Creature comfort: Most bosses open to workers bringing pets to the office after COVID-19

NEW YORK — Is COVID-19 making the world a pet-friendlier place? A new study finds six in 10 companies plan to be more flexible in a post-pandemic world, especially when it comes to making sure Americans’ pets don’t get lonely throughout the day.

A survey of 500 C-suite executives reveals 59 percent personally plan to allow more flexibility for employees wanting to work remotely with their pets even after offices reopen. When asked about future trends, 72 percent of C-suite executives expect more workplaces will be pet-friendly after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growing importance of pet-friendly workplaces

Commissioned by Banfield Pet Hospital and conducted by OnePoll, the survey also polled 1,500 dog and cat-owning employees to gauge the desire for having their furry friends at work with them. Three in 10 of those employees have adopted a new cat or dog since the start of the pandemic. It’s something C-suite executives say they’re keeping in mind. Researchers discovered millennial and Gen Z employees are the most likely to have adopted a new pet since last March. They are also the most likely to say they’re planning to reach out to their employer to request a pet-friendly policy when they return to the workplace (48% and 71%, respectively).

Overall, 63 percent of employees in the poll said the increased time at home has made them think more about how pets can fit into their workday. Another 57 percent said they’d be happiest returning to work if they could spend the day with their pet by their side.

For those respondents, the top concern for returning to work is fearing their pet may face separation anxiety if left home alone all day (38%). However, respondents don’t only want their pet at work to benefit their four-legged friend. In fact, 23 percent said they’d be more productive with their pet as a desk mate.

What if your pet can’t come to the office?

If they’re not able to take their pet to work with them, one in five employees (21%) — including one in three Gen Zers and one in five millennials — are considering rehoming their pets. The good news is 32 percent of pet owners surveyed said they have recently reached out to their veterinarian for advice on making the transition back to the workplace easier on their pets. Another 45 percent are looking into services including dog walking and daycare once they are away from home.

“We understand that pet ownership is incredibly rewarding, but it also comes with its challenges. Our goal is to not only be there for the tail wags and snuggles, but also to help prevent issues wherever and whenever we can,” says Molly McAllister, chief medical officer of Banfield Pet Hospital, in a statement. “If pet owners are feeling overwhelmed or have questions or concerns, in addition to taking care of your pet’s health, veterinary teams can advise on all aspects of caring for your pet to help ensure pets and their families stay together.”

Workers and pets are a package deal now?

With remote work top of mind for many employers, the survey asked C-suite respondents what encouraged them to consider more flexibility for employees with pets. It turns out it’s something employees continue to actively request. Of those who worked in an office pre-pandemic, 23 percent of pet owners have already reached out to their employer requesting they implement a pet-friendly policy and another 27 percent plan to.

Nearly half of Gen Zers and a third of millennials say they would consider looking for another job if their workplace was not pet-friendly after the pandemic. With that in mind, 20 percent of C-suite executives planning to allow pets in the office say they hope the move will increase employee retention.

For the 48 percent of executives who were pet-friendly before the pandemic started, 67 percent noticed increased socializing in the workplace and 42 percent saw increased productivity amongst staff. Furthermore, 31 percent saw increased employee retention and 24 percent noticed happier employees in their offices. Many also said employees were more willing to come to work when their furry friends were invited to come along (61%).

“We’ve seen the human-animal bond only get stronger during the pandemic, and it’s no surprise that owners are thinking about how they can best be here for their pets when they start to spend more time outside of home,” says Brian Garish, president of Banfield Pet Hospital.

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