Professional (and fun) ways to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday

You see your co-workers every day, so they can sometimes feel like a big part of your life. When work friends' birthdays roll around, it's only natural to want to celebrate! Of course, you're still confined to the restraints of a professional setting, so the way you'd celebrate with other friends may be out of the question. With that in mind, here are some office-appropriate ways to shower your co-workers with birthday wishes:

Bring in treats
Whether your work buddy loves bagels or has a sweet tooth, you can bring in something special to share on his or her birthday. Stop at a local doughnut shop on the way to the office, or have an afternoon snack delivered – just make sure it's a surprise!

If you really want to go above and beyond, order a cake ahead of time that features a birthday message. However, refrain from singing "Happy Birthday" in common spaces where others are working – avoid being a distraction by moving the festivities into the break room or a conference room.

Give a card
Gifting birthday cards is a low-pressure way to celebrate a co-worker – especially if your work friend doesn't like getting a lot of attention. Plan ahead, and have others in the office sign the card, covertly, of course.

Additionally, because you're in the workplace, you should take certain precautions with the messages you write. For instance, do not mention the person's age or make age-related jabs, like saying he or she is "over the hill." Also avoid cards with religious or sexual connotations. These things can be misconstrued as discrimination – avoid the HR frenzy altogether, and stick with a simple "Happy birthday!"

Get lunch
While your company can't foot the bill for a birthday lunch, going out as a team can still be a fun way to not only celebrate, but also break up the work day. Find out your co-worker's favorite restaurant or type of cuisine, and plan an outing around that information. Your team can enjoy a nice meal together – that means you'll get bonding time and ensure your co-worker's birthday is special!

This lunch outing can be either a surprise or something you plan with the birthday man or woman. If your co-worker isn't one for surprises, the latter may be your best option.

For co-workers who enjoy a little birthday attention, decorations are a great way to show appreciation. Of course, stay away from anything that can be construed as a prank – covering his or her desk in sticky notes may send the wrong message. Rather, hanging a happy-birthday sign on the edge of the desk, or even sprinkling a little confetti, can be festive and (relatively) easy to clean up.

If decorations aren't common in your office, ask your manager or HR professional whether these things are allowed by your company policy. Most likely, you'll get a "Go for it."

Follow your office tradition
Do people in your office generally celebrate birthdays with cake? How about a game of foosball in the break room? Whatever is common in your company could be the perfect way to celebrate your work friend. Treating everyone with the same enthusiasm ensures that no one is left out when his or her birthday roles around. Be equal and fair.