Pandemic pets, I’m sure we’ve all heard this term in the past year. It’s a term that has been used to describe pets that were adopted during the pandemic while people were having to spend more time at home. Pet ownership surged during the height of the pandemic. Rescues and shelters all reported higher than average pet adoptions. According to PetfoodIndustry.com, pet ownership in US households rose to 70%.
In the past few years, the pet industry has reported a steady rise as people started spending more on their pets. I admit, I am one of those people. My dog Beauty is definitely spoiled. So, is it any surprise that in a world full of pet lovers, who now found themselves home more, that pet adoptions rose??
With people starting to return to the office though, what becomes of all these pandemic pets? Many people were home most of the day with their pets, rarely leaving their side. Now they have to return to the office, leaving pets home that aren’t used to it, potentially dealing with issues like separation anxiety, both in the pet and their fellow human counterparts. After spending all that time with their pets, spending months upon months bonding with each other, many owners are now worried about their pets and what returning to work could mean for them. As a result, more owners are starting to take their pets into consideration when looking at going back to work.
A couple of months ago we mentioned in Lessons Learned In This New Hybrid Online World how the majority of people don’t want to return to the office full-time. It has been found that this is especially true for pet owners. In an article from Time, a survey conducted of dog owners showed that 67% said they would look for a different job if their job no longer offered remote work, 78% said they would stay if they could bring their pets to work. This same article discusses another survey done by Banfield Pet Hospital that shows that a third of millenials and nearly half of Gen Z’ers would actually rather quit their job than be forced to leave their pets at home alone full-time.
As our economy finally starts to recover, we’ve all probably heard of the labor shortage and how employees have more bargaining power right now than they have in recent years. Did you know that one of the top worker demands are more pet friendly policies? Many workers want to be able to bring their pets to work, or at least be able to work from home more. As a dog owner and fellow pet lover, I can totally get behind this movement. Beauty will be 8 in February. I got her from a rescue in 2014, so well before the pandemic. She’s quite used to me working outside the home at this point, but she’s also a big mama’s girl so I have no doubt if I could take her to work with me she would be happy as can be.
It’s been well proven that pets help us in so many ways. From our mental health to our physical health. It’s been shown that pets can help our overall mood and increase our productivity. So why haven’t more companies implemented pet friendly policies?
The biggest reasons are insurance and liability issues. What happens if your dog bites another dog or maybe a human co-worker? This can be costly and potentially not worth the risk for some employers. Then there are your other coworkers. What if your co-worker is allergic to your pet? I know I’m allergic to cats, so I’ll never own one. I admit though, despite being allergic, I still pet them because they are cute and I just want to give them some love. The sneezing and itchy eyes are totally worth it to me, but that’s me. Other people may not feel the same if they are allergic. Plus, I’m just mildly allergic, so pop a Benadryl and I’ll be fine, but some people have severe allergies to pets. I knew someone once who was deathly allergic to cats and I also knew someone who would break out if they came into contact with a dog. Everyone is different and it can prove to be a liability for employers.
Those are the 2 big reasons, but then you also have people who maybe have a fear of cats or dogs for one reason or another. Or maybe they get too easily distracted by pets. Maybe pets annoy them. Or there are people out there who just don’t like pets in general. Why I don’t know. I mean dogs and cats are adorable, how can you not want to pet one??
Despite some of the reasons pet friendly workplaces aren’t ideal, the number of pet friendly places has been slowly increasing. The pet industry was already a billion-dollar industry pre-pandemic. We, as pet owners, were spending considerable amounts of money on our pets before the pandemic, during the pandemic, and we will be still well into the future. What the pandemic did was shine a light on this fact and made more businesses take notice. With changing office structures, more employee bargaining power, and pet owner’s deepening bond with their pets, change is on the horizon for more pet friendly policies and inclusion in the workplace.
As I typed this blog, Beauty laid curled up next to me on the couch, a smile on her face, pretty content. I have no doubt that if I worked in an office, she would be very happy and all about going with me to work, probably curling up under my desk.
Check out some of our other spark team member’s office companions:
Naomi’s office companion Polliwog
Tammy’s office companion Jazz
Christa’s office companion Stella