Paws for Thought

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association, a total of 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic. That means the country now has 17 million pet-owning homes and there are both pros and cons to these stats.

Work at Home Companion

There is no denying that the pandemic has increased stress levels for many people. Some ways that we can reduce the bad stress and increase the good involve creating routines, rituals, and boundaries as they help to keep you grounded. 

In a typical work environment, we usually have a routine of starting, finishing and taking a lunch break at set times, all whilst chatting with teammates about the latest film or show they have seen. Currently, due to the pandemic and high level of home working, most of these moments are, at the very least, far less defined. So, a kitten, puppy, rabbit, or even a snake, creates a natural source of routine, ritual and as anyone who has owned a puppy will know, you need to set boundaries!

Do Not Put Yourself in the Doghouse!

The realities of pet ownership are dawning on many as the UK's lockdown eases and animals taken on during lockdown, now need to be left at home and looked after. Pet cameras and activity trackers are flying off the shelves, demand for anti-chew sprays, automatic feeders, and pet water fountains has rocketed, and dog walkers and sitters are being inundated with enquiries.

Some owners have turned to subscription services that provide music and TV programmes designed to help dogs overcome anxiety, loneliness, and boredom while they are home alone.

Pets in the Workplace

The pet boom caused by the pandemic may increase the demand for pets in the workplace policies. Many big-name companies, like Google, Amazon, Etsy, and Bark &Co., lead the pack in pet-friendly office policies. However, creating a pet-friendly office should be a carefully thought-out decision.

Let us be clear, having a pet-friendly office is not the same as having team members with support animals. Service dogs are trained to perform a specific task to assist their owner with a disability and are legally allowed in places where your average pet is not. 

Must Love Dogs

Millennials comprised 35% of the UK workforce in 2020. They bring wants and needs which differ significantly from those that came before them and hold more bargaining power than ever before in the labour marketplace. There is no doubt the newly dominant generation is influencing significant trends in the workplace, from prioritising company culture to placing increasing value on work-life balance by embracing flexible hours and remote work opportunities.

In 2017, millennials made headlines when a survey from Sun Trust showed that owning a dog had a more significant impact on millennials' home-buying decisions than either marriage or children. Therefore, it is no surprise that the trend of pets being welcomed into the office shows no sign of slowing down.

No Pets Allowed

Presented with the opportunity, due to working from home, the temptation to buy or adopt a furry friend during lockdown became strong. Unfortunately, around 40 pets a day are being abandoned across England and Wales, according to the RSPCA, and they fear more people losing their jobs will mean fewer will be able to afford to keep their pets.

The firms who have kept their employees during the pandemic will see an increased demand for accommodations for pets. Will employees ask for alternative hours that work around their pet's needs or will pets in the office become a standard wellness initiative?

If you need any help or guidance with policies, procedures, or return to the office advice, please contact me at lfindlay@ihrsolutions.co.uk, call direct on 07874 4860814 or call our helpline on 01604 709509.

Connect with me on LinkedIn or visit our website.

About the author

Laura is a HR professional with 20 years’ experience with Financial Services, the majority of which has been within insurance and reinsurance.  She has UK and International HR experience.

In her role with UKGI Group, Laura works with Katherine Watkins, Head of HR Consultancy and provides objective support to firms on employment law and HR issues. She uses her interpersonal skills, knowledge and experience to work with firms to help them develop strong and resilient HR strategies and establish healthy organisational cultures.

Laura is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). She holds a Diploma in The Professional Development Scheme.

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