Office birthdays — you either love them or hate them. Some people want any excuse to eat pizza in the middle of the day or even have a drink with coworkers just to take a break from work and celebrate someone's birthday. Others are so busy during the day that the thought of having an office birthday party is simply anxiety-inducing — they won't even entertain the idea of taking a half hour or so to dip out of their desk space for a celebration.
And then there's the question of who actually takes the time out of their work day to plan these office birthday parties. That's what birthday clubs are for. What is a birthday club? A birthday club is an informal network of people who are committed to spreading birthday cheer. Many offices have birthday clubs — or even, more broadly, party planning clubs — who are in charge of planning and executing birthday parties. This includes ordering food and drinks, setting up the kitchen or common area (or outside venue), spreading the word and, sometimes, even cleaning up.
If you're part of a birthday club in your office or thinking about starting a birthday club, you might be wondering about office birthday ideas to start planning. There are tons of ways to celebrate your coworkers' birthdays — albeit with some major dos and don'ts of office parties.
Whether your office is all work and no play, or a lot more play than most, there are some serious dos and don'ts when it comes to office party etiquette. If you're planning the birthday party, here's what you should know.
Make it known that your coworker has a birthday and that the birthday club is putting together a party for him or her. You can spread the word via email or simply tell the office about it by making a verbal announcement. It's best, however, to follow up any announcements with an email so that your other coworkers can set reminders for themselves and put the party on their calendars so they can plan meetings and calls around it.
You shouldn't have a party without food or drinks. After all, you're making this day special, as opposed to every other day in the office. Perhaps you order a pizza or sub sandwiches. Maybe you just have a cake, depending on your budget. Whatever the case, get something together to put on the table over which coworkers can socialize.
Do your best to schedule the party for a time when you know that most of your colleagues will be able to attend. For example, a Monday or Tuesday afternoon might be difficult for a lot of people to swing, as they'll be really busy. But 4 p.m. on a Friday for an hour before heading home for the day might be easier.
Don't worry if some people in the office can't make the party. Inevitably, some people will have too much work to do or prior obligations.
Make sure that you include everyone in the office, even if they all can't make it. This means inviting all of the departments, and even reaching out to remote workers if your company employs any.
While you want to celebrate your coworkers' birthday, you have to remember that you're still at work. This is still a professional setting. Make sure that your colleagues understand that, as well.
Now that you're more aware of what is and isn't appropriate in the workplace when it comes to planning a party, there's a wealth of ways to celebrate your coworker on his or her birthday. Here are 10 ideas to get you started!
Pizza is a quick and easy food to have catered. You can order a few pies with a variety of different toppings and have it in the office kitchen for noon. Invite everyone in the office (and remote workers) via email for a pizza party, acknowledging that it's for someone's birthday, at a specified time. You should send this email early on in the day or a few days in advance so that no one makes other lunch plans that day.
If the day is simply too busy to have a full-on party, you can all at least acknowledge your coworker's birthday by signing a card together. So what do you write in an employee's birthday card, after all? The card should be short and sweet to stay professional, but it can be humorous, too! Wish your coworker a happy birthday and even offer to help them out by lending a hand that day.
If your office is casual, you can plan a happy hour at a local bar for after work. Invite the office (and remote workers) via email out for drinks for your coworker's birthday. Ask them if they have a bar they particularly enjoy, and be sure to reserve a table if you have a lot of colleagues coming.
If you have a small company or team, you can make reservations to go out to lunch for your coworker's birthday. Perhaps they have a favorite local restaurant in mind that you can all go to enjoy together.
If you don't have time for a pizza party, order a cake and let everyone in the office know that it's in the kitchen for your coworker's birthday. Perhaps you can all find the time to stop by the kitchen to sing happy birthday, too.
Offer your coworker a helping hand on their birthday. They may have after-work plans to celebrate with their friends or their family, so offer to help them out so they make sure they get out of work on time that day.
For big birthdays, like your boss' birthday, for example, consider a cookie or cupcake competition. Coworkers who want to get involved can bake cookies or cupcakes and bring them in on the day of the birthday. Then coworkers can rate the best cookies or cupcakes based on design or taste, in honor of the person whose birthday it is.
If you don't have the budget to host a happy hour outside of the office, or there are no bars nearby, consider hosting a happy hour near the end of the day in the office kitchen or lounge area. If booze is allowed in the office, this can be a fun way to end the day. Of course, you'll want to have non-alcoholic drinks, as well, so those who do not drink can still come and enjoy socializing with everyone.
A breakfast birthday party is another great way to celebrate your coworker's birthday. You can order breakfast sandwiches, eggs, pancakes or another breakfast food for the office, for examples.
If nothing else, singing happy birthday for your coworker is a surefire way to make them feel special. Whether you sing in your morning meeting or at lunch time, let them know that you're acknowledging their birthday.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.