The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns saw many of us spending much more time at home with our pets and many others becoming new pet owners. Statistics from Companion Animals NZ showed that while cat ownership levels have remained pretty static, there was a significant jump in dog ownership in 2020. With many animal lovers missing their furry friends on their return to the office, the trend for companies to offer pet-friendly environments is growing.
A few forward-thinking global companies led the pet-friendly charge, with Google, Nestle, Amazon and Etsy among the first to offer their employees the option of bringing their fur babies to work. Now many other companies realise that pet-friendly policies can enhance recruitment and retention by offering a perk that might not be available elsewhere.
What are the benefits of a pet-friendly workspace?
There have been many studies on pets in the office, and they overwhelmingly find a positive impact.
1. Boosted emotional wellbeing
These past 18 months have been tough for everyone, and anything that boosts the feel-good factor is in high demand. A paper from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that dogs can offer social support and increase positive social interactions between employees. Multiple studies also found dogs can 'catch' their owners emotions.
2. Increasing productivity
The same paper found that having pets in the office could enhance performance. This finding was from a study where people with hypertension were assigned to pet and non-pet groups. Those in the pet group showed physiological improvements and performed better at arithmetic and speech tasks when they had their pets by their side.
3. They’re good for work-life balance
Having an animal in the office can be an excellent reminder to put things into perspective and take a step away from your computer when you need to. Taking the dog for a quick walk or pausing to play for a few minutes is great for your health and can help you return to the tricky project you’re working on feeling refreshed and calm.
4. Physical health benefits
The Human-Animal Bond Research Institute has conducted research that confirms that having pets around is suitable for your physical health. People who walk their dogs at least five times a week have lower levels of obesity, and pet owners, in general, make fewer trips to the doctor’s office. Having a pet-friendly workplace can offer physical benefits as well as emotional ones. Which leads to...
5. Fewer sick days
A study by Nationwide found 85 per cent of employees who worked for pet-friendly companies reported they rarely miss a day of work for wellbeing or recuperation, versus 77 per cent who work in non-pet-friendly workplaces.
6. Increased engagement
The same study found a massive engagement gap between employees who work in pet-friendly offices and those who do not. A whopping 91 per cent of employees at pet-friendly companies reported feeling engaged with their work, in contrast to only 65 per cent at other companies. What’s more, 83 per cent of employees at pet-friendly companies described their work as rewarding and exciting, versus 46 per cent in non-pet-friendly offices.
7. Better relationships between employers and managers
The Nationwide survey found that over half of employees working for a pet-friendly company reported a positive working relationship with their supervisor, versus just 14 per cent working for businesses that don’t welcome pets.
What are the drawbacks?
Of course, having pets around the office isn’t great news for everyone. People with phobias or allergies for whom sharing their workspace with a colleague’s pet pooch would be a nightmare. Suppose an organisation is thinking of making its office pet friendly. In that case, it’s important to consult with existing employees and ideally to offer a pet-free space for those who prefer not to be around animals during the working day. Other issues to consider are the cost of pet-proofing the office, potential health and safety concerns, and cultural differences in attitudes to animals.
I want to bring my pet to work – what do I need to do?
If you want to start bringing your pet to the office, but your company doesn’t have an official pet-friendly policy, you’ll need to talk to your manager. It’s essential to ensure your pet is adequately trained and insured before you think about introducing them to your colleagues in the workplace. Every workplace is different, and having pets around might not be feasible or desirable at your particular company. However, if you think it could work, it’s definitely worth having the conversation!
Find out more
Purina has a great toolkit of resources and information for workplaces that are just getting started on their pet-friendly journey. Check it out here.