Want employees back in the office? Better plan for their pets too


If there’s a silver lining to be found from the pandemic, it’s that more pets found homes, but as offices reopen, employees want pet-specific benefits and perks to account for their furry family members.

Approximately 1.6 million pets were adopted in 2020, according to data from Shelter Animals Count, a nonprofit organization that tracks data relating to animals in shelters. Pets are beloved members of the family for 85 million Americans, and have helped employees combat loneliness, depression and anxiety during COVID-19.

Read More: Employees are expecting more pet friendly offices post-COVID

“The pandemic put white collar, non-frontline positions back into the home, and with that unknown feeling of how long we would be in the pandemic, people decided it’s time to bring home a pet,” says Susan Halvorsen, head of business development at Wagmo, a pet insurance and wellness company. “Millions of pets were adopted because people had the time to not only do their work, but be available even longer hours because they weren’t commuting to work.”

As employers look at post-COVID work arrangements, these new pet owners are unwilling to go back to the way things were. Sixty-seven percent of employees surveyed by Wagmo said their pet is the main reason they are unwilling to return to the office five days a week.

Read More: The 16 most popular employee perks

However, some employees are willing to return to the physical office if they are able to bring their pets with them, and some employees are willing to make some major sacrifices to do so.

Fifty-six percent of the employees surveyed by Wagmo said they would give up their lunch break in order to bring their pets to work. Thirteen percent said they would be willing to give up their overtime pay and 16% would be willing to sacrifice paid time off.

Read More: Wellness benefits should extend to employees’ pets too

“Employee pet owners are very worried about leaving a pet alone for extended periods of time, especially if they’re a new pet owner,” Halvorsen says. “People are willing to trade off paid time off in order to be with their pet to ensure that their pet is less anxious, and it makes the employee less anxious as well. And let’s face it, doggy daycare is really unaffordable for a lot of us.”

As employers plan for the return to work, there are actionable steps they can take to provide the support pet-parents so desperately need, like offering pet insurance benefits, subsidizing their wellness benefits to include pet care and making their office pet-friendly.

Read More: 7 reasons why employers should invest in pet-related benefits

“If companies really want to retain and attract their workforce, they’re going to have to go and modify where people actually work, first and foremost,” Halvorsen says. “Employees are going to say, ‘I’ve been more bonded with my pet and I want my benefits to extend to them as well.’”


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