Office events can provide a break from the daily grind and improve staff morale. But the same old holiday party and summer mixer can get a bit predictable.

“Happy employees are typically engaged employees,” says Jennifer Britton, president of Potentials Realized, a coaching and training firm in Toronto. “The more you can do to keep employees happy, connected and feeling like they are part of the business and part of moving their work forward — you will see financial return.”

Holding creative staff events can keep employees feeling motivated and connected.

These tips can help you make your staff events more engaging for employees:

> Support the community
Make it more than just a party or social event by reaching out to your local community. Britton suggests volunteering at a food bank or linking up with a local community event such as a charitable fundraiser to bring some depth to the occasion. “The staff feels that they’re doing something really beneficial and it does have a pay-off in the local community, too”

> Make it a green event
Another way to include social responsibility in your staff event is to be environmentally conscious. Kendra Court, president of Toronto-based Gatherings Event Planning, says many venues are now LEED certified (a standardized measurement of a building’s sustainability), making it easy to hold a ‘green’ event, while products like bamboo utensils reduce the need for plastic. “A green theme is often a way to reinforce a company’s [environmental] mission and vision through the event.”

> Join a book club
Events don’t have to be restricted to office staff to be successful. Encourage team members to join an industry-related book club. So, instead of discussing the latest best-sellers in fiction, Britton says, members can meet with others in their area to talk about articles and books related to financial services.

> The team that cooks together…
If you usually have staff events at restaurants or by serving food, turn the tables by putting team members in the kitchen. Look up one of the many culinary studios and colleges across the country that allow groups to come in and work with culinary instructors. “You can bring in a management team, or maybe a team that isn’t functioning as effectively as it could,” Court says, “and put them in an environment where they’re forced to work together and create a meal.”

> Consider the end result
Whether you’re going green or creating a meal, to determine whether an event is worthwhile, think about why you’re holding it and what you hope to accomplish. Think about how the event will benefit the firm and the team.

Even if the function is very social, Britton says, you should ask yourself: “How can this link to our overall business objectives? What are the concrete things we want out of this? Are we hoping to build better communication or trust within your group?”

Tomorrow: More creative event ideas