Company Culture
Employee engagement

How to Celebrate Employee Birthdays in the Workplace

Deborah Galea
November 20, 2022
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Many people are eager to celebrate their birthdays. And if someone’s birthday falls on a weekday, they’ll be spending a precious chunk of that day at work.

So the question isn’t, “Should companies celebrate their employees’ birthdays?” Rather, companies should be asking how they should celebrate employees’ birthdays. Being thoughtful about birthday celebrations—even if it’s making the decision to not throw a party for those colleagues who would rather not acknowledge their birthdays—can make a difference in how an employee thinks about their workplace.

That’s because birthdays are one of life’s epiphany moments, along with other major milestones like work anniversaries and class reunions. You might be surprised to learn that birthdays are actually one of the three days that employees are most likely to quit their jobs. With retention on our minds, employers shouldn’t take birthday celebrations too lightly. These events are opportunities to better engage and appreciate employees.

Share these ideas with your team with a PDF! Download our resource How to Celebrate Employee Birthdays in the Workplace!

Jump straight to our list of birthday celebration ideas

Why are birthdays epiphany moments?


Epiphany moments are dates or events that cause people to reexamine their life choices. What makes birthdays a natural time to reflect on our lives and career? For many people, adding another year to their life prompts internal reflection. It’s a day when people often take a step back and evaluate the progress of their lives—the good and the bad.

Reaching a life milestone

Many people have a rough idea of the roadmap of their lives, like being a certain age when they get married, or be promoted to a leadership role, or buying their first home. That’s what makes birthdays a great time to reflect on the previous year of their life. Did they reach their goals? What was the highest high and lowest low of the previous year? In this way, birthdays are a time to contemplate current circumstances.

Catching up with friends and family

People love to celebrate with others, so birthdays are typically a time for loved ones to gather and celebrate! Playing catch-up can prompt a number of questions about job status, relationships, and health—you know how families get! 😉

Employees could consider whether they were venting the same work grievances last year. Did it improve or is it still the same? Since birthdays are such a milestone, these questions seem heavier—and their answers more meaningful.

Comparison with others

There always seems to be a teenage wunderkind in the media, or a new youngest billionaire ever. As we get older, it’s natural to feel anxious about our accomplishments, especially in comparison to others in the same peer group.

3 benefits of recognizing employee birthdays

How can you apply knowledge of how birthdays can be an epiphany moment to the workplace? The simple act of recognizing an employee’s birthday is first and foremost a nice thing to do but also contributes to the employee experience in a number of ways.

1. Reduce turnover

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, job search activities jump 12% just before birthdays. Giving an employee special attention on their birthday makes them feel valued and recognized, and employees who feel appreciated are less likely to quit their jobs.

2. Enhance employee engagement

Showing appreciation on an employee’s birthday makes the individual feel rewarded and increases their emotional commitment to the company and its goals. This increase in employee engagement results in improved work motivation and dedication, positively impacting your company’s bottom line. Research shows that engaged companies see 23% higher profitability and 18% higher sales. 

3. Increase happiness and productivity

Receiving a little bit of extra attention on your birthday from your employer and co-workers makes you feel cared for and part of a team. This promotes happiness and reduces stress and burnout. According to research, happy employees are 12% to 20% more productive than their unhappy counterparts.

Share these ideas with your team with a PDF! Download our resource How to Celebrate Employee Birthdays in the Workplace!

Characteristics of a successful employee birthday program


Since the stakes are high, employee birthdays should be celebrated with special attention to detail. The secret? Automation, combined with the right level of customization. A successful employee birthday program has the following characteristics:


Writing HAGS is fun in middle school, but now, you should really put more thought into a personal message than just “HB." Include appreciation for recent work they’ve done, a funny anecdote, or the impact their presence has made on your life to make the birthday-person feel extra special.


When celebrating birthdays in the workplace, it is important to ensure that no employee gets left out. It may be worth adding employee birthdays to a central calendar during the onboarding process instead of simply leaving the dates in your HRIS. Also, be sure to include remote workers in birthday celebrations, too. Key people, such as managers and team members, should receive notifications of upcoming birthdays. Employee reward platforms are great tools for automating birthday reminders and notifications, offloading HR managers from this responsibility.


For religious reasons, not all people celebrate birthdays. Also, some people may just not like their birthday publicly celebrated. When onboarding or getting to know your team members, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask how they like to celebrate their next trip around the sun. If they hate calling attention to themselves, a low-key birthday email might be a better idea than a decorated, scheduled event. If they have a specific birthday tradition, it may be thoughtful to bring that tradition to the workplace.


At Bonusly, we champion the idea of “voice and choice.” For a meaningful experience, employees should have the ability to choose their own rewards. When providing gift cards or organizing birthday lunches, be thoughtful about your employees likes and interests—or even ask them for exactly what they want! This way, you can be sure that they’ll enjoy their special day. Employee reward systems let the employee redeem their rewards at a store of their choice.


Not everyone likes their age to be public knowledge and sharing someone’s age without their permission could lead to workplace lawsuits. Be sure not to publicize the employee’s birth year or age when celebrating their birthday. So (although tempting) stay away from cards with “40 today!” on them and steer clear from age jokes or references.

Eight ways to celebrate employee birthdays

Here are eight ways in which you can make employees feel special on their birthdays:

1. Decorate their workspace

Break out the balloons. 🎊🎈🎉

A simple but surefire way to make an employee feel celebrated is by decorating their workspace. Streamers and confetti are always fun, but again—make sure the employee is alright with the attention and potential clean up! It’s also a great idea to take the person’s interests in mind. If someone really loves dogs, plastering their desks with pictures of puppies in birthday hats sounds like an excellent idea.

Are you a fully remote or hybrid team? Then come to your next team meeting with a celebratory Zoom background to make the birthday-person feel celebrated. 

2. Give employee rewards

If your organization uses an employee reward system, you can automatically share rewards on their birthday and invite co-workers to do the same.

3. Organize a team happy hour or birthday lunch

Schedule some time for fun on someone’s birthday! Eating together is a simple way to build stronger team bonds, and being able to celebrate someone at the same time is the *literal* birthday candle on top.

If you're fully remote or hybrid, see if you can send them a gift certificate or credit towards a local lunch of their choice. 🍔

4. Write a note

Nothing beats receiving a personal note on your birthday. This can be a fun greeting card, but can also be an email or kudos in an employee recognition program. Remember: make it personal and meaningful!

5. Share company swag

Birthdays are great times to give out company swag, such as T-shirts, hoodies, caps, and mugs. 

Share these ideas with your team with a PDF! Download our resource How to Celebrate Employee Birthdays in the Workplace!

6. Give gift cards

Gift cards are always a good idea, especially if they’re tailored to an employee’s wishlist or interests. A week before their birthday, ask them to make a few choices from a gift card list from retail stores, local restaurants, bookstores, or movie theaters. Then—this is important—make sure to tell them, “Treat yourself.”


7. Donate to charity

Allow the employee to select the nonprofit organization of their choice, and donate to it in their name for a meaningful and rewarding gift. Bonusly customers can donate to countless organizations directly through our platform.

8. Give them the day off

Many companies with flexible schedules offer to give employees time off on their birthdays. As much as we love our coworkers, allowing someone to spend their special day doing what they want is a big boon to creating a great employee experience.

The takeaway

Any of these celebration ideas are guaranteed to make the employee feel good on their birthday. Of course, companies shouldn’t limit employee appreciation to just birthdays. To be truly successful, companies should continually recognize their employees throughout the year. Employee recognition and rewards programs like Bonusly are a great solution and even include automated birthday awards.

It’s always fun to make someone’s birthday a special day! You’ll make employees feel especially valued and also reduce turnover, enhance employee engagement, and increase productivity. 🤩

Share these ideas with your team with a PDF! Download our resource How to Celebrate Employee Birthdays in the Workplace.


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