Categories: Health Care, HR & Employment Law | by Nicole Lopes

In 2021, it can be challenging to make your company stand out among the rest in terms of employee benefits. With high turnover rates and the flexibility many companies are offering, how can you attract new talent and keep your current team satisfied? In this dog-eat-dog world, it may be time for your company to quite literally go to the dogs. To make yourselves stand out for the better, offering dog-centric benefits is the way to go. 

Pandemic Puppy Boom 

Back in spring 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world, experts predicted a baby boom as lockdown procedures forced people to stay at home. Although this was not the case — 2020 birth rates indicated a baby bust instead of boom — another surge was on the rise: pet adoptions. 

Before the pandemic, Millennials and Generation Z were already trending towards delaying parenthood and opting for fur babies instead of human ones. These younger generations are shifting away from the nuclear family model and redefining relationships, marriage, and family norms. Dogs are a less expensive commitment than children, and can provide companionship for those not ready to get married or settle down. Many young people are humanizing their pets, as they are delaying parenthood but still want something to love and spoil. In fact, nine out of ten American pet owners consider their dog a part of the family. 

When Americans’ preference for pet parenthood was combined with an unprecedented worldwide pandemic in 2020, the inevitable happened: a pandemic puppy boom. Although euthansia rates at U.S. shelters have already dramatically decreased by 75% since 2009, the stay-at-home measures caused by COVID-19 spurred even more shelter adoptions. An organization called Shelter Animals Count recorded an increase of 26,000 shelter adoptions in 2020, which is a rise of about 15% year-over-year. In fact, as of June 2020, the city of San Francisco is now home to more dogs than children! Some Americans craved companionship while separated from friends and family, while others decided that they finally had enough time and attention to train a dog while they worked from home. Either way, it was definitely a plus for the pups.

As of summer 2021, lockdown measures have been lifted and many people are returning to the office, school, and social events. This has led many to be concerned about the pandemic pups — will people return to their busy lives and return their animals to the shelter? Although some news outlets have reported an uptick in shelter returns, this is not a national trend. Many shelters have actually reported a decrease in animal returns, likely due to the bonding between human and pet that occurred during the lockdowns. 

 

Man’s Best Friend 

So why are dogs called “man’s best friend,” anyway? Not only are canines cute and cuddly, but dog ownership has proven to provide a multitude of benefits to a person’s mental and physical well-being. Some of the benefits of this human-animal bond include:

Physical Health 

No matter the breed, owning a dog can have physical benefits to your body’s health. Dogs need to be walked, which encourages owners to get outside and get some exercise. Although some breeds are higher energy and require more exercise than others, dog owners are 54% more likely to get the recommended amount of exercise than their non-dog owning counterparts, according to the American Heart Association. In addition to getting a few extra steps in, the CDC lists that dog ownership can lead to decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels, and decreased triglyceride levels. 

Mental Health

It’s no secret that dogs make us happy. But did you know that dog owners are less likely to be depressed, have higher levels of serotonin and dopamine, and often have reduced levels of stress and anxiety? Dogs provide companionship and physical touch, and can ease loneliness — especially during times like a pandemic. Dogs can also provide structure and routine for those who may struggle with motivation. Dog ownership can also provide social opportunities to bond with other dog owners, as well. 

Attractiveness

This is no joke, your dog may actually make you appear more attractive to potential mates. Not only have studies shown that a man is more likely to get a woman’s phone number if he has a dog with him, a study by Pet Wingman found that all genders tend to swipe right more on dating apps when a profile includes a photo of a pup. So if you’re looking for a date, adding a photo of Buddy to your profile or taking Coco out on the town may give you a boost with potential partners. 

Factoring in the Fur Babies

With the rise of remote work and the hybrid office concept, perks like free lunch, gym memberships, and foosball tables aren’t as relevant anymore. To keep your employees satisfied and attract top-tier talent, focusing on pet-centric perks may be the way to go. Some of the ways you can support your team and their fur babies are listed below. 

Canine Coworkers

As many companies are creating and implementing return-to-office plans this year, anxieties are rising among pet-owners. After working from home for so long or adopting a new puppy during the pandemic, many are worried about leaving their dogs alone during the workday. A solution to this issue is simply making your office dog-friendly. Not only does this create a fun work environment, but the pets can even stimulate creativity and productivity among your team. Allowing dogs in the office can promote socialization among coworkers and decrease stress levels, too. Many businesses have already adopted a dog-friendly work environment, and their teams are loving it. Pro-tip: opt for concrete floors in your office space as opposed to carpet. 

Fur-Flexibility

Not all offices and companies will have the ability to be dog-friendly, and that is okay. Although many companies are already opting for hybrid office models in coming months, giving your pet owners flexibility can reduce stress and improve employee morale. This can include offering flexible work-from-home days, in case your team member needs a day with their dog. Another option is designating specific “bring your puppy to work” days to give that opportunity to your dog owners every once in a while. 

Pets are Part of the Family

The majority of dog owners consider Fido as part of their family — so shouldn’t they get the same benefits as family members? Offering pet insurance to your employees is a great way to stand out among potential candidates and make your current pet parents feel supported. Pet insurance policies typically cover wellness exams, shots, chronic conditions and acute illnesses and injuries for your team’s fur babies.This insurance addition will help relieve team members’ stress and boost morale. 

Pawternity Leave

If you really want to make your company stand out among the rest, offering “pawternity leave” can do just that. This can include benefits like giving employees paid time off when they adopt a new pet to give them time to bond. It can also include extra sick days when a pet needs a vet visit or care when they are sick or injured. Pawternity leave can also include time off to grieve when a beloved pet crosses the rainbow bridge. This benefit may seem small, but can make your employees feel as if they are family — and that their pets are, too.