A trend within the pet industry that has been gaining rapid popularity and growth ever since the pandemic has been the incorporation of pet-friendly policies in workplaces, with more companies opting towards embracing a dog-friendly environment in the office. The pandemic was a period of time that caused stress and uncertainty among the vast majority. Not only did it uproot the lives of millions of people, but it had a tremendous impact on mental health, the economy, and society as a whole. In addition to learning how to navigate the uncharted terrains of a global pandemic, the absence of physical contact and social interaction with friends and family due to social distancing also posed a challenge.
However, one thing that has kept people productive while working from home and helped lift their spirits, if only a little, was—you guessed it—pets! According to a survey conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), nearly 1 in 5 households—which is approximately more than 23 million American households—acquired a pet during the pandemic. People had turned to pets for emotional support and to ease their feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, which all had been accelerated by the pandemic. They found comfort, positivity, and companionship in their pets who greatly impacted their lives and played a role in how they coped during lockdowns. Whether it be a dog, cat, bird, or other type of pet, many individuals have bonded deeply with their friendly companion during an otherwise lonely time.
People have become more attached to their pets than they may have been pre-pandemic. With COVID restrictions lifted and as people find themselves returning back to the workplace—as opposed to virtual settings—many have found it hard to leave their fur babies at home alone after getting through one of the most difficult periods of their life together. In fact, they want to bring their fur babies to work! Why? Well here are a couple of reasons!
- Many are worried their pet will experience separation anxiety.
- Pet owners believe having their furry friend at work will make them more productive.
- Their pets can help keep them calm during stressful work days.
- It would make them happier!
For other pet parents, many of them were having difficulties finding pet services such as daycare, pet sitters, and dog walkers, that were not only available, but of quality and affordable as well.
That being said, many pet-owners began to consider the pet-friendliness of their company prior to returning back to work—and employers alike are considering allowing pets in the office!
The demand for pet-friendly workplaces is steadily increasing
The incorporation of pets in the office is not a new thing. In fact, the trend of pet friendly workplaces began long before the pandemic. Companies such as Salesforce, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Glassdoor, and Etsy are no strangers to allowing your furry friend to roam the office, with some having already established pet-friendly policies in the 1990s and others in the early 2000s/2010s. Below are a few pet-friendly companies that you may already be familiar with!
However, ever since the pandemic, pet-friendly workplaces are becoming increasingly common and more mainstream due to the rise in pet ownership during lockdowns and the challenges faced by pet owners post pandemic. Employees’ mindsets have changed in terms of how they think about their companies, their careers, what it means to them, and most importantly—how it all fits in the overall picture of their lives. Therefore, the increasing demand for pet-friendly companies is a reflection of the shift in employee attitudes towards the inclusion of pets in the workplace.
According to data collected in a survey administered by Vetster, people are making significant life and career choices with their pet in mind! According to the survey—which recorded data from 2,000 respondents—60% of pet owners have actually left a job of theirs in order to seek out a workplace that is more pet friendly. This is a sentiment that is widely shared among young people, such as Gen Z and Millennials who would rather quit their jobs than leave their precious pets’ home alone. If that’s not enough to show pet owners’ commitment to pet-friendly policies as one of their criteria for choosing a job and how devoted they are to it, 70% of the respondents even expressed their willingness to accept a pay cut if that meant they can bring their furry friend to work.
More so, in another report done by Rover—a pet care services company—74% of pet owners reported feeling more loyalty towards dog-friendly companies, with 59% of them stating that being able to bring their dog to work is a better motivator to return to office than other benefits like catered lunches, free snacks, or faster internet. It makes them feel more excited to go back to work!
How are pets perceived in the workplace?
The presence of pets in the workplace is said to help improve happiness in an employee’s professional life, as well as help foster relationships between their employer and other co-workers. They are perceived as being mood boosters! For many employees, they feel elated when pets are in the office. Not only does it make them feel happy, but it also improves their overall work day. Pets in the workplace can help to reduce stress, enhance job performance, and improve employees’ overall health and wellbeing. On the other hand, the perception of pets in the workplace is that they might make the office appear less professional, unsafe, and less clean.
Companies need to make sure they keep all employees in mind when considering pet-friendly policies. They have to accommodate for all of their employees—not just the pet owners. Allow for them to be a part of the decision-making process and express any concerns they have. Companies may find that some employees aren’t too happy with pets being in the office due to possible phobias or allergies they have. Not to mention, not everyone is a dog/pet person. Some may view it as a distraction, especially with having to care for and clean up after them which can possibly cut into their work time.
Keep clients in mind as well! Will clients be ok with it? For more formal companies, this may not be something they want to consider. How big is the office space? Will pets be roaming around freely? How will you handle complaints? What are the safety requirements for bringing a pet into the office? These are questions that businesses should be asking themselves if they want to ensure the retention of valued employees.
How companies can respond to the needs of pet-owning employees
In order to meet the needs of pet-owning employees, many company executives are considering implementing pet-friendly policies within their business structure. According to a survey by Banfield Pet Hospital, 59% of c-suite executives stated that they will allow pets in the workplace due to employee requests, while 42% said that they want to entice their workers back into the office through the implementation of pet-friendly policies which can help increase employee retention. Not to mention, many of the executives are understanding of how much time their employees spent with their pets during the pandemic.
For companies that are considering implementing pet-friendly policies, there are a number of things they should put in place to ensure that incorporating pets in the workplace is beneficial to everyone! Let’s take a look at some tips and suggestions that can help make this an enjoyable experience.
- Ensure that pet supplies such as toys, treats, cleaning products, and more are available. Consider designating a certain area of the office for the pets to get acquainted with their new environment.
- Make sure pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations.
- Keep employees informed and educated on the responsibility of pet care and be sure they are aware of any rules or procedures set by the company regarding their pets.
- Make sure pets are healthy and appropriately trained. For example, make sure they get proper grooming and veterinary care.
- Emphasize the importance of practicing good hygiene! Ensure that employees are regularly washing their hands and keeping their space clean.
If companies find that allowing pets in the office is not a feasible option, they should consider pet-friendly alternatives! Some of these alternatives include offering discounts for pet insurance or even hosting happy hour at a dog park.
Benefits of Having a Pet in the workplace
In addition to employee retention and the attraction of new employees who are seeking a more dynamic and accepting company culture, there are many other benefits of having pets in the workplace. As touched upon earlier, pets can have a calming effect on people that can help to reduce blood pressure, along with any stress or negative feelings associated with tedious work days. They are able to brighten the atmosphere of the workplace and enhance the employee experience. The addition of pets is also a benefit because it provides a more welcoming workplace culture! For one, pets can act as icebreakers—improving interactions between coworkers and facilitating better communication. In a Vetster survey, reports found that two-thirds of respondents credited new friendships at work to their furry friends! Along with improving employee productivity, pets can also help to boost creativity as well.
Companies also realize there can be benefits for them as well if they allow pets in the office. Some executives have even reported seeing benefits within their organization when they incorporated pets into the workplace. In the Banfield Pet Hospital survey, 67% of executives said that they saw an increase in socializing between employees when pets were around the area, while 41% reported that they noticed employees were more willing to stay later at work. Furthermore, 24% even stated that employees seemed happier to be in the office!
Overall, pets can help to keep positive attitudes and energy in the workplace!