I guess I’m from the old school because I can’t imagine going to a party of any kind without bringing something. It might be a little more difficult without all the comforts of home, but with a little thought and planning, anything is possible.
The first thing I’d bring would be birthday cards. That way after all the festivities were over the guest of honor would be able to find a quiet place and sit back to read all the well wishes from friends. Then I would get a head count since regardless of where a party is held, the last thing you’d want to do is run out of food or drinks. Then I would have to turn to the menu. I think I’d want to stick with something that could be enjoyed at room temp. You certainly don’t want to find yourself standing in front of the only or tiniest microwave you’ve ever seen trying to heat up lasagna one piece at a time because the only pan you had was made of metal. Depending on the time of year a nice salad in the warmer months is sure the please. If you are absolutely at a loss, do some checking ahead of time and find a local caterer.
Then there are drinks. That’s a tough one since you may not be able to serve anything even remotely spiked in some offices. And don’t forget dessert. Probably the easiest decision for any office party. Everybody loves dessert.
You should probably ask ahead of time about gifts. If it isn’t someone you know extremely well finding a gift that’s not too personal but still looks like you spent some time thinking about it is best. I’ve always tried to look around the person’s desk or cubicle ahead of time to determine their likes or dislikes. If I see a ton of family pictures, I usually go with that theme. Maybe a frame or some sort of keepsake item they can always have with them that they can personalize themselves with a picture. If I can’t get a feeling from what I see, I might ask a few questions of others who may know the guest of honor best.
I have to say, though, when all is said and done, knowing that others took the time to celebrate a special day in your life is amazing. To have that happen at work is even more special when you realize how crazy the average work day is. And when it’s all over, those birthday cards will decorate your space and be a constant reminder of everyone who was there celebrating with you.
Happy Birthday…and many happy returns.