Pet owners concerned about returning to the office post-pandemic

Libby-Jane Charleston

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New research has revealed 35 percent of Australian pet owners are concerned about their physical return to the office and its impact on their pet.

The top three concerns shared include pet loneliness (50 percent), personal guilt for being away (20 percent) and financial concerns around having to pay for a pet sitter or walking service (19 percent).

The research comes at a time where one-in-four (26 percent) of the Aussies surveyed say they became a new ‘pet parent’ in 2020. The majority were spurred on by COVID-19 restrictions that allowed them to work from home or have more time in their day to care for a new pet.

In response to the report, Mars Petcare Australia has released its vision of a ‘future workplace’ – a space designed to complement the needs of both people and pets. The renders have been created to help encourage businesses to transition towards pet-friendly workplaces. Innovations include:

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“Not Pet” carpet – a textile innovation that uses a grate look fabric that is a deterrent to dogs;

Calming plants – plants like Bergamot have been included throughout to help balance emotions by soothing panic and snappiness.

LED lights – under desk LED lighting technology has been implemented to help disinfect any bad smells.

Mars Petcare Australia has also teamed up with leader in technology, design and enterprise, RMIT University, to challenge its students to create their interpretation of the nation's future workplace.

Dene Cici, Executive Director at RMIT University said: “We’re incredibly excited to have Mars Petcare support our students with real-world work industry experience opportunities.

“Our students are the nation’s workforce of the future – and the challenge we are tasking them with is sure to draw huge participation across the different faculties. We can’t wait to unveil RMIT’s take on how our future pet-friendly office designs might look.”

Students who enter will have the opportunity to win up to $1,500 to make their workspace and office innovation a reality.

Veterinarian Dr Chris Brown said: “I genuinely believe that we need to do what we can to make a better world for pets. I have been working closely with the Mars Petcare team for several years to ensure that Australia’s homes, parks and cities are inclusive and most importantly welcoming for our furry family.

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The natural next step on our journey is to transform Aussie workplaces. Using creative solutions, like calming plants, no pet-carpet work zones – for those that require some dog-free time - and dog amenities like water bowls and sleeping pods, we believe that all offices can be a place, not just for employees, but their pets too.”

When asked if they classify ‘pet friendly’ as simply being able to bring a dog into the workplace – 60% said yes. However, 40% of those polled claimed this wasn’t enough – calling on businesses to reconsider their workplace designs.

The most-wanted design features include:

● Greater outdoor access (34 percent);

● Pet-friendly floor plans to allow for free (and restricted!) movement (28 percent);

● Doggy daycare (20 percent);

● Dog-specific designed furniture (11 percent); and

● Free food and nibbles for furry friends (7 percent).

On a national level, eight-in-10 respondents support pet-friendly workplaces as long as they contain a pet-free zone. Gen Z was the cohort who rallied behind pet-friendly policies – 95 percent support dogs in the office. Millennials followed at 88 percent. On a geographical breakdown, Victorians took the top spot for supporting pet-friendly spaces (92 percent).

Other findings from the report included the benefits of pets in the workplace. The majority of respondents claimed pets in the office make them feel happier overall (54 percent), less stressed (15 percent) – and more social (7 percent) with pets giving them a reason to talk to colleagues.

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I'm a journalist and author writing across a wide range of topics, including tech, travel, history, business/startups, relationships, beauty & fashion, British royal history, & local stories concerning Charleston, S.C (where I have a long family history on my father's side: hence my surname! ) Former HuffPost Assoc Ed, ABC TV, ATV Beijing correspondent and many more. Author of "Fatal Females." Mother of three boys: I will love them until the Statue of Liberty sits down.

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