Happy unbirthday to you

Companies find creative ways for employees to let off steam

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Print this page by Gary Robertson
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Todd Morton recently celebrated his “unbirthday” at
Mi Casita in Virginia Beach. Photo by
Liz Hull, Customer Magnetism

Taking employees out to lunch on their birthdays is a common way for employers to show their appreciation for hard work. But sometimes birthdays don’t occur on convenient workdays.

That’s no problem at Customer Magnetism, a digital marketing agency in Virginia Beach, which has “unbirthday” lunches.


That’s right. The company says that each month its team goes to a restaurant to celebrate a random team member’s unbirthday, which is any day other than his or her actual birthday. (Remember the March Hare, singing “A very merry unbirthday to me,” in “Alice in Wonderland”?)

Customer Magnetism says it’s a way to get out of the office, have lunch and a few laughs. And, of course, no one is counting candles.

That is just one example of how many of Virginia’s best workplaces focus on ways to help employees reduce stress and bond for good causes.

CustomInk, an ecommerce retailer in McLean that lets customers custom design and order apparel, has theme days in which employees wear their favorite T-shirts or dress like their supervisors.

A lot of the fun at VHQC in Richmond also seems to center on clothes. The firm is an independent, nonprofit organization that primarily focuses on health-care quality assessment services.

For example, during warm months summer casual attire is the norm and when temperatures exceed 90, employees are advised to “wear your shorts” to work.

The company also hosts pajama day and a creative flip-flop contest.

Special outings and events also help employees feel appreciated. DPR Construction in Glen Allen holds an annual Decompression Day that gives employees a day to unwind and have fun together.

In 2012, DPR treated its Virginia administrative team to a spa day at a nice hotel.

GEICO, the insurance giant with major offices in Virginia Beach and Fredericksburg, has used barbecues, skits and dunk tanks to achieve a fun atmosphere.

PIEtech Inc. of Powhatan County, which develops financial planning software for financial advisers, has a pig roast cooked on site by employees.

Payroll in Roanoke celebrates Payroll Week and Customer Service week by having theme days — ‘70s dress-up, Western day, crazy mixed-up day — and sometimes there are bingo and pie-throwing contests.

NES Associates of Alexandria, an industry leader in analyzing  network performance and cost, lets its employees gamble the night away during an annual “Casino night,” in which winnings can be used to purchase prizes.

Games and contests of all sorts also are popular.

Definitive Logic, a technology firm in Arlington, has employees playing soccer, dodge ball and broomball, a broom-based version of hockey.

Duke Realty, which has an office in Alexandria, takes off the pressure with hallway putting contests and a Grand Prix remote-control car race.

Liberty Tax Service in Virginia Beach is known for employees dressed like the Statue of Liberty waving at passing traffic. Less known is the fact that employees write their job descriptions and are not subject to strict vacation and sick leave policies.

Community service helps employees bond at FinFit, an employee financial wellness firm, also in Virginia Beach.

The company is developing a charity internally called “It’s a Surprise,” that sponsors local shelters in staging birthday parties for homeless children.

Williams Mullen, a law firm in Richmond, also ties themed activities and events to community service projects, such as casting a “vote” with a donation to the Legal Food Frenzy, an annual event supplying the state’s food banks.

The dignified attorney receiving the most votes is honored with a pie in the face.

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