Last week we discussed 5 things businesses have learnt over lockdown; one of those was the growing importance companies are placing on their employees’ mental health.
There are many fantastic organisations doing wonderful things to help people struggling, but today we’re going to look at one group of lockdown’s unsung heroes that have helped many of us, sometimes without us realising: our pets.
Pets play a huge part in our lives.
Over 41% of all UK households own one type of pet. That’s over 12million households and nearly 50million pets in total.
Whether furry, feathery, or scaly; large or small, our little companions come in all shapes and sizes.
The positive benefits of pets on a person’s mental health has become a prominent consensus within the field of science and psychology, gaining increasingly concrete and evidential scientific support.
But the impact of pets on a person’s mental health has been a focus of study for a number of decades already. Brickel, in 1981, concluded that pets enhance the lives of their owners through Pet-facilitated Psychotherapy (PFP), increasing social interaction, providing comfort and support, and reinforcing feelings of independence.
Friedman and Thomas (1985) furthered this by examining the positive effects of the presence of animals on cardiovascular responses and mild stressors and acknowledged the importance of their role in the household environment.
There are many, many more recent examples of these scientific and psychological studies with this becoming more of a focus given the events over the past year.
So, we’re going to look at 5 of the many benefits our pets have brought us while working from home over lockdown…
1. Reducing stress
Bupa, one of the UK’s largest private healthcare providers, reported an increase of 300% more calls to their wellbeing advice line just one month into the first lockdown in April.
And with two in three employees claiming work is one of the main causes of stress, it’s clear a need to combat this should be a priority.
Our pets give us a moment to take time away from our screens and spend time focusing our energy on our little pals. The simple act of stroking your dog or cat has been proven to reduce stress. A study by Washington State University discovered that just 10 minutes spent fussing over our furry friends can reduce high levels of cortisol, where too much of this one hormone can have adverse effects on stress levels.
2. Developing a routine
Anyone who owns a pet knows they can develop their own little routines.
Whether it’s the cat demanding his/her morning biscuits precisely at 6am every day, the dog somehow knowing exactly when their daily walk is coming up or the bird starting to screech just when you’re about to go on your daily team catch-up call.
But these little routines also give us some sense of regularity too. When you’re stuck inside working from home, one day can blend into the other so it’s important to develop a routine that allows you to keep track of each day.
Simple acts such as feeding our pets at the same time every day or taking the dog for a stroll after closing the laptop lid really make these small things an event, rather than something some may have seen as more of a chore before lockdown.
3. Make getting active and outside a necessity
Following on from the above, these little pet routines give us a reason to be more active.
Probably more relevant to dogs than cats, dogs give us a reason to pop on our shoes, wrap up warm and venture out in all weathers.
Whether just for 10 minutes or hiking for hours, getting out and moving over lockdown has been essential with the gyms being closed, and our dogs have been there with us all the way.
Even getting out in the garden to feed the rabbits (if that’s where yours live) gives us a reason to at least get some fresh air once a day.
4. Boosting focus and motivation
A study by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home found that more than half of pet owners interviewed stated their pets increased their motivation and productivity levels.
They’ve also been an ever-present fixture on social media, cropping up in Zoom calls and appearing in the background of meeting screens.
Whether these are welcomed or not, our pets appearing on video calls has been said to help increase a rapport with a colleagues and customers alike, giving us something to talk about other than the constant, and more formal, work chatter.
5. Having a reliable little companion
And finally, at the end of the day they give us guaranteed companionship.
They’re always there and (usually) willing to give us their time and love. And it’s not just the home workers this is helping directly.
For many parents, juggling work and looking after the kids has been a difficult balancing act. Our pets have helped entertain the kids for at least some of that time.
They’re also a huge combatant of loneliness. Some people working from home have been doing so living alone with the only contact being through a computer screen. Our pets have been that one constant giving us a little something our friends and family might not be able to until restrictions are lifted again.
There’s a lot of thanks home workers can give to friends, family, colleagues, and strangers that have helped them stay grounded over lockdown.
But we don’t need to look far to give thanks to some of our little unsung heroes. They have no idea what’s been going on the last year, but they’ve been there for us no matter what and an integral support pillar when working from home that might just warrant an extra treat this Christmas.
We’ve been getting behind our employees’ mental health by training four of our staff as mental first aiders. They’re there to support colleagues from serious issues to a simple chat and everything in between.
We’ve also recently introduced puppy days with Paws in Work and in partnership with one of our vendor partners, EPOS. To find out about the effect the power of puppies can bring to your colleagues mental well-being, visit their site here.
FT – Bupa stat
tyla.com – Battersea Dogs and Cats Home stats