coworker birthday ideas

Coworker Birthday Ideas: How to Celebrate in the Office or Remotely

Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that employees experience a significant job hunting spike on their birthdays, with rates rising as high as 12 percent on milestones like 40. After all, research shows that employees who don’t feel appreciated are twice as likely to quit. Thankfully, it’s easy to keep teammates around by showing them how much you care about their birthday – even the smallest things will make a big impact! Read on to learn about the best coworker birthday ideas.

Planning the perfect birthday

When planning an office birthday, whether in the office or remote, you should keep a few things in mind.

Keep it fair

There’s nothing worse than feeling underappreciated, and if your coworker’s birthday is tremendously more lavish than yours, you might feel a bit left out or taken advantage of. Birthday rewards and presents should be fair and equitable. And if your team doesn’t get a stipend for social celebrations, make sure that everyone is chipping in equally.

You can make birthday rewards easy by creating a fixed budget for all birthday celebrations, whether your coworker is a manager or they work in the mailroom.

Know your audience

Great coworker birthday ideas are centered around the coworkers themselves, so when you’re planning an office bash, you should keep in mind someone’s preferences. Are they public people or private people? Would they feel uncomfortable with the entire office’s attention, or would they bask in it? Some people hate surprise parties, and some love them – helpful information if you’re planning a birthday party.

Additionally, some coworkers might be aging gracefully. But you should check if someone has a particular age sensitivity so you don’t make your teammate uncomfortable.

Utilize your reminders

Whether you have a notification on your phone, an app that lets you know everyone’s birthdays, or a little note in your planner ­– you have to know in advance when someone’s birthday will happen so you can plan accordingly. Don’t let it sneak up on you, or you’ll be unprepared on someone’s special day.

Remote work birthday celebrations

It’s not easy to create a customized, heartfelt birthday celebration from a distance. But there are still plenty of things you can do to make your teammate feel special on their special day.

Treat delivery

If you’re miles away, but you still want to make the day memorable, get some food delivered to your coworkers’ homes. Services like Insomnia Cookies or Edible Arrangements will send your coworker a bundle of cookies to celebrate their birthday, or you could get them an edible arrangement. Another option is to order them their favorite breakfast or lunch. Depending on how social your coworker is feeling, you can plan to eat all together on Zoom or let them have a nice quiet meal on their own.

Weekend getaway

Suppose you have a slightly bigger budget and are looking for some creative coworker birthday ideas that are a bit more decadent than just a meal delivery. In that case, you can pay for a weekend getaway rather than a big party or group social activity. This takes a bit more planning, as you’d have to arrange for time off, potentially plan out childcare, book reservations, and know the coworker’s vacation preferences. You can even book something cheap and local, like a lovely Airbnb or a beach rental. But it’s incredibly thoughtful, and it’s something that your coworker will never forget.

Day off

Sometimes the best gifts are the simplest – and what’s easier than a day off? Just talk to your manager or teammates about when would best fit all of your schedules. You could give them a day off on their actual birthday, let them pick a day, or surprise them on any given day. It all depends on their usual preferences.

Personalized note

Another thoughtful idea for a coworker’s birthday is writing a personalized note expressing how much they mean to you. Ideally, everyone on the team would hand-write a sweet sentiment and send it by mail, or you could have a digital slideshow including everyone’s well wishes. Plug it into a PowerPoint, and you’ve got a cute virtual birthday party idea.

Celebrating birthdays in the office

You’ve probably done birthday celebrations in the office before, but there are always ways to step up your game and create an unforgettable experience.


Covering a coworker’s desk with sparkles and streamers is an office pastime fit for any birthday. If your coworker isn’t that interested in public displays of appreciation, you can keep your decorating modest and limit your efforts to a nice bouquet of flowers. But if your teammates love elaborate surprises, go all in and get a bundle of balloons, a banner, confetti, and more. Also, remember to cater to your coworkers’ personalities and preferences by securing their favorite candy, making decorations in their favorite color, and maybe even throwing in some small gifts.

Bring in someone special

Maybe your teammate has a significant other, a child, a parent, or even a pet they love more than anything. So why not arrange for a special birthday surprise, and bring them to your office party? If you can work with a coworker’s family, friends, or roommate, you’ll love the shock on their face when they walk into the breakroom and see their dog in a birthday hat, happily waiting for them.

Untraditional office party

An old staple of coworker birthday ideas is to have a classic potluck or cocktail party. However, it doesn’t just have to be a few beers and a pizza in a back office. You can take the time to make a theme, put up some decorations, or hire a bartender to make all your coworkers’ favorite drinks. Another option is to plan a surprise and tell them that they’re going to a last-minute meeting when they’re actually headed to their own birthday party.

Team outing

Lastly, a team outing is always a great way to celebrate a birthday. And you don’t have to just go out for drinks to make it a special day. Try an activity that your coworker loves, like seeing music in the park, taking a cooking class, or going to a paint and sip. This highly individualized activity takes a little more effort than a delivery order or a few balloons on a desk. So make sure that you know precisely what your coworker wants before you go about planning an activity for them.

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