Just because Valentine's Day is meant to be spent celebrating with your loved ones doesn't mean that you can't also celebrate with your coworkers. After all, the holiday falls on a Thursday and, unfortunately, it's not a federal holiday, which means that you don't get the day off to consume copious amounts of chocolate and watch binge watch rom-coms like Love Actually on repeat.
You can still have a little fun at the office with some creative ways to celebrate Valentine's Day and show appreciation to your coworkers who you value. Here are nine ways to do just that.
1. Host a Valentine's Day Bake Off
Have everyone in the office (or those who are interested in participating and who have signed up) bake a dessert to bring in on Valentine's Day. Someone takes the cupcakes. Another person takes the classic chocolate chip cookies. And another coworker decides to take on the two-tiered cake filled with strawberry cream. Set up the office kitchen or lounge area with all of the desserts, and either leave them out for eating all day or host a get-together at lunch or around happy hour to have everyone enjoy them together. Then have employees vote on the best baked good. The winner should get a reward like a gift card for coffee, an expensed lunch or the promise of all the leftovers. (You can find some ideas on these food blogs!)
2. Decorate the Office with Valentine's Day Decor
Decorate the office with Valentine's Day decor like heart-shaped balloons, "Happy Valentine's Day" streamers and roses on the desks in all of the conference rooms. You can even host a competition for the best-decorated cubicle to get more employees excited about it and involved. After all, it won't quite feel like Valentine's Day at work if the office space isn't red- and pink-washed.
3. Have a Valentine's Day-Themed Happy Hour
If you have the space for it, and the company allows booze, host a happy hour right there at the office with a DIY bar in the kitchen or lounge area. Have an actual bartender or proclaimed bartender (you know, that guy in sales who randomly runs a mixology blog in his spare time...) make Valentine's Day-inspired cocktails like a Love Potion drink or anything using rose petals for decoration. If it's impossible to host a happy hour in the actual office, you can also just round up the troops to head to a local watering hole post work in light of the holiday. Just make sure you make reservations if you have a big crew, as the bars and restaurants will be quite crowded after work hours on Valentine's Day.
4. Bring in Breakfast Made with Love
Have anyone in the office who is willing to participate to make or pick up a breakfast food and bring it in for the whole team to enjoy on Valentine's Day. Perhaps someone tackles enough scrambled eggs to feed the whole office, while another person whips up their signature French toast. And you can't forget the person in charge of the extra-crispy bacon. Anyone who can't cook, or who doesn't have the time to cook breakfast, can also pick up pastries, fruit bowls or juices, as well as other necessities like napkins and plates if the office isn't already stocked with them.
5. Throw a Heart-Healthy Event
Plan a company-wide event like a lunch and learn for Valentine's Day that focuses on healthy hearts. For example, you can invite doctors or industry professionals from the American Heart Association and other organizations to come speak to employees about healthy heart facts and share recommendations for making healthier decisions and keeping active while working full time. Another idea is to host an active activity like a company-wide obstacle course or a kickball game (think: IT against media relations) to get the blood pumping. A little friendly competition on Valentine's Day is okay.
6. Spread the Love by Volunteering Together
One way to spread the Valentine's Day cheer is by volunteering, especially together as a company or team. Join a program that aligns with your company's mission, perhaps by helping to hand out food to the homeless or by planting trees in the neighborhood. In fact, volunteering has actually been proven to boost employee engagement, so it's good for the world and for business.
7. Put Together a Secret Cupid Gift Exchange
Like a Secret Santa gift exchange, anonymously set coworkers up with another person in the office and set a gift price limit. Everyone then buys a gift that's perfect for their unsuspecting recipient, and they're given a gift from their own secret cupid. You can also just have everyone in the office bring in a gift of a certain price range and place them all on a table for everyone to choose among them. Either way, enjoy a fun (and probably funny) gift exchange at lunch.
8. Celebrate All Week with a Random Acts of Kindness Challenge
Write down kindness challenges on a whiteboard and ask employees to sign up for them throughout the week. The coworker who completes the most random acts of kindness gets... to be a good human. Random acts of kindness don't need to be rewarded — nor should they. This exercise will prompt coworkers to help each other out and advocate for one another without expecting anything in return.
9. Dress up (or Down) for the Special Occasion
If your office is a casual one, have everyone dress up for Valentine's Day. Perhaps the dress code includes red dresses and bowties for the day. On the other hand, if your office is already a place where people dress up, allow employees to wear jeans to work or dress down in some capacity — the point is to acknowledge that it's a special day all about appreciating love and life, and part of that means to get excited and/or relax.
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.