Welcome to Benefits on the Fringe, a new column from writer Jason McDowell. Every month, McDowell will cover the most unique benefits that today’s employers are using to woo talent, as well as advances and innovations in the employee benefits realm.

Among the myriad of fringe benefits businesses can offer their employees, holding frequent company-sponsored events is often considered one of the more frivolous ones. Many executives would rather see their employees with their noses to the proverbial grindstone than buy them pizza or send them to a fitness class, but the truth is that company-sponsored events help build strong teams, which lead to increased productivity in the workplace.

Some companies, like San Francisco-based architectural firm MBH Architects, make it a point to go the extra mile for their employees. MBH holds as many as 16 official events every year, ranging from a mason jar terrarium contest and a waffle-making competition to an art studio glass workshop, a recipe exchange, and a sandcastle competition and fundraiser.

Outside of the bigger events, the company frequently offers its employees yoga classes, chair massages, birthday parties, and staff lunches.

“Most of our events involve food,” says Renee Charland, director of human resources for MBH. “It’s a great way to entice staff to join in, but I like it when we have an activity that allows them to have fun and interact with folks they don’t work with on a day-to-day basis. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think our annual art show, which includes food and wine, lets staff show off their talents you wouldn’t otherwise know about.”

Get a Work Buddy

Many executives will look at MBH’s laundry list of goings-on and consider it all a colossal waste of time, but when you put your employees in social situations, they get to know each other. Friendships in the office make for happier employees, and as studies have shown again and again, happier workers are more productive. In addition, an employee who has friends in the office is less likely to quit. It’s harder to leave a friend behind than it is to leave a job, so hosting events that promote office friendships can be a bonus for retention efforts as well.

“It’s all about getting to know one another,” Charland says. “When you build social bonds, you know your coworker as a whole person and care about them. Once you care about them, you’re willing to help them, and you start to trust them, which is the foundation of any successful team. Teams can always accomplish more than a solo effort [can].”

Who Says Work Can’t Be Fun?

When one talks about corporate careers, images come to mind of cubicle farms filled with bored workers counting down the minutes until 5 p.m. – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Companies that limit themselves to one humdrum holiday party each year may find themselves suffering from a low level of employee satisfaction, but a little more effort can go a long way.

A few thoughtful, well-planned events can mean the difference between an employee who loves coming to work and one who dreads it.

“Sure, it’s still work, but why not make it a place you enjoy coming to everyday?” Charland says. “Companies have a choice, and the more they invest in their employees, the more the employees will invest in the company.”

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