With remote work more popular than ever, it’s no surprise to find companies now bargaining with employees in order to incentivize them to return to the office. According to some estimates, however, more than half of remote employees want to continue working remotely, citing advantages such as saving money and no longer having a commute as the biggest advantages of their new working model.
One particular demographic that’s reluctant to return to on-site work are those with pets at home. During the pandemic, household dogs everywhere were treated to a rare luxury: the constant companionship of their human counterparts, where otherwise, such pets would normally endure eight hours or more alone in the house.
But what is it exactly about Fido’s companionship that has left such a lasting impact on remote workers, one that has 67% considering changing jobs if their company no longer offers remote work?
The team at Veterinarians.org surveyed 400 U.S. dog owners who worked remotely during the pandemic to find out exactly why pet parents have fallen in love with the idea of sharing an office with a four-legged friend, and the reasons may surprise you!
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In February/March 2020, around the time curfews and quarantines were starting to go into effect in the U.S., few could imagine the way social distancing would impact the country’s mental health. According to the CDC, by late June, 31% of U.S. adults reported struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression.
For many, the answer to dealing with overwhelming loneliness came in the form of a wet nose and wagging tail, and searches for ‘puppies for sale’ surged in Google Trends, with animal shelters and rescues seeing their adoption rates fly off the charts. Some of these organizations even had to institute a waiting list for the first time.
In our survey, we saw this trend firsthand, with over a third of respondents reporting that their current dog was one they adopted during the pandemic. Another 16% reported already having a dog but adopting another one during the pandemic, while nearly half of respondents reported that their current four-legged friend was one they’d had before the onset of COVID-19.
For those who brought a new dog home in 2020/2021 during the age of quarantine, the ability to work from home has provided them with the time and space to bond with their new member of the household and build an invaluable connection. And for those who already had pets at home with whom they have an already existing bond, remote work has allowed them more one-on-one quality time with the animal that has led to enriching experiences.
It’s all about the human-canine bond for pet parents who have worked remotely during the pandemic, with 42% of survey respondents saying that having their dog nearby gave them a reason to get outside more and 81% reporting having participated in new activities with their dog during the pandemic.
Having a four-legged friend to quarantine with opened the door to new opportunities like visiting dog parks (which 55% of survey respondents did), hiking (55%), soaking up the sun at a dog beach (30%), and attending fun classes geared toward dogs like agility and flyball (30%).
With office work often being a sedentary position, location-independent flexibility offers a much-needed work/life balance that has allowed many to experience more physical activity, more fresh air, and more sunlight–all factors that contribute significantly to our physical and mental health.
But it’s not just all about fun and games with Fido.
Pet parents who worked remotely during the pandemic also reported that their pup’s presence had a significant impact on their daily work tasks as well, with 88% reporting their dog’s companionship helped them to be more productive at work, while 87% reported their pet’s proximity helped them to better cope with work-related stress.
The above numbers are significant, considering work-related stress costs U.S. companies up to $300 billion every year and can lead to health issues in employees such as elevated blood pressure, anxiety, depression, an increased risk of substance abuse, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
For many, 2020 and 2021 have been some of the hardest years collectively experienced, with stress consistently at elevated levels, due both to changes in the way we work and to uncertainties in the world around us.
For pet parents, having a furry friend to brave the storm with has made a world of difference in combating stress and staying productive with their workload.
It’s also helped with other elements of mental health that have been impacted by the new normal society is still living in, with 92% of pet parents reporting that their dog’s companionship helped to improve their mood throughout the day and 88% saying their dog’s companionship helped alleviate feelings of isolation related to social distancing. When asked what other benefits their dog’s companionship offered during working hours, pet parents provided a variety of responses, with ‘my dog makes me happy’ and ‘my dog helps me to stay calm’ resonating with more than half of survey respondents.
The Future of Remote Work
Many companies are still navigating what the future will look like for their employees, with some sticking to remote work for the time being and others starting to offer hybrid models that combine remote flexibility with a few days of in-office work.
For those insisting on a 100% on-site labor force, however, those in leadership and management may want to reconsider; 67% of survey respondents say they would consider looking for a different job if their company no longer offered remote work. But there is good news: 78% say they would consider staying with their company if employees were allowed to bring their dog to work.
Considering the physical, mental, and emotional health benefits in having a canine companion at one’s side during working hours, instituting a pet-friendly policy in the workplace may very well be a compromise worth making.