In the UK, we’ve always been a nation of animal lovers. I’m sure I’m not alone in expressing the deep respect and privilege it is to look after any animal – in my case three large, exuberant 32kg dogs.
I see the custodial relationship as a privilege and there is no reason why the joy that is shared between dog and owner cannot be transferred from the living room to the office.
As a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic, and working from home that came with it, there has been an explosion in pet ownership. The latest Pet Population data produced by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association shows 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, now contributing to the 34 million pets in the UK across 17 million households.
As workforces start to readjust and return to offices, the consequences for our new family members – whether these be long haired, short haired, fluffy, furry, winged or scaled – could be catastrophic.
With interest rates rising and the cost-of-living rocketing, many people may not have fully considered the long-term commitment and responsibility required as a pet owner, or how they will care for their pet in a post-lockdown world.
While still slightly controversial in the UK, there is a growing trend emerging in the US where companies are starting to offer pet-friendly office environments and creating pet orientated policies.
You don’t need to scroll too far in your social media feed to see an image of someone with a dog at their desk. And while not without its challenges, bringing your pet to the office can be far more than a marketing gimmick used to lure in new employees.
There are some clear advantages to be gained from welcoming four-legged friends into a working environment. As companies encourage employees back to the office after what has felt like forever, dogs and other pet-friendly environments can help ease the transition back to desks.
Loneliness, stress and anxiety are issues for many, pet owners or not. Dogs offer comfort and companionship which can help reduce this stress. Acting as an interesting topic of conversation, they can break down social barriers both in and out of working environments.
They can also quickly improve our physical health in the workplace. A sedentary lifestyle as a direct result of sitting too often can bring about a host of health risks including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and dementia. Often, we get so busy at our desks that we don’t even realise how much time has passed – negatively impacting our mind and body.
Dogs offer opportunity to change tact, both mentally and physically, forcing us to get up and take them outside for a quick walk – re-enforcing daily routines, promoting exercise and reducing workplace anxiety.
Embracing pets in the office can offer sociable bonding time between colleagues while adding elements of flexibility to the workplace. Pets bring joy and companionship, which in turn can have a positive impact on employee productivity, staff retention and working culture. It also keeps dogs active and sociable, allowing them the opportunity to mingle with their human and canine companions.