June 25 is officially National Take Your Dog to Work Day.
Admittedly, for the last 15 months, every day has been Take Your Dog to Work Day—actually, Work From Home With Your Dog Day—for many people.
But workers may soon have to leave their treasured companions at home as they transition from remote work back to an office environment. What will that mean for the workplace and employee benefits?
Long before the pandemic, pets were already important members of workers’ families. We have witnessed the growth in pet-related benefits like pet insurance or pets at work.
According to the International Foundation 2020 Employee Benefits Survey, 23.5% of responding corporate and public employer respondents offered pet insurance as a voluntary benefit. Less than 1% offered paid pet paternity/“pawternity” leave, while 6.8% offered unpaid leave to care for a pet. Slightly more than 4% allowed pets at work.
Pets and the Return to Work
During the pandemic, it felt like practically everyone got a puppy or adopted a cat. They made appearances during videoconferences and provided their humans with needed companionship and stress breaks. Now the tables are turned, and workers may be worried that their pets will feel lonely or anxious during long days alone at home.
Pet-friendly benefits might become more popular as employers look for ways to make workers feel better about returning to the workplace.
A survey released in March by Banfield Pet Hospital—a Vancouver, Washington, company with more than 1,000 veterinary hospitals in the U.S. and Mexico—found that 57% of surveyed pet owners said they would be most happy returning to their workplace if they could bring their pets with them.
According to the same survey, one in two C-suite executives surveyed said they are planning to allow pets in the workplace once employees return to the office, and 59% would allow more flexibility for workers wanting to stay remote with their pets.
More Pet-Friendly Benefits
Other pet-friendly benefits, including pet health care insurance, may also become more popular. Heidi Sirota, chief pet officer for Nationwide Pet Insurance, said the company has seen a surge in uptake among employees for whom pet insurance is offered as a voluntary benefit, including both new and existing pet parents. More employers are also adding the perk to their menu of voluntary benefits, she said.
“It’s been a very busy year as people brought new pets into their homes and recognized the pet as their family,” Sirota said.
A recent study conducted by Nationwide in partnership with the Human Animal Bond Research Institute showed that a higher percentage of employees are highly connected to their company’s mission, fully engaged with their work and willing to recommend their employer to others when they work in pet-friendly workplaces, compared with those who don’t.
A pet-friendly workplace is defined in the study as an employer that occasionally or regularly allows pets in the workplace and/or offers a pet-friendly employee benefit such as pet health insurance.
“Pets are the heroes of the pandemic,” Sirota said. “Everybody has recognized the bonds that they have with their pet and what that pet does for their own well-being. That’s made them really more amenable to pet health insurance and other ways to protect their pets.”
[Related Reading: Encourage Inclusivity and Flexibility With Proactive Employee Benefits]
Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS
Senior Editor, Publications at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
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