Julie Tucker
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Should you celebrate birthdays in the workplace?

Most people look forward to celebrating their birthday, but if it falls on a weekday, the chances are you’ll be spending a large chunk of your time at work. You may be wondering if you should celebrate birthdays in the workplace. The answer to this question must be a resounding “yes”!

Companies should be thinking about how to celebrate birthdays. Planning celebrations in advance is a thoughtful way of showing employees they are valued. It can make a positive difference to how a colleague feels about their job and workplace.

The thoughtfulness should extend to employees who don’t want to make a fuss too. Some colleagues would rather not acknowledge their birthday, preferring to party later with family and friends. Take note of their wishes and don’t embarrass them with a surprise celebration in the office.

Why are birthdays at work so important?

A birthday is a milestone moment, along with other notable dates, such as anniversaries. Research shows birthdays are one of the three main days when an unhappy employee is likely to hand in their notice! This is because it’s a time when people traditionally take stock of their life: they realise another year has passed and if they’re dissatisfied, they are more likely to take action than they would on a normal day.

Every business wants to avoid a high employee turnover, so a birthday celebration showing employees are valued can make a difference to how they feel about their employer. It’s a chance to engage and show them how much they are appreciated.

Boosting the employee experience

More than simply showing kindness when you celebrate their special day; the act of recognising an employee’s birthday can contribute to their workplace experience in a number of ways.

A survey published in Harvard Business Review reveals people’s job searching activities increase by 12% just before their birthday, as they start taking stock of their life. Paying each employee special attention on their birthday is important to make them feel valued, as someone who feels appreciated is less likely to look elsewhere for work.

When someone feels rewarded for their hard work, this will increase their emotional commitment to the company. In turn, this improves motivation as they strive to reach their own and the company’s goals. Research has revealed a 1% increase in employee engagement spurs an extra 0.6% in sales growth.

Increase workplace happiness
Increasing happiness means increasing productivity too. Celebrating a birthday at work creates a happy environment in general. Taking time out for a joyful occasion can help reduce stress and burnout.
Research shows happy employees are up to 20% more productive than dissatisfied counterparts. Taking a break from the daily grind to have some fun reinforces feelings of positivity towards the employer.

Pay attention to detail

Keep track of when each employee’s birthday is through a central calendar provided by HR and make each celebration as personal as possible. Write a message in their card showing appreciation for the good work they have done, or the impact they have made on the workplace, to make them feel special.

It’s important to be consistent, so everyone is appreciated, and nobody feels left out. Key people such as team leaders, managers and team members should receive a notification of upcoming birthdays.

Always be considerate. If someone would rather keep it low-key, a personal, private email congratulating them and thanking them for their hard work could be more appropriate.

Rewards scheme

For a meaningful experience, organise a reward such as a gift card, or a buffet lunch for the team. An employee rewards system will show your appreciation. A team happy hour ensures everyone joins in and strengthens the bond.

Be discreet and don’t try to be humorous with age-related jokes. While it might be okay for family members to gently rib someone with a “40 today” card, the average employee won’t want this milestone broadcast across the office.

Decorate the workspace

A simple way to make an employee feel appreciated is to decorate their workspace before they arrive. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. A birthday balloon attached to their chair back and a card propped up on their computer marks the occasion and doesn’t leave a lot of cleaning up to do afterwards.

It can also be a good time to hand out company promo material such as mugs, T-shirts, caps and any other mementos. You could ask the employee if they wish the company to make a donation to the charity of their choice in their name.

Flexible working day

Why not arrange for the employee to have time off on their birthday, even if they haven’t booked the day off in advance? If you’re based in a coworking space, flexibility is the name of the game and it’s simple to organise the workload to give the employee a pleasant surprise.

Make sure you treat everyone fairly: if you have remote workers, whether they’re based at home, or at a different coworking site, don’t forget their birthday. Even if you can’t meet them in person, arrange a video call, so you can send best wishes face-to-face and thank them for their hard work.

To keep morale high, increase engagement and boost productivity, make all employees feel valued. Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most.

Here at Headspace Group staff receive a day off for their holiday as well as a £10 voucher, plus either a bar of chocolate or the option to have a tree planted to mark the occasion.


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