The HR Pet Press

Welcome to the HR Pet Press, a place to learn tips & tricks to keep your employees’ four-legged family members happy & healthy.

A New Work-Life Balance—Pets Included

If one thing is true of Americans, it’s this: We love our pets. Research reveals that more than half of households in the United States include at least one furry, feathered, scaly or finned family member, with the estimate reaching nearly 70% in a separate 2018 study co-sponsored by Nationwide® and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI)2.

Impressive as those numbers already are, they’re still on the rise with no signs of stopping. Pet ownership experienced a sharp uptick last year as people rushed to adopt companions during COVID-19-related lockdowns, to the point where some animal shelters were left temporarily empty. Overall, the number of pet-owning households has increased from 71 million 10 years ago to 85 million today, and 11 million of those households added a pet during 2020. As a result, odds are high that many of your employees are either new pet parents, or have recently expanded their families with an additional pet (or two).

Scratching at the home office door
While the advantages of having pets at work are well established, only about 8% of workplaces are considered pet-friendly4. This means that because of the increase in pet adoptions that came in conjunction with a massive societal shift towards remote work, vast numbers of employees have now had the experience of working with a pet by their sides for the first time. And despite the occasional interruptions from barking dogs and camera-hogging cats, they’re loving the benefits, which include:

Enhanced creativity—Taking walks can increase creative output up to 60%— a powerful perk for dog owners.5
Closer relationships—40% of pet owners report positive relationships with their supervisor or boss and 44% with their co-workers (compared to 14% and 19% of non-pet owners)2.
Decreased stress—Interacting with pets is proven to reduce anxiety and stress hormones, lower heart rate and increase feelings of calm6, which is invaluable no matter where work is getting done.

The flip side of all this, of course, is that eventually the majority of workers will have to make the shift back from working remote full-time to commuting to an office. Doing so will demand an adjustment not only on their part, but also for their pets, who may not remember being left alone all day, or—if they were adopted during the pandemic—may never have experienced it at all. When the time comes, your employees should be on the lookout for signs of distress or separation anxiety in their pets and take steps to reduce them. For example, instead of abruptly leaving home for a full eight hours, they can spend longer and longer periods of time away to help pets acclimatize7.

Take a chance on change
What if you and your company decide that you don’t want to return completely to the “old” normal? This transition period will also be a great opportunity to make the sorts of changes that can send your employee engagement and satisfaction through the roof. Maybe instead of requiring employees to work a full week in the office, you’ll offer a hybrid option that includes some remote and some in-person days, allowing them to keep spending quality time with their pets. Or, you might choose to join the organizations that allow pets in the workplace all or part of the time—a policy that can not only foster stronger relationships and increase retention among current employees, but also attract top talent for the future.

Whichever route you take, remember that your employees will be concerned about protecting their new pets’ health and handling the expenses of illnesses and accidents. Keep them informed about the coverage available through their voluntary benefits package, and you’ll help ensure a happy future for their whole families.