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How to Make Office Birthdays Meaningful and Manageable

Jamila Livingston

December 9, 2016


Updated by Olivia Kelley on 2/13/2020

We can all picture the scene in our head: It’s your birthday. You go into work, chat with coworkers, eat lunch, go to meetings, etc. At some point during the day, HR invites everyone into the break room. You are presented with the same vanilla sheet cake inscribed “Happy Birthday” that everyone receives, along with a cheeky card that’s been passed around the office. Your colleagues sing an off-tune, feeble rendition of “Happy Birthday.” You grab a slice of cake and head back to your desk.

It’s a nice gesture, but did it make you feel special and appreciated? Or was it generic, predictable and a little bit of a hassle?

Celebrating office birthdays is a great way to build camaraderie among employees and develop a positive culture in the office. By taking the time to recognize each team member, you can make sure everyone feels special and appreciated.

Unfortunately, many offices run into complications when it comes to planning these special occasions – particularly those with larger teams. The repetition, time and effort it takes to recognize each team member can eventually take the enjoyment out of the festivities. Moreover, the cost of these events can add up fast!

We came up with three tips to help you save time and money planning office birthdays, while still making them meaningful and special for each employee:

1) Make Sure Everyone Is Included

It seems self explanatory, but make sure everyone is included in celebrating office birthdays. If you forget someone’s birthday, it can hurt feelings and bring down morale. Celebrating monthly is fine, especially if you have a larger office. Just be sure you are consistent every month and don’t leave anyone out. Pick the same day each month to celebrate so people know to look forward to it.

2) Make Each Person You’re Celebrating Feel Special

HR typically has access to the birth dates for the entire office. Gather the list of who’s being celebrated each month and reach out to get their dietary restrictions or even dessert preferences. You might want to do this all at once, and keep it in a central Excel or in your HR software (e.g. Zenefits or JustWorks).

You should also ask if employees actually want their birthday to be celebrated. For personal or religious reasons, some may not want to partake in the birthday festivities. Keep an “opt-out” column in the Excel sheet to be sure you don’t accidentally celebrate.

Remember it’s important to never advertise an employee’s age. As the Society for Human Resource Management reminds us, this avoids embarrassment, awkwardness, and potential legal concerns.

3) Switch Up Your Office Birthdays

Not everyone likes a typical vanilla sheet cake – and not every month. Try different options, like donuts, cupcakes, cookies, or even an ice cream sundae bar. You can use your list of employee dessert preferences to help you decide what works best each month!

Birthday celebrations are a great way for the team to get a break from work – and to re-energize their day. Proper organization and planning can ensure that everyone is equally valued and hyped up… on cupcakes. If you need help planning monthly birthday celebrations for your team, reach out to one of our catering experts! We can take care of the details.



“ has been able to get our employees from all different departments together, to get away from our desks, recharge, and be able to return to our work, happy and full.”

—Ellen K., Employee Experience Specialist,