By Stephen Burkhart, President of North American The Hoffman Agency

Sunny Smiles on Sunny Day—Hoffman employees enjoy a Friday afternoon off together on Cinco de Mayo. Off camera, there was a punchbowl of Margaritas to help enliven the day

The sun itself seemed to produce an overload of endorphins to go with the blue skies. We all had the afternoon off from work at The Hoffman Agency. Yet, a big question hung in the air as the springtime temperatures rose to a very pleasant 85 degrees in San Jose.

It was paradise already. Teammates from our Portland office flew in early that morning. And then there was the taco truck with authentic Mexican food and margaritas, salad and soft drinks, an outside area with umbrellas, plus a big park across the street. We had set the stage for the perfecto Cinco de Mayo office party.

But the big question put forth by the PR Council remained: “What is the business benefit of it all?”

“We’re just having fun,” was the initial answer we gave. “It’s not really any more complicated than that.”

But not to be put off, the question arose again, “What is the business benefit?!”

Meanwhile, we began devouring deeply spiced tacos one can usually only get deep in the heart of Mexico.

We were all properly fueled to bust open the piñata. Many blindfolded attempts were made to unleash the piñata’s spoils. Some swung low, some swung high, but even direct hits were met with the immovable force of a brick wall until a one-two punch opened up the piñata and the prizes found a soft landing in the grass.

Piñata Takes a Hit—Although resistant to many punishing blows, the piñata finally gave way and spilled its treasures onto the lawn. The candy was quickly gobbled up by the celebrants

Next was whiffle ball. Curve balls, fast balls, knuckle balls all came flying. No matter. Some who had never played baseball smashed line drives and sprinted the bases to frantic cheering. No one knew who won. In fact, the batters could often get six strikes before an out was called. The pitcher had as many balls as he/she wanted to. It all seemed to add to the fun.

A ping-pong-ball-on-a-spoon relay race followed. Three spins at the end, and then you were not only dizzy but properly across the finish line.

Three-legged Race—To stumble or find a harmonious third leg, that was the question for Hoffman team-building on Cinco de Mayo. Here the Hoffmanites hit full stride in an out-and-back race course. Reportedly, no one did a face plant

Next came the three-legged race. The older set claiming bad knees forbade them from the running until one of the VPs bound a bandana around his ankle with another, and they galloped to a second place finish with his younger teammate.

Inside the house the conversation was active. The extroverts continued to raise the roof with their energy and stories. Outside another game was in the works. The dogs properly whimpered and growled at our loud laughter.

But there’s that nagging question, what was the business benefit?

It just seems that if you have fun playing whiffle ball together and enjoying yummy food on an idyllic day, you can surely feel comfortable floating an idea at work or bringing up an issue. (“I am safe,” someone exclaimed from the whiffle ball game as she crossed home plate!)

I think our big social events of the year – Halloween, a big semi-formal Christmas party, Cinco de Mayo – all let us to be ourselves, our best selves. I think about the brilliant idea created for Alcatel-Lucent recently – the 7 things that were discovered by accident – as a way to pitch our event about the confirmation of the Big Bang theory. It was playful, it was riveting, it was creative genius and just downright funny, and it was definitely a culmination of team creativity. I doubt such a campaign could have happened in a more staid environment.

So that’s it, our creativity is better, the trust between us is heightened, we seem to enjoy being together as a team more.

We know how to run in unison and how to swing for the fences. We don’t have trouble with the curve ball.

And we think that makes all the difference in the world.

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