Heidi Maskelyne: Do Businesses Have As Much Of A Responsibility Towards Their Employees’ Pets As They Do Their Employees?

When we finally returned to the office as Coronavirus restrictions eased, few of us anticipated the new concerns this would bring. Dog owners across the country have witnessed their pets becoming anxious without their company throughout the working day; their separation anxiety has become a more pertinent problem than ever before, causing significant stress in owners as a result. When we worry about our dogs, we can become distracted from our own responsibilities – including our responsibilities in the workplace.

This begs the question: Do businesses have as much of a responsibility towards their employees’ pets as they do their employees?

Can businesses, by supporting their employees’ pets, garner higher levels of productivity and commitment in the workplace? If recent reports are anything to go by, yes. According to the BBC, insurers are covering the costs of therapy for lonely dogs – a widely recognised issue – whilst businesses who visibly embrace pets have noted vast improvements in employees’ mental health and overall results. Seemingly, employee support has taken on an entirely new, furry focus post-pandemic.

The benefits of offering pet support

Heidi Maskelyne is the founder of leading dog food and nutrition brand ProDog Raw. As an expert in pet wellbeing, she shares her expertise with us; discussing the benefits employers may experience by offering more support to their staff in caring for their pets. More specifically, Heidi offers insight into the reality behind dogs’ separation anxiety, how this impacts their owners’ emotional health, how businesses can proactively address this issue and the many benefits that come with doing so. Whilst it might seem unconventional, this is proving to be a significant turning point in British business culture.

‘According to recent reports, more than 70% of dog owners still working from home expect to miss their pets when they return to the workplace – compared with only 39% who will miss their children and 42% who will miss their partners. Our pets are our world and as they wholly rely on us, we feel entirely responsible for their wellbeing; something which has only become more significant post-lockdown (when we of course spent an unprecedented amount of time in their company).

The result of this reality is something employers are swiftly discovering; pet owners are worrying about their pets after returning to the office and, as such, are showing diminishing levels of productivity. With this in mind, and the ‘Great Resignation’ rocking every industry (referring to the wave of pandemic “quits” occurring across sectors), an increasing number of employers are proving that they care, and stand apart from their competitors by embracing pets. ‘Fur culture’ is taking over the workplace.

In many ways, this might sound extreme. However, the reality behind dogs’ separation anxiety can be highly concerning. When anxious, dogs can demonstrate destructive behaviour, tremble, whine, vomit, self-harm and generally become highly distressed. As such, owners’ concerns are understandable; knowing our pets are stressed makes us equally anxious, impacting our wider health.

Thankfully, businesses can support their employees very simply. For example, some employers organise ‘bring your dog to work’ days, allowing employees to bring their dogs into the office as they’d like, and others include pet appointments or crisis care under ‘special leave’ arrangements, even offering veterinary support as part of an employee health package. In any instance, it’s important that employers make sure attending pets are well trained, discuss pet allergies with employees (creating ‘no pet’ zones for those who are allergic), ensure dogs receive sufficient exercise when in the office, have necessary supplies in place and re-evaluate the efficiency of these processes on a regular basis.’

Heidi continues:

‘In my experience, healthy pets are less stressed pets. If you’re finding that your dog is becoming extremely anxious in your absence, they may eat less and become undernourished. This creates a negative cycle whereby an undernourished dog is more prone to stress. Ultimately, they will continue to become increasingly anxiety-ridden, getting stuck in a pattern that’s difficult to break.

Therefore, a key way by which employers can support their staff, and their pets, is by sourcing and sharing specialist advice on vital wellbeing matters such as nutrition. For example, owners who commute into busy offices may benefit greatly from advice services to help design healthy meal plans, or meal-subscription services for dogs like those we’ve created at ProDog Raw; they give owners invaluable peace of mind, supporting their dogs’ health from the inside out whilst managing their busy schedules.

There are lots of benefits to employers considering pets’ wellbeing. Most obviously, this shows that they care, are willing to go above and beyond, and that they’re forward-thinking. Pets in the workplace are becoming a common occurrence; businesses looking to remain one step ahead cannot afford to overlook this change.

Beyond this, having pets in the office supports workers’ happiness and wellbeing, creating a light-hearted and comfortable atmosphere whilst boosting productivity. Importantly, this flexibility also enriches employees’ commitment to the business, supporting employment longevity. If pets are introduced cautiously, their positive impact on a business can be tremendous.’