What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.
The rising trend of pet-friendly offices is part of the effort to incentivize employees to come back to work in person. Many companies completely embraced the remote-friendly convenience of WFH. Digital nomad culture emerged and “second cities” arose when people exited New York, San Francisco, and LA, and headed to Denver, Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, and Raleigh.
But now, employees and employers have a choice to make. The question now is: to return or not to return to the office? This is no longer about forcing employees to commute. Post The Great Resignation, employees feel more empowered to leave in-person positions and seek out remote jobs. So if offices want people to return, they’ve got to do a ton to entice their employees.
Some huge companies with giant operating budgets are not worried. With major perks like shiny facilities and full-service food bars, they feel comfortable requiring in-office work days — even if it’s for a hybrid week. But the solution might be simpler: pet-friendly workplaces.
The Allure of Pet-Friendly Offices
According to the Washington Post, pet-friendly workplaces are becoming a common solution to improve employee morale and appease the rising number of pandemic pet owners. “As offices start reopening and thousands of workers are being called back for the first time in two years, some companies are allowing employees to bring their pets. About 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many workers say they find pet-friendly environments an important perk for their new furry family members. A recent survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital, owned by Mars Inc., showed that 57 percent of the 1,500 pet owners polled said they would be happiest returning to a pet-friendly workplace. Half of the 500 top executives surveyed said they are planning to allow pets at the office. Tech companies including Google, Amazon, and Uber plan to continue to allow dogs at their offices, even with their flexible office policies.”
With so many people adopting and fostering since the pandemic, becoming a pet parent is a trend. And to welcome these new additions into people’s lives, it makes sense for some workplaces to welcome them into the office.
After spending unlimited amounts of time at home, many pets grew greatly attached to their “parents” — and pet-parents feel the same about their pets. Rather than keeping them locked in the house while their caretakers head off to work, this is a mutually beneficial solution to the current separation anxiety faced by pets.
Pets have also been shown to boost happiness in pet owners. According to heart.org, “Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; ease loneliness; encourage exercise and improve your overall health. For example, people with dogs tend to have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease. Just playing with a dog has been shown to raise levels of the feel-good brain chemicals oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet.” Most likely, this might have a similar effect on people who bond with animals at work that don’t even belong to them, lending an overall mood boost to the office.
The controversy behind pet-friendly workplaces
However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the prospect. Some would rather keep the office separate from their personal lives. Some are allergic to pets. And some people simply don’t like animals.
Offices considering pet-friendly policies are weighing the pros and cons to keep everyone happy. According to the Washington Post, clear guidelines and communication can increase the chances of success.
“Before making the jump, pet experts say that leaders should first understand whether their employees have interest in, or strong feelings against, having a pet-friendly office. Doing an anonymous survey may allow employees to freely share thoughts on the matter.”
Overall, the key to a policy like this is flexibility. “Be ready to adjust: Above all, pet-friendly offices should be ready to listen and adjust their policies as they go. What works for one office may not work for another, but experts say proper planning can lessen much of the burden.”
Ensure your office is actually suited to the pets you want to welcome. “A well-developed pet-friendly office should be both safe and welcoming to pets. That means companies should consider blocking off areas that could be dangerous to pets as well as making sure pets have access to clean water, food, and places to rest.”
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The Office Workplace has changed over the decades. From cubicles and corner offices, to open floor plans — and now your converted coat closets — the locus of our work is always in flux.
Since office life is such a huge part of all of our day-to-day experience — even more so now that it’s invaded our homes — it’s constantly undergoing renovation. Over the past decade, fads have affected the physical office space itself, as well as the underlying theory behind how we structure our work in practice day-to-day.
From self-improvement theories on how to increase productivity — some propagated by out-there tech billionaires who claim extreme measures such as not eating are the key to their success — to cultish workspace inventions like WeWork, sometimes our desperate attempts to upgrade our office life go too far.
WFH brought both challenges and revelations. For many, it was freeing. For others, the pressures to perform well led to absolutely no boundaries — hello, that would be me! As for those who missed being in the office, having no separation between life and work was detrimental to their overall work-life balance.
However, due to the pandemic, a wider group took up the question of what the office should look like. Instead of taking the status quo as a given, a cultural conversation began about the most efficient way to work.
As we gained a more diverse perspective in these conversations, the goals shifted. Suddenly, it wasn’t about how to make more money or how to increase productivity. Instead, people focused on how to live more holistic and satisfying lives.
A strange phenomenon occurred: the great resignation. Turns out, people wanted better jobs. And — after a record high number of Americans quitting their jobs, employers have been forced to rethink how they treat their employees. Now, the workers have more power. And the notion of the office space is striving to accommodate them.
Innovative structural changes are being implemented to attract new employees. Better perks — not the ping pong tables of those start-up days of yore — such as increased benefits, more time off and competitive salaries are only the start.
According to the New York Times, the four-day workweek is “in our grasp.” The movement has been adopted by many companies across the country with staggering results. Adoptees cited an enhanced work-life balance, more focus, happier personal lives — not to forget increased productivity and a better work environment. A win-win for everyone.
If this sounds too good to be true, wait until you hear about the three-day work week, which could be next. Most companies are moving towards a remote-friendly atmosphere. They’re even normalizing remote work as part of the regular work day for most workers.
According to Barron’s: “The pandemic has also given a shot in the arm to innovation to support remote working. Working from home will increase from 5% of full-paid-days pre-pandemic to about 25% post-pandemic. This is generating a gold-rush of tech firms to generate the next killer app, product, or software to support working from home. We have seen some major innovations over the last 10 years, notably video-call applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, file-sharing software like Dropbox, and communications platforms like Slack. These products have revolutionized our pandemic experience of working from home.”
Barron’s also predicts that: “the next decade will see even more rapid change as firms pour billions of dollars into developing WFH friendly products. Whether this is virtual reality, AI guided cameras, or holographic projections, the experience of working from home will radically improve for those of us lucky enough to enjoy it. The pandemic is just the start of the working-from-home revolution.”
For now, as Omicron surges and many return to quarantining out of safety and full-time remote-work, we’re looking forward to a tech-evolution that’s no longer productivity-driven but people-driven.
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