Employee engagement: How to encourage a family-friendly workplace

Published on 08/02/2022 by Laura Burgess

Employers are now rethinking their family and employee engagement strategy due to the coronavirus pandemic and the digital age. In this article, learn more about how some companies in Australia are hosting virtual events and activities for employees’ children at home.

Employee engagement and activities for kids at home Australia

How do workers find the balance between work and home life? This question may be harder to answer nowadays when taking into account COVID-19 remote working, lockdowns, and school closures. The pandemic has blurred the boundaries for many employees across Australia as offices and schools have closed throughout different waves. Employee engagement practices have never been as important as they are now, with some companies implementing measures to help workers with families at home. Whether it’s by hosting online events for kids or allowing flexible work hours, organisations are rethinking how they incorporate family into their employee engagement strategy.

How are SMBs in Australia supporting employees with families working from home? How do they engage workers and their families? To find out, Capterra surveyed 302 employees who had been working from home with children for a minimum of one month during the pandemic. We wanted to know if employers offered activities at home for kids such as virtual events and how receptive families were. You can find the full methodology at the bottom of this article. 

The rise of family-friendly workplace culture

In Capterra’s first article in this series, we looked at whether employers have been supportive of parents working from home with children. A combined total of 90% of parents surveyed said that they feel supported by their company (38% said they felt ‘fully supported’ and 52% felt ‘somewhat supported’).

Definition of family and employee engagement 

Flexible work schedules, normalising children in Zoom meetings, and the allowance of time during the workday for parents to help kids study or exercise, were the top actions that employers took to support staff. Implementing these remote working measures not only keeps employees engaged in the company but plays a vital role in supporting a family-friendly workplace culture.

Unfortunately, only 10% of parents said that they have coped well with work-life balance during the pandemic with 3% saying they found it ‘easy’ whilst 7% found it ‘somewhat easy’. A further 43% of respondents said work-life balance has been ‘manageable’, which together highlights that over half of employees surveyed (53%) may have figured out what works best for their family’s schedule and routine. 

Bar chart showing how Australians find work-home life balance during the pandemic

Employees and virtual activities for kids at home 

66% of parents surveyed by Capterra said their child had participated in a virtual class or event during their free time, such as at the weekend or during school holidays, which wasn’t hosted by or related to an employer. Sydney Zoo, for example, holds live and private virtual tours for families and animal enthusiasts. According to Capterra’s survey, only 34% of the children of employees surveyed have never participated in an online event in their spare time. This highlights that virtual events and activities have been a popular tool for most parents as a way to keep their children entertained.  

Prior to the pandemic, it was common for some companies to have a ‘bring your child to work day’ or have on-site childcare facilities. During the pandemic, however, employer family engagement measures have become virtual. Some companies began to host online events or activities in order to boost the well-being of employees’ children.

Only 38% of employees surveyed by Capterra said that their company has provided virtual events or activities for their kids during the pandemic. Perhaps in Australia, this is still a relatively new concept for SMBs. Some companies in the USA have been getting creative during the pandemic and holding a ‘virtual bring your kids to work day’ or hiring local talent, such as a magician or yoga instructor for a weekly entertainment hour for employees’ children.

Pie chart showing whether companies provide virtual events for kids

We asked parents to select the online activities that they thought would be of interest to their children. The most popular choices included:

  • Virtual tours of museums, historical sites, or wildlife centres (53%)
  • Storytelling (49%)
  • Arts and crafts (45%)
  • Entertainment, such as theatre or a magician (44%)
  • Exercise classes (40%)

Benefits of family and employee engagement for SMBs

Of the 38% of employees that said their company has provided virtual events or activities for their children during the pandemic, 64% said that their kids ‘were really engaged and enjoyed them’. A further 32% said that their children were ‘distracted, but somewhat participated’, which shows that only a small minority of kids (4%) were ‘not interested at all’.

Capterra asked the 62% of Australians who said that their company didn’t provide virtual interactions for their kids how they think their children would respond if a variety of online activities and events were made available. Positive results show that 43% of parents said they think their children would enjoy them whilst 33% said it would ‘depend on what the activities involve.’ This highlights that there is a combined total of 76% of families who could benefit from this type of employee engagement if given the option.

Bar chart showing how parents think their children may react to virtual activities 

Incorporating family engagement practices in the workplace is beneficial for many reasons for SMBs. Hosting virtual activities, events, or workshops may entertain the kids whilst their parents work, but can also enhance employee retention. Employees may feel that their families are just as valued as they are by their employer, which in turn may encourage staff to have more respect for the organisation. It can also be a great way to reinforce company culture and values.

How companies host virtual events for kids

Cloud-based video conferencing services proved to be the popular way in which SMBs have been hosting virtual activities for families during the pandemic. Capterra asked respondents which platform their company had been using to provide online activities for their kids. 80% of respondents said Zoom, followed by Microsoft Teams (38%) and Skype (33%).

Did you know? Virtual tour software can be used to create a 360-degree view and realistic experience of virtually walking through an office, zoo, or museum, for example. VR software can be used to create fun 3D environments for interactive real-time games. Event management software can help organise online —as well as in-person— events and also manage ticketing for events.

The future of family and employee engagement in the workplace

A combined total of 92% of all employees surveyed by Capterra said they would find it beneficial if their company provided virtual events for their children when they are remote working. Within this group, 57% of parents said they would find it ‘very useful’ as they could get their tasks done, whilst 35% of people would find it ‘somewhat useful.’ The uncertainty of the pandemic means there could be local or regional restrictions or temporary closures of schools at any given time.

Pie chart showing how employees feel about virtual events for their kids

Did you know? Recently, 20 of Australia’s largest employers across different industries joined the initiative Family Friendly Workplaces, which was created by UNICEF Australia and Parents At Work. The scheme provides employers with best practices to build a more inclusive workplace culture for working parents and their children. Businesses that are interested need a minimum of 100 employees and will need to hit certain criteria before being eligible to achieve different Family Friendly Workplace certification levels.

A combined total of 86% of survey respondents said that they would like to continue having access to online events if they were provided by their company even if/when their kids are back in school. 35% of people said they would ‘use them daily after school’ and 51% of respondents said they would ‘sometimes use them’. Only 14% of parents said no to using them in the future because they prefer in-person meetups or outdoor activities. It seems that having access to virtual activities and events is appreciated by the large majority of parents and children.

Final considerations

If companies host virtual events or activities for employees with kids at home it proves to be beneficial, not only in keeping children entertained whilst staff work, but it promotes a family-friendly workplace culture. Even as children return to school, there is the unpredictability of the pandemic or general sick days, and the need for remote learning and working. Updating employee engagement practices to include children through online events and activities creates a meaningful perk for workers and may enhance employee retention. 

Looking for virtual event software? Check out our catalogue.

Survey methodology

To collect data for this report, we conducted an online survey in October 2021. Of the total respondents, we were able to identify 302 Australian respondents that fit within our criteria:

  • Australian resident
  • Employed full- or part-time
  • Parent who is or who has been working from home during the pandemic for a minimum of one month or longer
  • Parent who has a child(ren) aged between 0 to 18 years of age.
  • Parent whose child(ren) are/were remote learning during one point at least of the COVID-19 crisis.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the author

Content Analyst at Capterra, researching and giving insight on tech trends to help SMEs. Graduate of Bath Spa University, UK. Based in Barcelona after years of living in Australia.

Content Analyst at Capterra, researching and giving insight on tech trends to help SMEs. Graduate of Bath Spa University, UK. Based in Barcelona after years of living in Australia.


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