Whether you adopted a pet during the pandemic or know someone who did, odds are you’ve probably met one of the nine million dogs or five million cats alone (plus many other furry, feathered, or scaly friends) who found a new home in the past two years.

Now that we’re well past the initial lockdown adoption boom, what are these pets (and their paw-rents) up to?

The great news is that most pandemic pets live with their adopted families. While some experts feared there would be a subsequent uptick in returned animals shelter intake rates actually dropped from 2019 to 2021. Unlike frothy coffee or feta pasta bakes, people’s love for their pets is more than a passing trend.

In fact, from entertainment to emotional support, many owners have discovered the benefits of bringing home a four-legged companion over the last few years. But now as more and more pet parents return to the office or hybrid work models, how are they (and their animal counterparts) coping with their newfound separation?

More Than Just a Furry Friend

There are just as many reasons people adopted animals throughout the pandemic as there were four-legged friends brought home. While everyone’s motivation for adding an animal to their home is different, the top two reasons for adopting a dog or a cat were emotional support and happiness (41 percent) and needing something positive in their life (39 percent), found a poll by Rover.

The past two years have been physically and mentally challenging for all, but those who chose to adopt an animal saw some significant benefits. Ninety-three percent of respondents to the Rover poll said their pandemic pet improved their physical and mental well-being, and more than 80 percent said it made living and working at home more enjoyable.

Pets have scientifically measurable health benefits, as well. Interacting with animals can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, elevate serotonin and dopamine levels, and reduce the risk of heart attacks. They can encourage owners to exercise and build healthy routines.

Even smaller critters like lizards, hamsters, and goldfish bring companionship and joy to their owners, helping reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. There’s a lot to like about our little (or not-so-little!) friends.

When Owners Are Away, Will Pets Play (at Home)?

Pets and their work-from-home owners formed incredibly tight bonds over the past two years, making the return to the office much harder. Animals unused to being left alone display separation anxiety, from destructive activities to howling or hiding. 

Only 10 percent of owners said their pets showed no signs of increased stress while they went back to work, found a Forbes Advisor Survey. Two-thirds of respondents said they’d spent more money on their companions in the last six months to help them adjust to being alone more, including intelligent monitoring devices, dog walking services, and daycare.  

Fortunately, workplaces recognize the benefits of encouraging the bond between employees and their animals. According to a study by Banfield Pet Hospital, businesses with pet-friendly policies saw 42 percent increased productivity, and 31 percent increased retention. 

Animal companions are making their way up the corporate ladder, too. Seventy-five percent of C-suite executives reported pet ownership had made them better, more compassionate leaders, leading 59 percent to say they’ll allow more flexibility for employees to stay remote with their animal coworkers.

Whether employees work from home with Fluffy or take Fido to daycare while they go to the office, there are many ways to increase productivity and pet (and owner!) happiness simultaneously.

Four Tips for Keeping Your Pet (and Yourself) Happy During the Workday

A few months after the pandemic hit, Mitel employees weighed in with ways to successfully work from home with animal companions, which are still relevant today. But if you’re trying to navigate a return to the office while easing your pandemic pets—and yourself—into a new routine, here are a few more tips to consider.

  • Build routines at work and home: While flexible schedules have become a perk of working from home, animals and people of all types benefit from having a structure to their days. It’s essential to make regular times for walks, food, and play, so you and your pet have something to look forward to. If you’re working from the office a few days a week, try to find times that fit into your remote and in-person routines.
  • Take your meetings on a walk: If you have a dog who needs to get outside and many phone calls, why not combine the two? Walking meetings have many benefits, including exercise for you and your pet, and with communications apps that seamlessly transition between devices, you can easily take your sessions on the go.
  • Connect with pet-owning colleagues: One early perk of video conferencing solutions was getting glimpses of coworkers’ dogs and cats as they wandered on screen. One way to keep that sense of community is to start a group chat for sharing pictures and stories of your dog (or cat, or bird, or lizard) and their work-from-home antics. Don’t forget to include non-pet-owners in the chat, too, so they’re not left out of the fun.
  • Take advantage of pet-friendly policies: With so many pet parents reluctant to leave their companions alone all day, companies are implementing new policies to entice their employees to return to the office. Whether allowing workers to bring their dog to their desk, giving flexible time off for vet appointments or daycare pickups, or providing options for pet insurance, check-in with your supervisor to see if there are ways to ease the transition to hybrid or in-person work.

There are many ways to make working – from home, in person, or hybrid – more productive while keeping you and your pet happy and healthy. Mitel’s remote working solutions provide options for maintaining connections with your human colleagues and animal companions.

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