People leaders are in the midst of a pivotal workplace transformation, moving from a predominantly remote work era to a burgeoning return-to-office and hybrid work model. While remote work will continue to play a role in our professional landscape, numerous HR teams grapple with the challenge of creating an environment that fits the current paradigm and employee values. When formulating a return to office plan employers are now considering more deeply how to seamlessly integrate with the lives and families of those transitioning back to the office.
Adding to this complexity, it’s essential to recognize that many employees may have become pet parents since their last office visit. More than 23 million American households — nearly 1 in 5 nationwide — have adopted a pet since 2020, according to the ASPCA. This shift in dynamics creates a unique opportunity for HR leaders to thoughtfully support pet parents in their return-to-office plans.
Recent statistics reveal that 95% of individuals view their pets as members of their family, emphasizing the deep emotional connection between employees and their furry companions. Moreover, a significant 63% expressed that additional pet benefits would increase their desire to stay with their company for the next 12 months. Further, an astounding 90% of employees in pet-friendly workplaces reported feeling highly connected to their company’s mission, being fully engaged with their work, and being willing to recommend their employer to others.
Here are the 3 crucial steps to nail your office comeback with pet parents:
Step 1: Solve Pet Parent Challenges
The worry factor looms large as employees grapple with the prospect of leaving their pets alone after the cozy cocoon of the work-from-home era. Some challenges the pet parents will face are…
- Pets suffering separation anxiety
- Anxiety from the Pet Parent about providing care for their pets while away
- Unclear policies on whether pets can be brought into the office
- Cost of pet sitters or pet day care
Why should HR teams be prepared to take on these worries? Employees taking time away from work to care for pets? Employees who are pet parents may be distracted and less productive due to concerns for their pets if these worries are unaddressed.
When pet benefits are prioritized companywide, a broad range of advantages are revealed that foster a positive and engaging work environment including:
- Enhanced inclusivity and belonging – Supporting pet families promotes inclusivity, recognizes pets as integral family members and strengthens the bond between employees and the organization.
- Amplified productivity – Supporting working pet parents reduces the stress of balancing work and pets, enabling employees to focus better and minimize distractions, ultimately enhancing productivity.
- Improved mental wellbeing – Pets positively impact mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Introducing pet benefits creates a more supportive atmosphere, elevating employees’ overall job satisfaction and mental wellbeing.
Moreover, it’s essential for HR leaders to recognize the emotional impact on pet parents. Leaving behind a loyal companion can evoke a range of emotions, from separation anxiety(for both pets and people) to guilt. Understanding and acknowledging these feelings fosters a compassionate workplace culture. HR leaders can proactively communicate empathy, demonstrating that the organization recognizes the unique bond between pets and their owners. This acknowledgment not only validates the emotional challenges but also contributes to a more supportive and understanding work environment.
Consider creating a dedicated space within your organization’s communication channels for pet parents to connect. Whether it’s a designated channel on Slack or a physical pet poster board in communal areas, this serves as a platform for employees to share photos, stories, and tips about their pets. This not only fosters a sense of community but also reinforces the idea that HR are genuine allies in the return-to-office mandate. By celebrating the furry companions that enrich our lives, organizations can instill a sense of inclusivity, making the return to the office a collective and heartwarming experience for all.
Step 2: Leveraging Pet Benefits for a Smooth Transition
HR leaders play a key role in ensuring a smooth return to the office for pet parents. For example, hosting dedicated office hours for pet-related questions fosters open communication and is one way to build a connection with this cohort.
Here are more ideas to consider when building a pet-friendly workplace
- Celebrate pet parents and pet parent milestones
- Establish paw-ternity leave
- Have a bring your pet to work day
- Host socials and pet-focused events like pet parades or pet-themed contests
- Arrange employee sessions and extend invitations to guest animal experts to enhancing caregiver education
- Pet telehealth benefits
- Access to back-up care options (ex: Rover)
- Pet care product delivery and discounts
- Fully subsidized virtual vet care
- Adoption fee assistance
- Pet insurance for financial protection
- Remote work policies when caring for a sick pet
- Pet bereavement leave
- Grief counseling after loss of a pet
In addition to these measures, consider expanding existing benefits to cater specifically to pet parents. This could include pet insurance coverage, discounted pet care services, or pet telehealth. By incorporating these benefits into the overall employee package, HR leaders demonstrate a commitment to the holistic well-being of their workforce, acknowledging that employees’ lives extend beyond the office walls.
Step 3: Ongoing Support from HR
Providing options during the transition is a good start, but supporting pet parents goes beyond that. It requires continuous help from HR throughout, showing a commitment to understanding and assisting employees as they balance work with pet care responsibilities. HR leaders can actively contribute to an inclusive workplace by implementing ongoing measures for assistance and understanding.
Explore essential strategies, communication tips, and inclusive policies in this guide for HR leaders, blending your unique voice with AirVet’s expertise to foster a pet-friendly workplace during the return to the office.
- Establish a centralized information hub with tips on pet adjustment, guides for creating new routines, and information on local pet care services.
- Demonstrate commitment to employee well-being and their furry families by providing invaluable support through the information hub.
- Clearly communicate and share any new pet care benefits implemented during this period to enhance employee awareness and engagement.
- Foster ongoing support for employees with pets by encouraging flexibility in pet care arrangements.
- Consider allowing short breaks for pet walks or providing options for remote work on specific days.
- Introduce pet-friendly policies such as Paw-ternity Leave or Pet Bereavement to accommodate diverse needs and responsibilities of pet parents.
- Incorporate flexibility into the workplace culture to enhance employee satisfaction and contribute to a positive work environment.
- Emphasize the significance of continuous HR support in shaping a workplace where pet parents consistently experience assistance and appreciation.
The significance of continuous HR support in shaping a workplace where pet parents consistently experience assistance and appreciation cannot be overstated. HR leaders play a crucial role by offering sustained resources, promoting flexibility in pet care, and implementing inclusive policies for pets. This collective effort contributes to fostering a positive and enduring work environment, laying a solid foundation for a successful, long-term transition back to the office.
People leaders have a significant opportunity to drive success in the office comeback transition. Through thoughtful, empathetic support for pet parents, acknowledging diverse needs, promoting flexibility, and embracing inclusive policies, HR teams can enhance individual well-being and the overall workplace and employee experience. This collective effort sets the stage for a successful, long-term transition to a new model back to the office, reinforcing the organization’s commitment to holistic well-being and compassionate workplace practices, and ultimately, fostering a highly engaged and connected workforce.