When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to work remotely, our pets became our coworkers (and sometimes even our supervisors). They slept on our computers, flashed the camera during webcam meetings, and barked in the background of phone calls.
Yet when it came time to return to in-office work and leave the pets behind, many pet parents…didn’t! Instead, they chose to bundle Fido or Whiskers into the car and take them along. After all, who else will supervise?!
In our post pandemic world, taking your pet to work feels like it is increasingly becoming the norm. But are our workplaces really getting more pet friendly — and if so, why?
Have Pet Friendly Offices Become More Common?
If you’re wondering if more and more offices became pet friendly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the answer is yes, absolutely.
Many companies implemented new pet friendly policies post-pandemic as they coaxed employees to return to the office. After all, many of those employees just became new pet parents, after adopting an “isolation buddy.”
The office pet policy may not have been the only factor employees had in mind when considering whether to return to the office or continue working remotely, but it was definitely on the list.
Pet care website Rover ran a survey in October 2020 — with the pandemic in full swing — which indicated that up to a third of Americans adopted a new pet that year and 40% of pet owners were worried about their pets developing separation anxiety after they returned to in-office work.
Employers and businesses were well aware of their employees’ fears. A survey sent out by Banfield Pet Hospital found that “half of 500 C-suite executives would allow pets upon the return to the physical workspace, while 59% said they would allow more flexibility for workers who want to remain remote because of their pets.”
Those companies that did implement pet friendly policies at the end of the pandemic have found them to be popular and successful, and it’s not hard to see why.
What are the Benefits of Pet Friendly Offices?
Office pet benefits include increased productivity, reduced stress and greater employee satisfaction.
- Boosted productivity
It may seem counterintuitive to claim that pets boost productivity at work. After all, aren’t pets distracting workers with their antics? Aren’t employees forced to continually step away from their desk to see to their dog’s or cat’s needs?
Well, yes — and that’s exactly how they boost productivity! As one article puts it:
“Having a pet at work forces you to take short breaks throughout the day, which improves focus and limits distraction. Studies show that our brains can only focus at a high level for a maximum of about 50 minutes. To keep working at peak performance, it’s vital that we take intermittent breaks throughout the day.
In this way, your pet’s tendency to need to go out for walks and pee breaks will actually make you more dialed-in at work. A 2016 study conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital found that 67% of employees who took pets to work agreed that their pet made them more productive.”
- Reduced stress
We know that your pet is good for you, and that simply gazing into a pair of big puppy-dog eyes lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Bringing your pet to work means you and your coworkers can benefit from the health-boosting effects of your loving companion. Studies show that pets in the workplace reduce stress and loneliness — even among employees who don’t have pets of their own to go home to.
- Boosted morale
A furry friend makes you happier — and science can prove it! Petting a dog or cat or simply gazing into their eyes causes our brains to release the hormone oxytocin, giving us that warm, fuzzy feeling.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that office pets boost morale. Having a frustrating day? Listen to the kitties purring until you calm down. Didn’t close the sale? The dogs still love you!
Let’s be honest — it’s hard to stay sad when a goofy dog comes scrambling through the hallway in a mad dash after a squeaky toy.
- Boosted communication
Picture this: A dog slinks past your office door, carrying a muffin wrapper they obviously raided from someone’s garbage. You pursue the sheepish pooch and find out he belongs to Michael from Graphic Design.
You return the dumpster-diving dog to his owner, and inevitably get to chatting with Michael about the cool project he’s working on. By the time you’ve returned to your office, you’ve exchanged some exciting ideas for cross-department collaboration — and promised to stop by again sometime to pet the dog.
There’s nothing far-fetched about this scenario. As companies grow and teams become increasingly compartmentalized, most communication happens through the limited medium of email. One of the huge advantages of having pets in the workplace is that quite simply, animals give us an excuse to talk to each other!
Pets are the perfect icebreakers, their very presence inviting animal-loving employees to ask each other questions and share stories in return. And once the lines of communication are opened, ideas can freely flow.
Come to think of it, maybe the naughtiest dogs in the office should be thanked. After all, their antics bring people together — in pursuit!
- Boosted collaboration
Psychology studies have shown for a while that we generally perceive people with pets to be more trustworthy. It seems that this effect even translates into the workplace.
At least one study demonstrated that simply having a dog in the room while several colleagues were working on a group project made everyone more relaxed, more friendly and more willing to trust each other. This in turn led to increased willingness to cooperate and compromise.
How’s that for Fido’s contribution to the company?!
- Higher retention
Studies show that maintaining a pet friendly office improves employees’ loyalty to the company and overall employee satisfaction. A pet friendly policy also helps to attract new people, especially Millennials — a generation that makes their fur-kids’ wellbeing a top priority.
One survey ran during the pandemic by Banfield Pet Hospital reported that 76% of Millennials owned animals, and 38% were worried about their pets experiencing separation anxiety. One-third of Millennials even claimed that they would consider looking for another job post-pandemic if their workplace was not pet friendly.
For all these reasons, pet friendly office jobs will certainly become more common every year. This is especially true when companies look to hire and retain Millennials, as members of the biggest pet owning generation are very attracted to pet friendly offices.
Are There Any Downsides to Pet Friendly Offices?
There are three main types of issues that may arise from opening up the workplace to welcome Fido and Fifi.
While it may be hard for us pet parents to believe, some employees or guests may not be a fan of the new office pet policy. People with allergies, phobias or who simply aren’t animal lovers won’t be happy with a slobbery hound wandering into their cubicle throughout the day.
Fortunately, there are ways for pet friendly offices to accommodate everyone’s needs. Pets may be restricted to certain areas or days of the week, or non-pet-loving employees may be allowed to work from home.
An office with pets will also need to take extra steps to ensure cleanliness. Wherever there are pets there’s the chance that accidents will happen indoors, or that one of your furry pals will raid a garbage can.
It’s important that your office have a designated location nearby for puppy potty time (or even better, a doggy door to an enclosed outdoor area). As long as there are clear and consistent policies, ongoing supervision of pets and agreed-upon obligations on the part of pet owners, cleanliness doesn’t have to become an issue.
Allowing pets into the office also opens up the risk of “interpersonal conflict” between the pets themselves. For example, while some cats wouldn’t be fazed by an office full of dogs, many others would be stressed and unhappy. Any frightened or overwhelmed animal may try to defend itself, which could leave a too-curious pup with a scratched nose.
Even a “dog-friendly” dog may not like all dogs — after all, human-friendly humans don’t like all humans! If your Lab just doesn’t get along with your coworker’s Collie, you may have to work out a solution involving separate spaces or alternating days.
Ideally, all pet friendly offices will have at least one employee who is knowledgeable and experienced in animal behavior and training. They can advise on how to minimize disagreements and ensure a harmonious workplace gathering of four-legged friends.
Managing a pet friendly office definitely requires a bit of creativity, flexibility and patience, but most employers who institute a pet friendly policy find that the benefits of having an office full of furry companions far outweigh the potential challenges!
Try it Out on Take Your Dog to Work Day
Obviously, not every workplace is cut out to be pet friendly. You’ll never be allowed to let your dog wander through a restaurant kitchen or construction site — for good reason.
But, if you do have a “typical” office job and management has not yet seen the pet friendly light, now’s your chance to make the case to your boss for a pet friendly office!
In addition to the aforementioned benefits, point out that adorable office pets are fantastic for marketing and PR. You could share photos of your office pups on your company’s website, social media and holiday cards! This increases the outside perception of your company as a happy, fun place to work.
It also shows that your business is run by trustworthy, responsible people who take good care of their pets — and as savvy salespeople know, anything that boosts trust, boosts sales!
If your boss still needs convincing, see if they will agree to let dogs into the office for a one-day trial run.
That’s when Take Your Dog to Work Day comes in. Held on the Friday following Father’s Day each year, this is a day dedicated to the benefits of a pet friendly office and encouraging employers and employees to give it a try. This year, it’s on June 24th.
Is My Pet a Good Office Pet?
If your boss does agree to a trial, the next step is to ask yourself if your precious pooch would thrive as a company representative. To be a good office pet, your best furiend must be healthy, up to date on vaccinations, spayed or neutered, and reliably potty trained.
The best office pet will also be friendly with other people and animals, confident enough not to stress out in the new environment, and well behaved enough that you can call them away from trouble. Even though it’s an unfamiliar place, try to anticipate based on what you know of your pet’s personality if they are likely to spend the day exploring, stressing or snoozing.
If you honestly don’t think your pup would be happy in the corporate environment, don’t worry. It’s still worthwhile to make the argument for a pet friendly office. Some of your coworkers are bound to take advantage of it, and then there will be other dogs or cats roaming around the office that you can spoil. (And you won’t even have to clean up after them! Win-win!).
If you do think your pet is a good candidate for a coworker, there are a few key steps you can take to make sure Take Your Dog to Work Day is a success. Try to anticipate and prepare for your pet’s basic needs as well as for what could go wrong, and be willing to be flexible throughout the day as you discover what works (and what doesn’t).
If you have a great experience and your workplace allows it, you may even want to make the arrangement permanent! There’s lots of creative office pet ideas out there to make both you and Fido comfortable in your space. Set up a little bed or petsafe area under your desk for your pup or cat to chill with you during the day — in between playing with their new friends, of course.
In fact, you may even want to look into buying an office chair or desk that comes with a built-in pet seat. That’s right, the future of work is truly pet friendly!
Pet friendly offices became a necessity for many businesses after the pandemic as a way to entice pet-obsessed Millennials back into the office. But with many proven workplace benefits such as increased productivity and improved morale, it’s obvious why the pet friendly trend is not slowing down.
So if you can’t take Fido to work with you just yet, you may be able to someday soon. After all, as all pet parents know…keeping our beloved fur-babies happy is why we work so hard in the first place. Someone has to keep the pantry well-stocked with the delicious food and treats our pets deserve!