you have in place for in-house employees also apply to remote and hybrid workers. 

Ready to celebrate employee birthdays?

We are thrilled if we have changed your mind on employee birthday celebrations. If you’re planning to celebrate employee birthdays, we recommend having a good idea of:

Once you have answered all of these questions, you should be set for a year packed full of birthday surprises and treats that go down a storm.

We also recommend that you set up a Collection Pot for your employees, or show them how it’s done. Each Pot can help you collect funds and messages from other colleagues so with minimal effort, you can create a real celebration whether the employees are virtual, hybrid, remote or there in person. It’s free and so simple to get started! Try it today. 

Elaine Keep

Elaine Keep is an accomplished content writer with over 15 years of experience in the field of marketing and content creation for many leading brands, where she shares her passion for research and helping others through her articles. You can also find her in 'mum mode', walking in the countryside or enjoying the dreamy combo of a new non-fiction book with a tea and chocolate bar to hand.

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