Your colleague just announced his wife is pregnant. Or maybe your teammate just sent an email letting you know she’s expecting.
Either way, your co-workers start talking about possibly throwing the person an office baby shower. And yet you have so many questions about the protocol of the whole thing!
Don’t fret—we talked to several working parents and employees who’ve thrown one before so you’ll know everything you need to make the event worthwhile.
How Do You Even Know if You Should Throw One?
This is the ultimate question, right?
Well, after informally surveying 20 working parents, the answer varies. Some told me they were thrown one, yet they didn’t want it. Others said they were glad they had one. And even others told me they weren’t thrown one and wish they had been.
What I did discover is that if you’re really unsure if the person wants it, it’s best to ask. Because yes, surprises are fun, but they could lead to making someone uncomfortable, or point attention at them when they don’t want it, or highlight their pregnancy when they’d rather not get into specifics.
And doing this also ensures you throw the right kind of party. One of my co-workers who recently planned one was glad she brought it up beforehand because she knew the mom-to-be was more introverted:
Finally, it helps to know if the person will even be available that day.
Who Throws It?
At some companies, HR plans all celebrations—meaning they may take the lead on any baby shower.
But if this isn’t the case at your organization, it’s usually the person’s closest friend, manager, or direct report. If you fall into any of those three buckets and don’t want to do it alone, loop in the other two people listed in that sentence above and see if they’d like to work together.
Who Do You Invite? Men, Too?
This also depends on your company’s culture as well as the guest of honor’s personality. Like the above example, your colleague may be more introverted, and therefore, uncomfortable having a big, blowout party.
So keep the person in mind—do they tend to like attention, or shy away from it? Do they like to spend time with everyone in the office or only with a small group?
And again, it doesn’t hurt to ask—and in terms of whether or not you should invite your male colleagues, that’s also up to the person, what they’re comfortable with and who they’re close to at work.
Where Do You Have It?
If you want to have it in the office, make sure you’ve checked with your office manager to make sure you can reserve a spot. Of course, keep in mind if you have it at work, you’re more likely to exclude people who weren’t invited—which is why if you want to keep it small, go elsewhere.
The benefit of that is that going to a restaurant makes it feel less like a “work” event and more like a celebration.
When Do You Have It?
For the most part, baby showers occur before the baby is born so the parent can celebrate before they go on parental leave.
That said, make sure it doesn’t conflict with the parent’s schedule (both in and outside of the office), and also that the parent and their baby is healthy. Planning a party when they’re going through a tough period may do more harm than good (which is another reason to ask the person before you plan it).
And, if you’re having trouble finding the right time, it’s definitely not off the table to throw it after the baby’s born—after all, it’s better late than never!
Who Pays for It?
For most baby showers, teammates chip in collectively for the event. You shouldn’t expect your company to pay for it (especially if they haven’t in the past), but it’s worth asking HR or your own manager if there is budget for these types of events.
Can Dads Have One, Too?
Yes! In fact, we believe that celebrating soon-to-be-fathers is an important reminder to everyone that men are parents, too. With that said, all the same rules above still apply (namely, making sure the person wants it).
Yes, a few final notes:
Think beyond the party! You can still celebrate without making it a big deal by having the team pitch in for a nice gift instead. This is a great way to keep things simple and still show you care.
Make sure the event isn’t patronizing, inappropriate, or overly gendered.
Be respectful of the parent, their situation, and their decisions (also, because this is a work event, you should respect your colleagues regardless). This means staying away from games that can be insulting or presumptuous.
Keep conversations light and impersonal—and keep your parenting advice to yourself (even if you’re a parent yourself). The shower should be about celebrating the person and having some fun during the work day, not an “ask me anything” on being pregnant.
Baby showers can be an incredible opportunity to show your co-workers you care about them as more than just co-workers. Many of the parents I spoke with were pleasantly surprised and grateful for having been thrown one.
And, even pitching in on something on their registry or taking them to a nice lunch goes a long way in making them feel more at home at work.