10 Ways to Celebrate Employee Birthdays Remotely

Employees prefer remote work because it cuts out their commute time, improves their work-life balance, and makes them more productive. Employers love it because it's less expensive and widens the talent pool.

The problem?

Remote employees sometimes feel detached from other team members.

Celebrating employee birthdays is one of the best ways to show them you appreciate them, and you'll want to do more than send a boring 'ol Slack message. These are our 10 favorite ways to celebrate virtually (and many of them you can use together).

When celebrating employee birthdays, don't do THIS...

Let's get this off the table straight away: Don't be disingenuous.

If your card looks like this, you're better off not sending one at all.

While this is extreme, we're also talking about the comically lame "personalized" birthday messages and generic email templates. We've all received these, and they don't make us feel special.

1. Host a virtual party with the whole team (bonus if it's a surprise!)

You might not be able to have an office party or team outing, but you certainly can get the whole team on board for a virtual celebration. Use Zoom or another video conferencing tool to bring everyone together and have some fun!

There are lots of different ways you could celebrate in a virtual setting. This is where you can get creative.

  • Have cocktail mixing kits delivered to your team. Then, either have a guided party or let everyone get creative. On the call, make your cocktails (or mocktails!) together and turn simple games like "Never Have I Ever" or "Scattegories" into drinking games.
  • Hold a virtual 'Happy Hour' where everyone can relax and chat about anything but work.
  • Order a cake to their house. On Zoom, you can have a virtual cake-cutting and have everyone sing 'Happy Birthday' together. After all, what's a birthday without a cake?
  • Host a virtual paint party. There are plenty of DIY paint kits out there. A kit guarantees your employees enjoy their time and create a presentable product, even without natural artistic skills. You could also hire a professional organization like Paint the Town to lead the party.
  • Play virtual games. Just about every well-known board/card game has an online version. You might not want to play Monopoly, but a few games of Uno, online trivia, or a virtual escape room could be a hit.

For employees who enjoy surprises, you could make this a surprise party. Create a Slack channel or group chat (excluding them, of course) to plan it out. Then, put it on everyone's calendar as something inconspicuous, like a "team meeting." The surprise will make it feel more genuine and special.

2. Put a video together.

There's nothing quite like a personal message. It's the most powerful form of appreciation. And, coming from all your employees, it's a thoughtful reminder that they're part of a bigger family.

  • Short clips work best. Have each team member take 10-15 seconds to say something thoughtful or share a fun memory. Then, they can send it into a Slack channel or email thread. Once you have everyone's videos, you can create a montage.
  • Incorporate fun photos or videos into the video message. Ask team members to submit a photo of them with their favorite work-from-home setup or wearing company swag. You could also include photos from previous in-person birthday celebrations. The more personal, the better.
  • Present it with a heartfelt message. Accompany the video with a kind email or e-card expressing your appreciation for their hard work and wishing them a happy birthday. You can also have the team sign a digital card and attach it to the email or post it in the Slack channel for everyone to see.

Especially if they've been with the company for a while or oversee an entire team or department, seeing so many people come together to celebrate them will mean a lot.

3. Gather coworker input.

If you've ever gotten a birthday gift you don't really care for, you know exactly what we're getting at here.

Missing the mark puts the birthday person in an awkward position. So, if your plan is to get them a fun gift, you'll want to make sure it's a hit.

  • Survey coworkers to get ideas. Create a survey or poll where team members can submit ideas for gifts, food options, etc.
  • Create a group chat with their closest colleagues. You might know who they spend the most time talking to within the company. If they were hired after a referral from a friend, even better.
  • Ask what they want. The most direct way to make sure your employee loves their birthday celebration is to ask them what they want (though that eliminates the ~surprise~ element). Some companies offer a birthday stipend (more on that later) or points they can redeem for gifts of their choosing.

With limited input, you could get creative with it by gifting them a caricature of themselves or a "World's Coolest {Insert Job Title}" mug.

Or, you could go with Old Reliable — company-branded items and a personalized note from the team.

4. Get them something off their wishlist.

Here's an idea for personalizing every employee's birthday without much effort: ask every team member to share their wishlist with you.

This is a surefire way to gift employees something they actually want.

Once you have everyone's wishlist, all you have to do is set automated reminders a few days before each birthday comes up, so you'll always know when to order something.

5. Send some birthday swag they can wear in meetings.

If you want to go all-out for your birthday employee, you can send them a sash to put on during team meetings and their virtual birthday party.

While this isn't the only thing you should do to celebrate birthdays, it's the cherry on top.

6. Give them the day off.

Whether they want to sleep in or grab a nice birthday breakfast with their friends and family, a little extra time to themselves on their special day will always be welcomed.

You could even go the extra mile by giving them a free day of paid vacation. That way, they can take their birthday off without having to use up any of their PTO.

If they have meetings and calls booked throughout the day, you can offer a floating day or half-day off, so they can enjoy that time regardless of their obligations on that specific day.

7. Gift them an unforgettable experience.

Whether it's something they can do on the date of their birthday or a gift for a future experience, giving your employees something to look forward to and enjoy is always a great idea.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Cooking classes, wine tasting, or anything they can do on the day of their birthday
  • An adventure activity like bungee jumping or skydiving
  • A spa day or massage
  • Concert tickets to see their favorite artist
  • A two-day staycation for them and their significant other
  • A weekend getaway or vacation (e.g., out-of-state or out of the country)

8. Set up a birthday stipend.

Other than a remote work stipend, a small cash bonus for employees' birthdays is one of the best ways to offer perks to your remote employees.

They can spend it on anything they want:

  • A night out with their significant other
  • Their weekend birthday celebration
  • Something they've been wanting to buy for a while
  • A donation to their favorite charity or cause
  • An experience they've been wanting to try
  • Self-care treatments like a massage or facial

Stipends make celebrating birthdays simple, personalized, and inclusive for all employees. With Compt, there are two major advantages to setting up a birthday stipend:

  1. Automation. You can set up the birthday bonus during new hire onboarding--this ensures you'll never forget!
  2. Personalization. With a stipend, employees can pick their own gift instead of receiving something they won't use.

Request a demo to see how it works.

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