Should you celebrate birthdays at work?

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They just keep on coming.

Though in these uncertain times, their regularity and predictability are comforting, even if celebrations might be looking a little different these days.

We’re sure you celebrate these important life milestones at home, but what about work?

Birthdays at work… Are they a good excuse to have some fun or an unprofessional distraction?

Time to celebrate the small things

We all need a bit of joy these days, and recently we’ve been finding pleasure in the small things; celebrating any and all milestones, no matter how insignificant they may appear.

Birthdays might not seem like a big deal but the business landscape is looking very different at the moment and for many, there are fewer, if any, ‘big wins’ professionally – whether that’s new clients, new projects, or big sales – and the focus for many has shifted to survival.

This change in perspective doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and celebrating birthdays shows that you value personal milestones and achievements too, and reminds us that work isn’t everything.

Even putting the current situation aside, who are we to deny these pockets of joy?

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that these moments, these small pleasures, matter enormously to people, and can mean the difference between a good day or a bad one.

A morale-booster

Seeking joy and finding reasons to celebrate, such as a birthday, also has the valuable business benefit of increasing morale.

It makes people feel appreciated and brings staff together, both of which help to form deeper relationships between team members and across the organisation.

If feasible, and depending on the size of your organisation or team, use birthday celebrations as a reason to find out more about the people you work with – if they’re an animal lover, this could perhaps be reflected in a themed cake. Not only does this make the recipient feel seen and appreciated,  it reminds everyone that their colleagues are people with lives and interests outside of work.

Birthdays are a great prompt to show your appreciation for a year’s hard work with a thoughtful and personalised gesture.

Word of warning

Before you crack out the karaoke and start planning a birthday banquet; a word of warning.

The scale of the celebration should be appropriate and proportionate to the size of your organisation or department, as what you do for one you must do for another – you don’t want to be accused of favouritism, or create grievances in otherwise happy teams.

Celebrations also shouldn’t be hierarchical, with management enjoying champagne lunches out and newbies getting stock cards – this will only serve to reinforce an ‘us and them’ atmosphere, rather than bringing people together on level ground.

Equally, you can’t have an office party for Mr Popular from the sales team on Friday, but Debbie from accounts whose birthday is on Monday arrives to a reduced Colin the Caterpillar cake left out in the staff room. If you’re going to have them, you can’t let birthday celebrations become a popularity contest, as this risks deepening any existing tensions and reinforcing cliques.

There’s no need to get carried away either. It doesn’t need to be extravagant – after all, if you have, say, 50 employees, you're going to be celebrating most weeks, so don’t do it in a way that becomes unsustainable or unaffordable when you multiply it by the number of employees you have.

Whilst all staff should be treated equally, no matter their position or tenure, you should also be aware that not everyone enjoys birthdays, or wants them publicised. You shouldn’t force anyone to celebrate if they’re an introvert, don’t like attention, or find birthdays difficult for whatever reason. Some people won’t want a fuss, but you can still find a discreet way to acknowledge the date privately. If you normally have a budget for a cake or a round of drinks after work, perhaps they’d appreciate a voucher or a day off! Whatever you do, just ensure staff are treated equitably.

And remember...

Most importantly, if you’re going to celebrate birthdays and make this ‘a thing’ that your company does, you need to make absolutely sure you don’t miss one, or that person could end up feeling very left out and unappreciated, so make sure you’re keeping track!

A simple calendar will do the trick – or why not check out the handy new feature on Leave Dates –just look out for the cupcake emoji and you’ll know a birthday is coming up!

Using Leave Management Software


Our co-founder, Phil, loves people, problem-solving and making life easier for small businesses. If you book a Leave Dates demo, he will give you a warm welcome and show you everything that you need to know.