Pet companionship & the workplace
In the UK alone, there are 11 million households with pets, equating to 57 million animals and a subsequent market where £4.6b is spent annually on pampering these additions to our family units. So why then, in the workplace, is our attachment to our pet family members derided and not taken seriously enough? Particularly when their longevity; 15 years for dogs and 20+ years for cats and horses, can mean we share ¼ of our lives with them.
As an educated, hard-working employee who is dedicated to and passionate about the company they work for, why do I feel that my attachment and devotion to my pets may not be taken as seriously, in some businesses, as my colleagues’ attachment to dependants – especially when we are evidently a nation of pet lovers?
I am sure pet owners do not feel confident to use their pet as the reason for a need to take unexpected absence when requesting time off or for needing flexible working. Whereas a relationship (be-it a good or bad one!) with another human is a perfectly “normal” request – is it time this changed and we offered the same support as with any other absence type?
The benefits of having companion animals include:
- Beating stress and creating calm
- Preventing heart disease, reducing cholesterol, increasing exercise levels
- Increased productivity (particularly from those who take pets to work)
- Greater social skills
- General psychological benefits
When the effects can be so positive on our workforce, shouldn’t we be offering these non-human relationships more understanding, compassion and flexibility?
There are organisations that have started to understand the positive impact that owning pets has on their employees and have begun harnessing that relationship. Google, Mars Foods, Pets at Home, VM Ware, Salesforce.com, Build-a-Bear, (to name but a few), allow pets at work and have strong HR policy accommodating pets. UK based firms are offering “Pawternity” when introducing a new pet to the family, and compassionate leave following the death of a pet is on the rise as the death of a pet can be as traumatic as losing a human companion.
Firms are describing that if they are flexible with their staff when it comes to their pets, it results in loyal and hardworking employees. For some people a pet is their only form of companionship and provides them with unconditional love and affection, and to feel that their employer recognises this can surely only have a positive effect on everyone involved.
So is it not time for us to recognise the benefits that pet ownership has on both our employees and our businesses, and put stronger policies in place that continue to nurture and support our employees’ relationships with their pets?
They aren’t called Companion Animals for nothing; after all, isn’t a dog man’s best friend?