Employee Birthday Benefits

As organizational development folks study employee engagement at great length, I suggest a simple tool to enhance morale — birthday benefits.

Just this month, my office job employer has treated two of our team to birthday cakes. We were even asked in advance what kind of cake we’d like best — so there was even an element of choice! Plus, even the person who wasn’t having a birthday could look forward to the break of enjoying a slice of cake together. It’s a win for everyone at work.birthday benefits

As I sat enjoying my second “small” slice of chocolate cake at the office in under two weeks (we’re not talking about all of the slices I ate at home for my own birthday), I wondered what other examples of birthday employee benefits I might find.

Birthday Holiday

Entrepreneur suggests the following in its 10 Benefits Employees Welcome and Every Company Can Afford:

“1. Birthdays off.
Everybody has one, so consider giving employees a paid day off to celebrate their birthday or perhaps a floating holiday instead.”

Of course this is #1. Why doesn’t want their birthday off? Or at least a day off of their own choosing?

On one HR site supporting the “paid birthday holiday” an employee relations-themed blog noted that the majority of departments celebrate with cake and singing, but the birthday holiday “sends a great message.” This shows the organization doesn’t view the birthday in terms of workers “getting older, benefit costs going up and efficiency going down.” The author even suggests the holiday might be given only to employees after three years of service to cut costs.

Piping up on this same Birthday Holiday idea, a separate HR voice added another perspective: “Some people may not work well on their birthday as this is when they would like to have a big party and celebrate throughout the whole day. By giving them that day off, they get to have that day of rest and relaxation that may prove quite beneficial.”

Birthday at Work Pitfalls

Really, where is the downfall to offering this one extra way to celebrate the employee?

Apparently there remain concerns. The Society for Human Resource Management featured consideration of whether or not to recognize employee benefits in a 2015 blog. The article began:

“Recognizing employee birthdays can be a low-cost yet personal and special way to recognize employees. It can also be a means to upset employees or lead to allegations of unlawful discrimination if not handled correctly.”


Apparently this “seemingly harmless act of celebration” could:

  • be seen as a violation of privacy, a misuse of HR files
  • pressure employees to pitch in for cakes and gifts they can’t afford
  • be at odds with employee religious or birthday beliefs

I didn’t know about the last one. Now I’m going to have to track down the religions prohibiting “the celebration of holidays and other events, including birthdays.” Another blog…Oh, it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses. The SHRM tells us in another blog they believe it is a sin. I guess I might know that if I ever answered the door when they called.

Great Birthday Benefit Ideas

One thing this article made me sure about is my complete disinterest in being in HR. I can embrace the advice to always ask first and respect the birthday celebrants wishes for privacy or not. Still, I’m much more behind the great ideas a SHRM LinkedIn post on the topic generated:

● Electronic birthday cards, especially at large organizations.
● Surprise decorations at the employee’s desk.
● Lunch with a manager.
● Gift cards to popular stores or restaurants.
● Cash gifts based on years of service.
● A company contribution to a charity of the celebrant’s choice.
Monthly celebrations, perhaps with a cake, that acknowledge all workers born in that month.

Except perhaps that last one. By now my loyal readers can be sure I don’t want to have to share my birthday with others — not even work colleagues…sorry (not sorry).

Bollywood Birthday Bummers


In the birthday news updates I receive daily, there were recently two different Indian film superstars waxing unenthusiastic about birthdays.

Rehka, who turned 62 on October 10, doesn’t celebrate life on Diwali, Eid, Christmas or birthdays. The actress [pictured above] told Bollywood News, “For me every single day is a blessing and a boon. And I want to squeeze every drop of life out of every single day.”

Me, I squeeze extra life out of every single birthday.

However, I agree with her other thoughts on birthdays: “If anything birthdays should be a reminder that there’s so much more in life to explore, and so much magic waiting to happen. I’d rather spend each day of my life trying to correct the mistakes and improving the quality of my existence rather than cutting a cake, and whooping it up.”

Also, in the counter-cake-cutting camp is Amitabh Bachchan. The Bollywood megastar turned 74 telling India TV how he really feels about cake cutting. The station translated his remarks as:

“I have asked to stop the tradition of cake cutting because I do not know why a cake is bought. Why a candle is lit? And after lighting it up, why is it blown off. Then comes a big knife!…After all the ‘theatrics’ another trend is followed…cake is smeared all over the face.”

OK, I see the not wanting cake smeared on your face. Especially at 74 when you wear glasses and have fine facial hair! Yet, his questions about why candle blowing have been answered already in this blog — and the ceremony of smashing a cake at age one has been addressed too.

I’d argue the cake cutting and whooping it up these two stars deride is a lovely tradition. Some traditions are celebrated for you and for others too. After all, even my co-workers who are currently on a sugar fast saved some of my office birthday cake for later. Cake cutting is a tradition that brings people together in song and the excitement of wishing someone well. Even despite the opinions of a few famous Bollywood stars.


10 Reasons not to work on a birthday

Jumping for joy in sunset

Photo credit: Droid Gingerbread via Foter.com / CC BY

October 6 marked the second anniversary of this blog. Yippee.

It also marked the who knows how many anniversary of me not working on my birthday.

As a freelancer, I used to make sure I had no interviews or articles to write on my special day.

When I taught, I would always make sure that my classes had a paper to revise or research that day. Or perhaps I’d assign an online scavenger hunt. But I didn’t go to class and teach.

Now, with a regular office job, I took the day off. Unpaid even as I’m out of vacation days. Even still — it’s worth it.

Why? Here are my 10 ten reasons:

  1. Sleeping in. Even now that I have a kid to get on the bus in the morning, I can still go back to bed afterwards and snooze a little longer.
  2. Getting to read in bed before starting the day in earnest. Always a treat.
  3. No time limit on birthday lunch. It can take as long as I want and be wherever I want. I would love for it to be at Pompeii, my favorite Italian sandwich shop in Chicago, but living in North Carolina makes that more difficult these days.
  4. Flexibility on movie matinee. By going to a movie in the middle of a weekday on my birthday, I can see whatever movie I want without worrying whether or not the person accompanying me will also enjoy it.
  5. Time for a leisurely chai. With a book, outside on a sunny Fall day is even better.
  6. Ability to shop without a child in tow (and parent who enjoys retail therapy gets me there). Plus, there’s the added benefit that buying things on your birthday is really just getting yourself presents and therefore totally legit.
  7. Exercise without a deadline. Since I don’t have to go to the office, I can go on a hike or go for a run or go to a Zumba class (if I am so motivated) without the pressure of getting home and showered and back out again in time for work.
  8. Dinner reservations made easier. Simply book a table at a favorite restaurant without worrying about finishing up a task at work before the appointed time.
  9. Luxury to decide not to do any of the above things and simply hang out on the sofa all day watching HGTV.
  10. Me time. Everyone needs a mental health day every once in a while. I make my birthday a day to do whatever I want to do, without guilt. The only mandate is that I relax and enjoy myself. To me, even as I move into my mid-40s, that is what birthdays are all about.

Well, that and cake…always cake.

melted birthday candles

Photo credit: kevin dooley via Foter.com / CC BY


Birthday Games for App Generation

There’s a new release exciting the gamer population. I too was excited when I saw the title. — Birthdays the Beginning is due out in early 2017. It’s the latest from the developer of Harvest Moon (and apparently that means something big in gamer world).

I’ve checked out the simulation game screen shots and related press. I’m disappointed. The only the reason it’s related to birthdays is because the game sees you birthing an entire ecosystem. One advance blurb summarizes the premise as follows:

A garden game in which players create cube-shaped worlds that give rise to diverse and unique lifeforms. Shape the geography and alter the temperature of each world to create the conditions for life and witness the birth of an entire ecosystem!

Sigh. I don’t see any cupcakes, balloons, or party favors in any of the screenshots. The closest we get is this one in which it could be thought a creature is floating alongside some scorching birthday fireworks (or cakes with too many candles˚).

Birthdays the Beginning game shot

Image source: Steam

I looked online to see what kinds of games exist in the app store related to this special event in all of our lives.

My Birthday Party — The Game lets you choose a birthday boy, girl or pet, bake a virtual cake, set the table, open presents and blow out the candles. All without any cleanup required. No wonder the kids involved have such saucer eyes!

Birthday Party Game App

Toca Birthday Party has the same idea and even lets you shoot fun party poppers. Apparently you also put things away in the dishwasher after party planning goes well, so I guess there’s a lesson in there too.

The Yo Gabba Gabba Birthday Party is about a “super-fun party for Brobee’s fourth birthday” and kids help catch falling plates, find matching gifts, swing at a pinata and play party hat shuffle along with their favorite characters from the show.

Baby Panda’s Birthday Party creates “a warm and happy atmosphere” as you help celebrate Kiki’s birthday with cream cakes and donuts waving at you.

You might have noticed all of these games are toddler focused. Boo. I don’t see why an adult can’t enjoy birthday game fun too. My suggestion?

Birthday Balloon Blast. You pop birthday balloons in a Tetris/Candy Crush kind of way, but then once the level is complete you get to unwrap a present with a reward for the next level.

What interactive and fun game might you suggest that could be birthday themed?

Birthday Cards Welcome — Kids and Critters Edition

Last week I shared some of the more entertaining birthday card examples I found in a great stationary shop in Charlotte, Paper Skyscraper. Go if you have the chance. It’s a fun place to wander for cards, gifts, wrapping paper and books, too.

I didn’t want to overload you, so this week is the kids and critter edition. So much cuteness in this collection. Enjoy.

This juxtaposition makes me smile:



Oh, I was so this girl:


(Except there is no way I would have worn yellow shoes. Only did that once, for a play, and felt like I had banana feet).

Here’s for the cat lover:


And fun for fans of Happy Feet’s penguins:


But really, I can’t resist returning to the humorous cards that are more my style. This one is for the wine-lovers amongst us:

The favorite of this post is funny one likely targeting the friend you share too many Cosmos with:


OK, now having seen all of these, don’t you just want to head out to your neighborhood independent shop and actually find a paper, folded, card to sign, stamp and send to a birthday boy or girl?

In the future I plan to share some of the original cards I find in etsy shops. So let me know if you have suggestions. Plus, I’m always happy to check out a cool gift shop, so tell me if there’s one with a great selection of birthday cards that I can peruse and possibly share.

Birthday Cards Welcome

The trend these days is to post a birthday greeting on a friend or family member’s Facebook page or other social media — and that’s it. Yet there remains a minority of people who reach out in other ways.

I’ve written in the past about:

Today, though, I thought I’d share some of the actual paper birthday cards that I found at a Charlotte shop — Paper Skyscraper — to demonstrate the wide range of options out there if you took that extra step to send birthday mail. Yes, this could be considered a hint as my birthday is less than a month away!

This one is right up my birthday princess alley:


Then there’s this familiar take from the not-so-humble card sender:


I also appreciate the humor in this one:

Or this one’s pretty funny too:


But there is a plethora of even more risque ones that I don’t need on my mantelpiece:


The sarcasm of this one probably makes it my favorite of this gallery:


Look forward to the animals and small children collection of cards I’m sharing next week! In the meantime, there’s still time to take my crazy short survey on birthdays which I am using to non-scientifically sample people on my favorite day of the year.


Birthday Party Song Disruption

Those who read The Verge will know the publication regularly covers disruptive technologies and innovations. Much to my surprise, though, there was recently an article on a man seeking to “disrupt the Happy Birthday song.”

Of course, I had to read on. I expected I would want to be sarcastically dismissive (you probably did too if you’re a loyal reader of this blog). Yet, I like Greg May’s idea.

He has recorded thousands upon thousands of versions of a personalized “Happy Birthday” song he wrote. As of this writing, May’s YouTube channel, named 1HappyBirthday, featured over 310,000 videos for 31,479 different names.

The Verge reported: “All of the songs have been individually recorded by only two singers. The first singer quit after two years; the second, a part-time singer, has recorded nearly 20,000 of May’s birthday songs. Which, intentionally or not, makes her one of the most prolific recording artists of all time.”

May started out with his project by looking up the 400 most popular names in America and writing and recording his own birthday songs for those names. Now, though, he’s expanded internationally, and his site claims more than a million people have enjoyed a personalized birthday song.

The site announces: “It’s fun. It’s one of a kind. It’s wild. It’s catchy. It’s 1 personalized Birthday song just for your birthday.”

May himself told Verge: “Some people just hate it and write that the song is out of tune or ridiculous. Others write to me with amazing stories of how important the song was to them or a child or friend. I recognize that the song may not be for everyone [..] If taken too seriously, is just plain weird. But it also features a person’s name 10 times, so hopefully they like at least that part of the song.”

My own name was the most popular girl’s name in 1972, so I didn’t even bother checking the list for that. Instead, I searched for my niece Kiera. The song for the name with that spelling has a different pronunciation. I tried Kiara as well, but it is the Kiira version that suits. Good thing, because the request form actually says no more name can be added to the production list until 2017!


My niece turned 18 last month! This was her 10 years ago; I didn’t want to get in as much trouble for putting her picture on the blog!