Why pets are the ideal working companions

We’re quickly becoming accustomed to seeing more of our homes than we likely have in all the time we’ve been living in them. And whilst we understand the reasons for such a drastic transition to our day-to-day, our pets, in all their innocence, are slightly confused as to why many of their humans are suddenly around 24/7.

Though from what we’ve seen online – thanks to new Instagram accounts such as @DogsWorkingFromHome, providing some much-needed comic relief – our pets are loving this newfound bonding time. So much so, you could even argue they ought to be included on the payroll.

From assisting with typing (walking all over the keyboard) to participating in video calls (barking at inappropriate times), this is just one of the current lockdown adjustments we can’t help but be amused by.

So, whether you’re currently cohabiting with the furry, the feathery or the exotic (or gratefully experiencing them through video calls with colleagues), here’s why pets are the ideal working companions and why HR might consider encouraging employees to spend more time with their pets in future to support their health and wellbeing.

A spot of pet therapy

The past several weeks have been an unnerving time for all, but for those with pets, there’s a certain mood-boosting effect to having them around that far outweighs their (sometimes frustrating) methods of distraction.

Research has indicated that aside from the immediate joys that pets bring, interacting with them can not only reduce levels of cortisol (your stress hormone) but also produce more oxytocin and dopamine, making us feel happier and more relaxed.  This is especially important in the face of today’s forced isolation and subsequent feelings of loneliness, as it releases the same chemicals as the ones released during a long hug.

Did you know our animal companions also have some kind of superpower ability to help improve our physical health, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels? Not to mention easing symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and PTSD.

How do your new assistants currently measure up?

So, we know our fellow pets do us a lot of good. Though as you try to maintain some semblance of working routine – meeting your deadlines, checking in with colleagues and generally staying productive – are your companions enriching or complicating that dynamic?

Here are some of the (rather amusing) anecdotes we’ve heard from our colleagues at Access who are now sharing their new office space with their budding ‘assistants’:

  • “Lola has no concept of social distancing – she’s decided the only place she’s happy is curled up around my left arm with her head on the escape key. If I type too quickly, she then digs her claws in, as I’m clearly disturbing her nap time.” – Louise Abbott (Divisional Marketing Manager) and her cat, Lola
  • “Work etiquette has completely gone out of the window in our house – I don’t expect vocal contributions (barking) over video call to be at any point other than when I’m trying to talk – especially if the timing coincides with the postman at the door.” – Lisa Hall (Support Team Leader) and her dog, Tammy, more professionally known as Tamara Padaroko
  • Mel Liddy, a fellow dog lover from the Development Team seconds this, with her dog Rudi becoming well known by colleagues for her very deep bark as she participates in meetings.
  • “Buddy always falls asleep on the job, and worse still, he snores during meetings.” – Suzanne Smith (Resourcing Manager) and her dog, Buddy
  • This isn’t just exclusive to dogs either, with Paul Lines in the Access Build Team reporting his cat, Jellybean, also sleeping through the entire workday (whilst smothering Paul’s arms).
  •  “My rabbits have been disagreeing on whether the power cable should indeed be connected to my laptop and if my headset is the next best chew toy in town.” – Simon Bidmead (Customer Success Associate) and his rabbits, Janeway and Kathryn
  • “I’ve discovered my cat and I have creative differences – I like everything orderly and in its place while I work; Lyla prefers quite the opposite. Plus, she can’t understand why I’m talking to the screen and not her.” – Dickie Brown (Support Team Leader) and his cat, Lyla
  • “Lockdown hasn’t been too bad so far. Sleep all day, breakfast in bed, snacks on demand – all the perks of working from home… if you’re a hamster!” – Rebecca Tancred (QA Test Analyst) and her exceedingly spoilt hamster, Max

Will animals in the workplace become more of a ‘thing’?

Of course, by that, we don’t mean building some sort of office annexe with an animal sanctuary. But you’ve likely heard of ‘office pets’ and the benefits that they bring to the workplace.

One of which, employers have reported, is increased productivity. It turns out that employees who have taken their pets to the office have not only experienced lower stress levels throughout the day but also increased levels of job satisfaction. And we know that happy workers are productive workers.

As HR teams work tirelessly to maintain high morale and wellbeing for their workforce during this difficult period, it may be worth starting to consider not just what makes your workers happy, but what truly makes your people happy.

We know that it won’t be feasible for all organisations to allow their employees to bring their pets into work. However, if this unusual time has taught us anything, it’s that we can be as productive working at home as when we’re working in the office. Which is just another benefit in favour of introducing flexible and remote working long-term across your organisation. With these changes in place, your employees can spend more time at home with their pets, helping to boost their mood and wellbeing, and, ultimately, continue to perform at their best within their role.

Right now, having pets in our lives has proven to be a major upside of working at home through a lockdown and an altogether stressful situation.

Perhaps this will give us all ‘paws for thought’ as to how, through remote working, we can harness the positive wellbeing impact brought on by connecting with animals long into the future.

Damian Oldham
HCM Divisional Director
The Access Group, UK

A beginner's guide to remote working

By coming together, sharing knowledge and advice we can help each other stay healthy and successfully navigate the changes to our working practices.