Over the past year, the everyday work routine has changed drastically. Many of us have been confined to our homes, setting up new make-shift workstations, and adjusting to all human contact being remote/online and sticking to a new routine – Change isn’t easy.
One of the biggest adjustments of working from home for many has been getting used to working with pets around. In fact, over 50% of the UK have new furry co-workers. Those of you with cats will relate to a fluffy tail dusting off your keyboard and screen, while the dog owners among us will give a knowing nod to the awkwardness of incessant barking at the doorbell during a crucial Teams meeting.
So for many of us, 'National Bring Your Dog to Work Day' (this year on the 25th June) has been every day. During what has been a challenging year for us all, we wanted to find out from the Acre team what the wellbeing benefits of having a dog while working from home have been; including helping with mental health, companionship, productivity, routine and exercise.
“During Lockdown we were approached by a friend who told us about Pearl, an abandoned chihuahua who would be put down if she didn’t find a home. We couldn’t bare the idea as there are so many dogs out there who don’t have owners, and so many choose to buy instead of adopting. For us, it was about bringing a dog, who didn't already have a family into our home and she is just amazing.
I am someone who wakes up at 6:30 in the morning and instantly checks their emails and diary- I am then in work mode. In the first 6 months of lockdown, I would always have a call before 9:30 and I was probably online too much. When we got Pearl though, I had a new priority and I had to make sure she had a walk first thing in the morning.
At first, I would bring my phone with me and answer emails on the walk, but I realised I wasn’t being very engaging or present. Now I leave my phone at home as it gives us some time in the morning to be outside, enjoy the new area we live in and just be more aware about what is happening around us.
It has allowed us to meet new people who are also dog owners, and through speaking with new people we have learnt so much about the history of the area. We now like the area we live in a lot more and it has really opened up a whole new social life for us and I truly think that it has a lot to do with having that routine of going outside on a dog walk every day. “–Tanith Allen, Director, Infrastructure & Manufacturing, Sustainable Business
“Navigating work-life balance over the challenging 18 months we’ve had has been a difficult one. For me personally, I’ve always struggled to drag myself away from my laptop for long enough to grab a coffee - let alone to get out and get some fresh air.
Working from home compounded that problem, as plans totally shifted and we all channeled our energy into figuring out how to do our jobs and add value to our businesses in a new, unexplored landscape. It wasn’t for a lack of encouragement from Acre to take breaks and look after yourself - but making time to do it wasn’t on my list of priorities.
Then in September, along came Ronnie (and then 5 months later, Pepper) and having a reason to take breaks and protecting the time for it in my diary is suddenly second nature. Both were adopted from MISI's Animal Rescue, a rescue run by four women who have dedicated their lives to helping stray dogs find their forever home across the UK and Europe.
I hadn’t realised how much my productivity and my wellbeing was suffering because I wasn’t taking some time out. I come back to my desk in the afternoons after our walk and feel instantly better and ready to pick my work back up with a clear head. I start my days in a more productive way having already been up and out, rather than rolling out of bed to my desk.
Working with my two best pals snoozing at my feet every day has been the best, most productive thing to happen to me over the last year. It’s not without its challenges - barking at the doorbell or trying to get on my knee during Teams calls isn’t ideal - but they’ve given me something to focus on, a routine, and are always here to make me laugh through the day, for which I am grateful!” –Rachel Frost, Head of Marketing
“I moved to London 2 years ago leaving behind three family dogs and since working from home I have really missed that lack of companionship. Recently I started using the service BorrowMyDoggy which really filled a huge void for me, as living in a small flat is not the right living space to have a dog full time.
My girlfriend and flatmate are both ICU nurses and work very long shifts so they’re often out of the house from 6am to 9pm, which means I’ve got a whole 14/15 hours of the day when I’m on my own. With the current pandemic they also sometimes work 2-3 days in a row which means I can go without seeing anyone for a long time.
I have a few favourites that I dog sit for each week, and I really look forward to looking after them. A great aspect of BorrowMyDoggy is the dogs aren’t always there for the whole day they are dropped off at lunchtime then picked up at dinner time. This means I have company in the afternoon and also it encourages me to leave my desk and get out of the house for a walk.
I am a very sociable person and thrive from the energy of others around me, so working from home alone was hard, but having a dog a few times in the week as a companion is the best option for me.“- Jack Porter, Senior Consultant Energy & Climate Change
“There’s a quote I often see online about how taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. I think this is something we all seem to know, but very few of us actually practice – especially because we like to tell ourselves that we just don’t have time to. When it comes to exercise, I love to use this excuse but if this past year has taught me anything, it’s that committing to small, achievable habits that you do often is far more productive than setting ambitious (or in my case, unachievable) fitness goals. Sometimes, that really is as simple as just stepping away from my desk for a walk.
Five months ago, my family welcomed a four-legged friend into our lives called Gordie. At the moment, he’s about 16lbs of pure joy and energy (when he isn’t chewing my favourite shoes or nipping at my ankles anyway)! Like clockwork, every day at 4pm, he wakes up from his afternoon nap ready for a long walk and it has become the highlight of my day to stop whatever I’m doing, get out into the fresh air and enjoy some quality time with him. The pandemic has brought an incredible amount of pain and suffering for so many in the world, so I think it’s important to take the small wins where we can and to acknowledge the fact that for those of us that haven’t been heavily impacted, we have a lot to be grateful for.
While I can’t physically bring Gordie into the office for ‘Bring Your Dog to Work Day,’ I am grateful for the flexibility I have to spend a little bit of every day with him instead.”- Sean Desouza, Senior Marketing Executive
“I think I speak on behalf of many people, that the pandemic has had a major effect on our lives and also our mental health. Having dealt with anxiety for years, the uncertainty, the fear and the stress of the situation while being isolated from family and friends for months on end had a huge effect on me. I also lost someone very close to me during the second lockdown and felt cheated out of the normal grieving process. We were unable to have a proper funeral, I couldn’t keep myself busy having plans or surround myself with my friends. That’s where Dexter came in.
Dexter is an 8-year-old cockapoo who is extremely needy, has no idea what personal space is and gets jealous when anyone hugs anyone but him. Despite him barking whenever the doorbell rings and interrupting many Teams calls, I may be biased but I think he is the best dog in the world. I truly believe dogs have a sixth sense as he had the ability to know when I was having a bad day and if he ever saw me upset, he would always cuddle up to me. He stayed by my side every day while I was working, made me laugh, distracted me with his cuteness and more importantly he gave me an incentive to leave the house, get some fresh air and have some much-needed space for myself. Dexter was there for me exactly when I needed him.” –Grace Coleman, Senior Marketing Executive
From speaking to people at Acre, it’s clear that having an animal’s presence is so beneficial to our team’s wellbeing.
“Wellbeing is so crucial to us at Acre. We’ve bolstered our wellbeing initiatives as much as possible throughout the last year – we've provided care packages, given extra annual leave to give people a break, run sporting incentives and plenty of other things to try to keep our team going – but of course it’s challenging when we’re apart.
It’s great to know that so many of our team have had a companion to help take care of their wellbeing at a time when we all need it. From providing more of a daily routine, getting us away from our desks and improving our mood, working at home alongside our pets has offered so many benefits to both the quality of their lives, our productivity and our wellbeing." - Anna Keen, Performance Director, Acre Frameworks