Dogs ranked highest at 94% to be allowed at the workplace, cats at 84%, fish at 36%, birds at 24%, and some positive support for rodents, reptiles, and amphibians as well
Owning or adopting a pet or more than one, has been an ancient practice among the human species. While the types of species that can be legally owned and maintained as pets may differ and vary according to a number of factors and demographics, pets and pet animals continue to evoke a strong sense of responsibility, emotion, and belonging to those involved. As the world continues to evolve and newer emotional and traditionally-driven trends take hold and gain traction, pet ownership is a trend seen holding out against a number of other practices and hobbies, and this is not limited to the old or young, but is evenly spread across individuals of almost all ages, and more particularly strong among millennials in recent times. Also, in most cases wherein a company announces that pets can be brought to work by an employee, what it really means is the rule applies for dogs only. In more recent times, companies seem to be welcoming employees with cats, fish, birds, and other animals.
However, while owning a pet might not have been a challenge for most people a few decades ago as pets were ideally owned or had been adopted by families or clans and extended number of persons. This cannot be broadly maintained for pet ownership currently as a pet is considered personal among a majority of persons currently and cannot have another master or multiple masters.
Moreover, while owning and caring for a pet could have been a combined or voluntary task of one or many in the household, taking a pet along to the workplace was something not widely practiced or encouraged in the past. This was possibly limited to animals that were doing some part of the work or working to bring in a fee or payments from observers in a circus or pet show, or from users of services provided by an animal or a beast of burden. Such traditional boundaries and limitations have been lifted in recent times and as pet adoption and ownership trends continue to grow and expand, workplaces are opening up to exploring new possibilities and outcomes. Companies also have mentioned that management feels a responsibility to respect and invest in people’s lives beyond their workstations. The workplace across sectors continues to steadily become even more employee- and pet-friendly, and more companies are encouraging employees to leverage and reap health and wellness benefits by bringing pets to work.
A key factor, which was predicted for 2020 in 2015, was that the number of millennials between 18 and 34 years old owing pets would greatly exceed that of baby boomers and also emerge as the largest pet-owning generation within three years since the prediction was made. One more key factor is that millennials were forecast to account for approximately 50% of overall workforce by 2020, and according to survey results have indeed reached those figures. This has also clearly shown that companies and establishments are left with no option but to remodel work models and workplace flexibilities as they would have to attract and retain those younger employees by also allowing pets into the office.
A sizable number of working individuals may have had pets, such as at least one in the form of a cat or a dog, or in some instances one of each and more, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. During the lockdowns periods and long durations spent in isolation and social distancing, a large number of individuals and couples opted to adopt a pet for personal reasons or companionship, and/or due to circumstances or situations that animals were forced into or fell victim to because a majority of animals in and around cities and urban areas were left or abandoned, or not being fed due to a number of genuine and unavoidable situations.
Those who were left in the lurch during the sudden lockdowns and were already pet owners or ‘pet parents’, gained new-found loyalty, respect, and appreciation for their furry friends. Those who had inhibitions or fears of animals or allergies and aversions towards hair, fur, and the various other things that come with small and large animals, may have acquired a new pet during the pandemic. Following the lifting of lockdowns and social distancing norms and companies began to wean their employees off the Work From Home (WFH) trend or remote working routine, a number of individuals were once again faced a problem after being in long periods of isolation and with limited human interactions, and had become more comfortable with the kind of companionship pets offer as well as emotional support such relationships have been known to create and nurture.
Those individuals and employees being left with no option but to rejoin active office schedules post lifting of the lockdowns – according to a number of surveys – were left with a number of anxiety and depression-driven conditions and symptoms. Even those being offered hybrid, flexible timings, or part-time work hours from office or co-working spaces were not entirely pleased or ready to make the transition away from WFH routine. Among some of the primary reasons for this reluctance was having a pet or pets at home or place of stay, not being able to leave pet/s in long periods of absence to attend office, unable to find pet sitter or reliable person to take care of pet on short notice, and a variety of others.
Responses from employees and employers, including HR and similar bodies in companies, had listed out a number of plus points that making the workplace pet-friendly had. Some general instances are provided below:
As per the LiveCareer study results, pet-friendly criteria and policies are being used by potential employees to justify level of commitment to a job they are contemplating taking and whether to take a job based on the related pet criteria:
While the responses related to having good pet-friendly policies and criteria in a company were positive as indicated above, below indicates how it affected their ability to make a decision if or if not available as an option:
Fortunately for a number of pet parents and owners, much before the pandemic and lockdowns itself, a number of companies had already been making waves with announcing the option of pet-friendly work environments and easing of older work culture norms. The trend emerged slowly and was only something whispered within a few major companies and brands, but was extensively discussed on social media platforms and vlogs and other once the ‘cat was out of the bag.’ This led to other companies taking a cue and soon many more were making it known that employees could bring their dogs to work. Some even allowed pets to be brought all the time and not just on one particular day. Some companies also went an extra mile and roped in third-parties to provide pet insurance and puppy parental leave, among others. With the pet-friendly norm gaining traction at workplaces, more companies and management began to focus on strongly highlighting that company is employee-friendly, as well as pet-friendly, simply because company understands health and wellness benefits such an atmosphere offered, and also to show flexibility of the ‘new possible normal/s’ post the pandemic and give and get the best from their employees.
Some of these beliefs can be drawn from research results or from surveys that indicate that pets are ‘tremendously good for your health, wellbeing, and even cognitive function’. It appears to be working positively for both parties, as indicated by steadily increasing number of workplaces clearly mentioning that pets can be taken along to work and companies advise employees to reap health and wellness benefits such work ambiences and settings offer despite variation in timing and work schedule. Also, some reviews and discussions have shown that potential employees look out for companies that offer the benefit of taking along a pet to work when necessary, or even as a full-time pet parent experience that many have with their respective ‘pet kids’.
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