How companies can show meaningful support for employees with pets

Apr 25, 2022

Pet parenthood is at an all-time high with 70% of U.S. households owning pets, and there’s every indication that the trend will continue for years to come. And according to a study by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 95% of pet parents consider their pets to be members of their family. What most people don’t know is that with the historic high in pet ownership, the veterinary industry is under a great deal of stress. Veterinary burnout and retiring veterinarians are driving shortages in veterinary care that are only going to accelerate as the number of new veterinary graduates cannot keep up with those leaving the field. In many cases, this leaves employees in need of pet care struggling to get it without taking hours out of their day or Googling the symptoms and hoping for the best.

Employers that aspire to offer competitive benefits that are aligned with the evolving dynamics of today’s families – including pet families – must adapt accordingly. Employee benefits leaders can quickly and easily offer a full suite of benefits and employee engagement activities geared towards supporting pet families.

“In the last two years, during the various lockdown periods, many people relied on their pets for love and companionship. In fact, a record number of people adopted pets for the first time – signaling the importance of the role pets play in our daily lives. Just as our pets have supported us, we, as employers, should support pets with pet-friendly policies for their humans,” says Brandon Werber, CEO of Airvet.

And many professionals agree. According to Dr. McFarland, the President of The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) the pandemic has elevated the role of the human-animal bond in people’s lives and championing this bond is critical to improving health for both people and their pets.

Pet parents have noted an increase in their wellbeing attributable to pet parenthood – and this sentiment is felt globally, “Virtually all pet owners around the world (98%) reported at least one specific benefit including increased happiness, reduced loneliness, and decreased stress.”

There’s no disputing that happy, healthy employees are good for business. And the data supports that our pets play a major role in the wellbeing of people around the world. It’s time that business gets serious about supporting employees and their whole family.


Getting started with pet-friendly policies

In evaluating pet-friendly policies for your office, consider employee benefits, the type of office environment you have, and how to encourage team building and employee engagement. When you look at your total company experience from a variety of perspectives, you’ll find numerous ways to transform your office into a pet-friendly place for your employees to work and thrive.

Step 1: Review the employee benefits you offer pet parentswoman working at home with her small dog working on laptop

Take a fresh look at the benefits your company currently offers. Are they aligned with employees at all life stages? Recognize the diversity of your workforce and be sure that you have a benefits package that appeals to employees no matter what their stage of life.

Pawternity Leave

On average, new mothers take an average of 10 weeks of maternity leave, paid or unpaid, to care for, and bond with their newborn baby. Fathers take an average of one week to do the same. Most pet parents say that their pet is part of their family, so why not include a few days of pawternity leave to support employees who adopt a new pet to help the pet get acclimated to their new home?

24/7 Virtual Vet Care

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth services both for humans and pets. Pet telehealth allows a pet parent to consult with a veterinarian over a video call. Instead of making an appointment, coercing the pet to get in the car, and driving him/her to the vet, pet parents can partner with benefits providers like Airvet to get in touch with a licensed veterinarian in seconds. Pet telehealth is a win-win for everyone involved. Pet parents save time and money by quickly talking to a vet about their pet’s health when an in-person visit isn’t necessary. And employers win because the employee can remain productive and on the job while still making their pet’s wellbeing a priority.

Pet Bereavement Leave

We’ve already established that the vast majority of pet parents think of their pets as family, so it only stands to reason that pet parents grieve deeply when they lose a pet. Employers can further support their pet-loving employees by offering a pet bereavement day. Employees will appreciate the extra day to grieve the loss of their beloved furry family member and can take the extra day for self-care in the face of a devastating loss.

Time Off Policies

Every organization has its own policies regarding paid time off of work – but most forget to incorporate or communicate how pets are included in those policies. If your organization already allows unlimited PTO and/or flexible work schedules, be sure that employees know that their pets are included in those generous policies. They may not be aware that it’s okay for them to take a sick day or work from home in order to care for an ill pet. Likewise, you can encourage employees who work from home regularly or remotely to get up and exercise and take their dog for a walk midday or have a play session with their kitty! It’s good for both employees and their pets!

Sick Days For Pets

Being a responsible pet parent means your pet will need to have in-person vet visits for procedures that can’t be accomplished through telehealth. And once in a while, a sick pet may need the pet parent to stay home to monitor their condition or provide care. In the UK, rather than using PTO, employees say they use 23% of sick days on their pets. You may not need to dedicate sick days for pets, but you can communicate to employees that it’s perfectly okay to use their time as they see fit – including time to properly care for their pets.

Flexible Work Schedules

Americans are more connected to their work and their fellow employees now than ever. Just because the clock turns to 5 p.m. doesn’t mean your employees immediately turn off and stop working. In fact, a survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas showed that less than 10% of companies surveyed have an after-work communications policy. Support employees for whatever is thrown their way by allowing flexible work schedules.

Whether it’s waiting for the dog walker or taking Baxter out for an afternoon stroll, allow employees flexibility in their schedules. Employees may need a permanent adjustment to hours – like when dropping off their dog at daycare daily before coming to work. In many cases, simply giving employees the reassurance that if a pet care need arises, they have the flexibility to take care of the situation on a one-off basis and it will be supported by their company.

Step 2: Consider how pets factor in various work environments

Technology has made it easier for employees to work from anywhere and at any time. The office of twenty years ago has morphed into a variety of environments including exclusively remote, exclusively in-office and a hybrid/mix of the two. Be sure to accommodate employees and their pets no matter how their work environment manifests itself.

In-office employees

Make your office a pet-friendly place. Create specific policies and procedures around how and when employees can bring their pets to the office. Doing so will likely encourage employees to come into the office in a post-pandemic work world when they are currently able to spend 24/7 with their furry family members.

Employees working remotely

Make your remote employees feel comfortable while working with their pets at home. Encourage employees to introduce the team to their pets and to not be ashamed if their pet barks during a zoom call or occasionally walks across a keyboard …

Employees with a hybrid work environment

Employees who are pet parents appreciate hybrid work situations so that they don’t have to leave their pets at home alone every day. Hybrid work environments provide the best of both worlds for employers, employees, and their pets.

Step 3: Recognize Your Employee’s Pet-Centered Milestones

To fully embrace a pet-friendly office culture, look for ways to celebrate your employee’s pet-centric milestones, like a new pet adoption. Employers can also increase employee engagement and overall company culture by including employees’ pets in fun company activities. Think about spearheading any of the following activities!

  • Implement a pet chat channel – For remote/hybrid employees – set up a dedicated pet channel on intra-office communications systems like Slack or Teams.
  • Involve executive management – Get your executive team involved to share photos/pics of their pets. Show employees that pet families are valued from the top down!
  • Pet Committee – Establish a pet committee of pet parents charged with brainstorming ideas and organizing pet-centric events.
  • Celebrate pet holidays – There’s no shortage of pet holidays – National Pet Week, National Dog Day, National Cat Day and even more fun ones like National Hairball Day and more!
  • Send gift baskets – Send new pet parents a gift basket of pet treats for their new furry family member.
  • Pet condolence cards – Give a heartfelt condolence card to an employee who may be grieving the loss of a pet.
  • Company pet swag – Create pet bandanas and other swag with your company logo on them to acknowledge pets as part of the team.
  • Pet photo contests – Ask employees to submit photos of their pets dressed up (or photoshopped) for a holiday. Or have employees vote for the cutest pet by each company department.
  • Decorate the office – Recognize employees and their pets with posters and photos in the office or design pet-themed screensavers using your employee’s pets!

Benefits to Employers

Supporting a pet-friendly workplace doesn’t just benefit your employees and their four-legged family members, but it benefits the company as a whole. In a 2018 Mars Petcare survey of employers and employees, “87% of employers think being dog-friendly helps them attract and retain more talent, and 59% of employees would choose to work for a company that is dog friendly over one that isn’t.”

Companies that have pet-friendly HR policies will gain:

  • Improved company culture
  • Happier employees
  • Reduced employee attrition
  • Increased productivity

Publicly declare that your company is pet family-friendly

According to the 2022 Pet Benefit Benchmarking Report, 71% of employees are more likely to choose a job that offers pet benefits over a job with similar pay but without pet benefits. As you implement new pet family friendly benefits, be sure to update your company’s profile on sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Monster and others and tout your inclusive benefits and policies. Continue to promote your pet family friendly policies on job postings and company career pages. Finally, remind HR and recruiting staff to update the company intranet website and benefits materials to reflect all of your company’s “pawesome” policies!

The workplace is increasingly competitive and staying ahead of the competition is challenging if you’re not keeping up with societal norms and trends. Forward-thinking companies are increasingly searching for ways to be an employer of choice. Pet-friendly policies is one trend that isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Embrace your employees and their pets by becoming a pet family employer of choice. To learn more about how Airvet can help you support your employees and their pets, get in touch through the form below.