Sharing Birthdays at the Office

Birthdays are for celebrating with fun, flair, love and laughter. If I didn’t believe this, I probably wouldn’t have a blog devoted to birthdays.

Happily, I have some examples of people taking advantage of this special day to give their co-workers an extra helping of attention and affection. Loyal readers already know I am a big fan of feting people at work, if the individual decides to ignore my personal rule to not work on your birthday.

Office Birthday Fun

One recent blog post I saw featured a site devoted to discovering “a fresh approach to style through fun ideas for the wardrobe and home,” taking its own advice for an employee birthday.

Under the boasting headline, “We just took office birthdays to a whole new level,” the blogger talked about taking the weekly office meeting out of doors for a picnic at a table with fresh cut flowers and a breakfast taco spread. The coffee choices were also immensely important as the blog clearly has a product placement angle for an espresso machine…Nevertheless, the images are lovely, and the birthday celebrant probably enjoyed being made to feel extra special on her birthday.

office birthdays

Birthday Co-Worker Collusion

Those watching Good Morning Britain recently could actually see Kate Garraway having a good time on her birthday as her coworkers surprised her on the program’s set. The Sun reported her kids and her parents joined the host live on air for her 50th. Her co-workers also treated her to a plate of doughnuts, a present, and a highlight reel of her past career on television. This included some memories even the host groaned and grimaced over!

office birthday
Plus they offered the national show’s audience at home a glimpse of Garraway during her school days. This reminded me of the practice in several cultures of shaming the birthday person on their big day.

Related reading:

Employee Birthday Benefits

30 Today? Have a Pepper Person

Brace for a Birthday Flour Storm

Don’t Blame the Birthday! Just Don’t Binge.

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Cake at work gluttony.

The Telegraph started the new year with the article: “Office ‘cake culture’ is fueling obesity crisis and treats should be swapped for hugs.” The article surveys expert opinions on the trend of bringing cakes in for birthdays and sharing sweet treats for other special events:

  • The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) warns the growing trend is contributing to poor oral health and the obesity epidemic.
  • The National Obesity Forum’s Tam Fry told the paper, “You may not know who in the office is secretly dieting in which case they won’t appreciate your gesture…If you want to give them anything, give them a smile, a hug or both!”

But let’s heed these warnings with restraint, right? Yes, it makes sense to avoid cakes becoming a daily occurrence at work. Plus, it’s a good idea to make healthier choices to substitute for sugary sweet consumption. Finally, moderation is the key to all dieting and weight management success.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t need to mean banning birthday celebrations. I’ve written in the past about organizations that shy away from feting employees in the office, and offered suggestions of good ways to recognize employees turning another year older. Still, I’m not going to get behind a cake ban. I just can’t do it. Heck, we even used to give our dog a ground beef cake decorated with dog bone candles. To me, birthdays demand cake recognition.

Plus, this science article didn’t even consider the fact that some people don’t want a hug. There are many of us in the world who are uncomfortable with physical affection from people we don’t know well. Consider also the fact that there are probably some faiths (thanks HR awareness raising of past posts) where it would be insulting for a coworker to hug a fellow coworker of the opposite sex.

So, clearly, cakes or their alternatives are the best answer.

Related reading:

Hug me. It’s My Birthday

Birthday Baking or “No Bake” Goodness

10 Reasons not to work on a birthday

Happy Hours, Free Food, Birthdays..Security?

It’s been a couple of years (thankfully) since I last had to clock in at an office job. Nevertheless, I was not at all surprised by a security firm’s findings that data security is less important than office birthdays and who stole a yogurt out of the shared break room fridge.

Centrify surveyed 400 IT decision makers in the U.S. and UK to find among the most frequent topics of office conversation:

  • Employees leaving or joining company (30% US, 7% UK)
  • Happy hours (24% US, 17% UK)
  • Free food left over from meetings (22% US, 20% UK)
  • Holidays and birthdays (22% US, 18% UK)
  • Kitchen etiquette (18% US, 17% UK)

Plus you know that holidays/birthdays should be higher since the free food is often a birthday cake and happy hours are prompted by staff birthdays!

Birthday cake

Photo credit: Buthaina AlOthman / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Centrify goes on to argue that “every effort” should be made to educate users about data threats and security protocols. Yet I don’t envy the guy who chimes in over coffee: “sure there’s free brownies over at accounting, but when’s the last time you changed your Internet password?” Let’s just say he is unlikely to be invited to the next staff birthday shindig.

You can bet this brilliant birthday cubicle decorating idea would be the talk of the water cooler:

Office birthday fun

Photo credit: Ryan Leighty / Foter / CC BY

BTW, another interesting survey finding? Weather-related emergencies were more likely to be talked about at work in the U.S. (25%) than the UK (14%) where one supposes a stiff upper lip helps them get through all that rain without worry. Although I’ve seen the Scots try and survive a few centimeters of snow and it wasn’t pretty!