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Navigating birthdays can be tricky in any situation – especially so in virtual workplaces. While workers in physical offices have the opportunity to decorate desks, bring in treats, and sing “happy birthday”, remote and hybrid teams need to get creative in how they recognize and celebrate birthdays at work. 

Figuring out a way to recognize each person and respect their own wants can be challenging. This guide will help you find a way to do it tactfully so you can reap the benefits that birthday celebrations can bring.

Should you celebrate a birthday at work?

While everyone has a birthday, not everyone chooses to celebrate them. 

According to an Ipsos Reid study, 62% of Americans had a positive view of birthdays, 45% feel neutral, and 7% had a negative perception. 

This huge variation in response begs the question –  should you give employees the option of celebrating their birthdays at work or not? 

People may have specific reasons for celebrating or not celebrating their birthday. Since it is ultimately their day, it is important to get to know your employees and their preferences. With birthdays being a sensitive topic, ask your employees what they prefer in terms of acknowledging their birthdays in the workplace. 

A lot of colorful balloons with ribbons hanging from the ceiling.
Image by Freepik

The benefits of acknowledging a birthday 

Celebrating birthdays at work is an effective way to recognize your employees. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been with the company, what they have done, or who they are – everyone has a birthday!

If your employee’s birthday falls on a weekday, there is a high likelihood they will spend most of their birthday working. 

If no one acknowledges their birthday or celebrates them, it can be demotivating – if the employee doesn’t feel cared for, they can feel further disinterested in their work.  

You don’t have to make a grand, expensive gesture either. Slack apps like Celebrations by Airspeed are an easy way to send personalized birthday wishes without requiring too much time or effort. 

In addition to a birthday celebration just being plain fun, acknowledging and celebrating birthdays at work can increase productivity and add to workplace culture. Happier employees work harder, and giving them time to connect with their teammates can help increase focus when it’s time to go back to work. 

Birthdays are also a period of reflection: 76% of people most or some years take the time to reflect on their life when their birthday comes around. Showing that you invest time in them as a person and an employee can help keep retention high. 

Celebrating birthdays in the office, even virtually, can give employees something to look forward to. In a virtual or hybrid space, it’s a great opportunity to bring the team together so they can get to know each other better. 

A remote worker celebrating her birthday and opening a present during a work call.
Image by Freepik

6 tips for celebrating birthdays at work in a virtual setting

Plan a monthly celebration

Planning a celebration for each person on the team might get a bit tedious after a while. Instead of doing individual events, plan a monthly event to celebrate all the birthdays. it can be a team lunch, a remote happy hour, or cooking class – just make sure there is no work involved!

It doesn’t need to be the same old event month after month – customize based on whose birthday and what time of year it is.

This is a smart way to have a monthly social event, avoid pooling money for gifts and not being consistent in what you do for specific people, and end the cycle of endless treats.

Don’t focus so much on age

You know how kids are taught to not ask adults their age because it’s rude? The same rule applies to celebrating birthdays at work.

If you are planning to do individual celebrations or send personal cards, make sure to keep age out of it. This includes any cheeky cards or messages that allude to someone “being over the hill”, “mid-life crisis”, or finally being able to rent a car. It is especially important to be careful about disclosing any ages which can be against company policy and also may brush up against discrimination laws.

Send actual correspondence

Remember snail mail? Sometimes holding a card that someone else wrote can be its own small gift in and of itself.

Consider writing a little personal birthday note and sending it in the mail to your employee. That small gesture can go a long way, especially for more introverted teammates that may not want everyone to know it’s their day.

You can recognize their birthday at work without publicizing it – and still make them feel special.

A top-down view of a remote employee's desk with their work laptop and various birthday party decorations.
Image by Freepik

Deliver a gift card they can use for a lunch or treat out

Another idea for the more introverted team member? Send them a virtual gift card that they can use how and when they want. Additional fun tip: Surprise all the monthly birthdays with a gift card to the same place for a fun conversation starter!

Start a new tradition

Fully remote companies are pioneers for the virtual office. Why not add some tradition to the mix?

Is there something integral to your company’s mission that would lend itself to celebrations? For example, perhaps you work for a software company that prides itself on volunteering. You could give people the day off on their birthday to go volunteer and give back. Or maybe you can get a special guest to join a Zoom call on someone’s birthday. Think outside the box on what could align with your company’s values.

Be consistent

Doing something different or more extravagant for someone’s birthday one month can make others feel less important. Remember: celebrations are meant to help employees feel connected to the organization and team. When celebrating birthdays in virtual workplaces, be consistent to ensure employees feel appreciated and celebrated.

Image by Freepik

Celebrate birthdays at work with Airspeed

An easy way to be consistent is using an app for Slack, such as Celebrations by Airspeed. Create a virtual card for employee birthdays, and the app will prompt teammates to add a special message. The app allows employees to opt-out if they don’t want to celebrate their birthday at work. 

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, make sure you keep fun at the core of it. It’s an easy and great way to recognize your employees – make them feel appreciated on their special day!

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