We’ve all experienced that moment. Everyone in the office gathers around, the candles are lit in direct violation of office OH&S and your colleagues warble out an off-key rendition of Happy Birthday. To some, it’s an awesome moment; to others, it’s something to be avoided at all costs.


Whether you work in an office of health-conscious co-workers who reject ‘cake culture’ or in an organisation that gets pretty gung-ho about birthday celebrations, there’s no reason not to help make your work-mate’s birthday workday awesome.  


Birthdays only come around once a year and more often than not, you’ll be spending the better part of the day at work. To help avoid another case of the birthdaily grind, I’ve put together a few fool-proof ways to help make your colleague feel special (and minimally embarrassed) on their day of birth.


Desk decorating: Some people absolutely do not want to have their desk decorated. But if your work-friend likes a bit of attention on their big day, go for it! It doesn’t have to be over-the-top; a few streamers and a card never go astray.


Birthday desktop: Have an email waiting in their inbox with a ridiculous birthday photo attached and instruct them to change their desktop background to this photo for the day.


Off-site celebration: There’s not a human in the world that doesn’t like a low-key birthday lunch with their favourite work-friends. Take them to their favourite local place, pay for their food and have a lovely lunch break spending quality time with the birthday person.


Single-serving treats: Treats never go astray on birthdays. But some offices are overflowing with communal cakes, biscuits and lollies. Instead, bring in a mini birthday cake or grab a small box of luxe chocolate to leave on the birthday person’s desk. If you’re the DIY type, my Crazy Easy 15-Minute Cake for One is perfect!


Candles do the trick: You’ll be prepared for any work situation if you keep a stockpile of candles in your drawer. Whenever the birthday guy or girl is eating a snack, quickly dart over and stick a candle into it. That way everything becomes a birthday cake of sorts!


Think beyond the traditional cake: Cake is a wonderful thing. But there’s no rules around birthday treats! Suss out what kind of dessert or snack the birthday person loves and organise that. It could be an apple pie, chocolate-covered strawberries or even something savoury. Maybe your colleague loves the heck out of quiche… birthday quiche it is!


Gift-giving gold: If you bought a present for every work-mate, you’d go broke. But a handmade present costs practically nothing and means a lot more. Jot down 25 things you love about the birthday person or sketch an office-related cartoon about that ridiculous thing that happened to you guys in the kitchen last month.

Jo Power is the director of Melbourne-based greeting card company, Things by Bean, and the host of Happy Birthday Podcast.

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