The business of family: How corporate meetings and events are incorporating families and children

How corporate meetings and events are incorporating families and childrenIn this age of so much to do and so little time, employers have realized that they cannot ask their employees to give up their weekends or evenings to attend business meetings. In most families, both parents work and family time is sacred. For single parent families, the case is even more so. Children are away all day in either school or daycare, and in after school programs which parents are eager to attend. Weekends are all family hustle and bustle. So don’t even think of impinging on what little is left of family time.

As an enticement, more employers are inviting employees to include their families in company social activities. Summer and Christmas parties have now turned into family picnics, cruises, special events or barbecues. With the popularity of cooking shows, every member of the family has become keen to try their hand at rustling up a meal. Company cooking classes have been all the rage for several years now and still continue to be attractive. Employees no longer need to be catered to; they can now cook up their own fare for their colleagues and their families at the company barbecue. Companies even welcome the annual bring-your-child-to-work day.

A lot has changed in the past 50 years! Employees now have more flexible working schedules, can work from a home office and in some cases can even bring kids and dogs to work. A company daycare is not unusual. Children, and significant other programs have been around for a long time, as long as I have been planning meetings which is over 25 years. But instead of shuffling them off to do their own thing, companies are actually allowing the families to participate in the events. Christmas get-togethers in many cases carry an overnight component.

If money is going to be spent on accommodation, why not let the spouse and children reap the benefits? It generates a lot of good feeling between employees and employers and tends to show that the employer cares about the employee’s family time. Richard Branson has just commented that business should be treated as a family.

Planners may organize elaborate children’s programs, but now many resorts offer them as part of the all-inclusive package.

Some hotels have catered to families for decades by offering dining specials. Swimming pools, water and amusement parks are now part and parcel of many hotels. Over time, realizing that not everyone has the means to fork out large sums for hotel meals, the all-inclusive suite has become part of the hotel scene. Each suite or room will contain a kitchenette with all the necessary implements for cooking. Guests can purchase groceries either on site or before arriving, thus reducing their monetary outlay.

One of the neatest hotels for families that attract even the blasé teenager (and I am thinking of mine) is Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara. When my own teenaged son first saw it, he thought it was very cool and couldn’t wait to check out the waterpark, shops and restaurants, all geared to families. The dining options and on-site venues are very attractive. Girls have their own spa and beauty parlour. Kids can participate in wizardry activities or make their own stuffed animals. There is even a fun scavenger hunt set up through the resort.

A good number of business hotels have adapted their registration areas to cater to children. Moveable steps that can be easily moved to the counter or munchkin-high port holes built into the registration desk hide stuffed animals and other appealing objects. Older kids will be attracted to the entertainment centres with large screen TVs and computerized games.

People have less free time, less energy and less family time, so if an employer can be imaginative in making his or her employees happy, it will ultimately make them more productive.

Venue & Supplier Profiles