Our workplaces have seen many changes in the past year and with working from home becoming the norm for so many of us, this has meant swapping the company of our colleagues for the company of our cats and dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, or any other variety of pet we choose to keep at home.
National Pets Month, which is taking place throughout April this year, is a celebration of our furry, feathered and scaly friends and encourages us to consider the value of our pets and the ‘pawsitive’ impact they have on our lives.
For many people, spending more time with our pets whilst working from home has been a great benefit. Sitting at your desk with your pet curled contentedly at your feet or even in your lap has been a truly happy experience for many workers and has also meant our pets have enjoyed some company too, rather than a long day in an empty house whilst owners are at work. As many people prepare to go back to the workplace, we ask, what if pets could come too?
Pet-friendly offices increase office productivity
A study by the PDSA estimates that 51% of UK adults own a pet with an estimated population of 10.9 million pet cats, 10.1 million pet dogs and 1 million rabbits. This number has almost certainly increased since lockdown as many more people have added pets to their homes and as more people consider their work-life balance, the notion of taking pets to work increasingly makes more sense.
For businesses considering new ways to improve staff engagement, offer added benefits and adapt their company culture, adopting a pet-friendly work environment has significant advantages for both employers and employees alike.
Is a stressful workload making your blood boil? Well, a brief interaction with a furry companion can help diffuse that straight away, releasing stress-reducing endorphins and lowering cortisol, the stress hormone. Pet ownership is also known to help lower heart rate and reduce blood pressure whilst studies show that pets can help reduce anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and improve overall health.
Working alongside a pet helps to create a warmer and more pleasant environment generating opportunities for shared interaction which can help improve staff engagement, job satisfaction and ultimately, workplace happiness which in turn leads to better performance and output.
There are significant benefits too for reducing burnout and encouraging movement throughout the day. Working continuously without a break sometimes feels like the only option but taking a few moments to tend to a pet encourages workers to get away from their desk and regain focus. A short walk with the dog can help loosen up and prevent back pain as well as poor posture caused by sitting at a desk all day. Short, regular breaks also help prevent fatigue and can refresh the mind.
Putting pet positivity to the test, in 2019 Nestle UK published the results of their ‘Taking Dogs into the Office’ research to demonstrate that bringing pets to work increases employees’ performance and productivity and reduces employees’ intention to leave their job.
According to these findings, employees who take their dog to work report the following:
- Higher satisfaction with their work-life balance.
- Higher scores for their job-career satisfaction.
- Improvements in their general well-being and
- Greater levels of happiness and life satisfaction.
Paws for thought
It’s no wonder then that many more employers are considering allowing pets to join their owners at work whilst introducing pet-related employee benefits such as pet insurance but of course, there could be downsides too.
Employers should set out some basic guidelines taking into account the following:
- Get everyone on board – not everyone loves animals, there could be objections from other workers on the basis of fears or allergies.
- Health and safety – pets should be, vaccinated, house-trained and friendly.
- Be realistic – does the working environment support the safe introduction of pets?
- Try introducing pets slowly with a regular review of how well it’s working.
If you’d like to welcome dogs into your workplace but aren’t ready to commit to a pet-friendly policy, try it out for just one day with the UK’s next national Bring Your Dog to Work Day on June 25th.
Our experience @PSHR
Our directors here at PSHR both have pets beside them at home while they work.
Emma comments: “I love having Peanut, my Bengal cat, with me at home when I am working. He has his own chair next to mine at my desk which is much more comfortable than the one I sit on!
During lockdown he has become quite famous, making guest appearances during video conference calls. He likes to add in his opinion; he is possibly the noisiest cat I have ever come across. Most of the time he curls up in his chair and has a nap but he loves a bit of fuss and attention. It’s great having him next to me when I work.”
Paula has her dogs to keep her company –
“I have three dogs – Darcy, a chocolate Labrador, she is old and grumpy and just really wants to laze about all day. Ted, a Dachshund cross who is a great little character and my best pal. During lockdown we thought it would be a good idea to get a puppy and now have Rufus, a German Shepherd who is 10 months.
Working from home with three dogs is interesting. I love having them by my feet all day and they make sure I have at least one walk a day. However, they can be very noisy. If anyone comes to the door all three of them bark really loudly, the puppy seems to love the squeakiest toys and likes to play with them by my desk especially if I am on an important Teams call!
They scratch the door to come into my office and then within 5 minutes scratch the door to go back out. And then there is the flatulence! The smell is so bad sometimes, but you can’t let it show if you are on a call.
All in all, I love working with them by my side, but it is not without its challenges.”
If you are interested in exploring the pros and cons for welcoming pets into your workplace, PSHR is here to offer guidance and can help you create a bespoke written policy should you wish to introduce this as a company benefit. Give us a call on 01473 653000.