Employers want employees to work in the office. What’ll happen to the dogs adopted during Covid?

We all know that the Covid pandemic has led to an entirely different way of working. Working from home almost became a norm and now, in Britain, the government has specified that employers must consider an employee’s request to work from home from day one. But, in general, employers want employees back in the office.

Many employers just don’t think it works when their staff are allowed to spend day after day at home and then pop into the office one day a week. There is hybrid working which means coming into the office for three days but for many employers that doesn’t work either. For example, there is the matter of apprenticeships where the apprentices need to be around at the workplace interacting with other employees and their trainers.

Working from home and dog welfare
Working from home and dog welfare. It is good but it will deteriorate with increased office working. Image: MikeB.

“You’ve had your fun and your furlough, now get serious.”

As of today, the message sent out by the majority of employers is that they’ve had enough of homeworking and want to return to the status quo pre-pandemic. They think that employees have had ‘enough fun’ working at home and it’s time to get serious. The number of jobs advertised for remote working has fallen in the UK and continues to do so according to the LinkedIn website.

The chief executive of JP Morgan said that it doesn’t work for apprenticeship programs and it doesn’t work for ‘spontaneous stuff’ to use his words.

Apparently, at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, corporate bosses are expressing the same viewpoint. They don’t like staff who’ve misunderstood the fact that working from home (WFH) was meant to be a temporary arrangement to comply with social distancing during Covid.

Unfortunately, the workers disagree. They want it to be permanent. There is a battle going on between employees and employers on this topic.

The problem is that dogs are going to suffer. For example, Maria, 29, works for a digital agency in London. Her partner works in corporate finance. They adopted a dog during the pandemic like many others in the UK. They would not have adopted their dog but for the lockdowns during the pandemic.

And their employers have allowed for flexible working arrangements. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t keep their dog. And a good number of dogs have been relinquished to shelters for this reason. However, there is a little bright spark in the distance in that there are an increasing number of employers who allow employees to bring their dogs to work. Some high-profile companies such as Apple allow this in a controlled way. That’s clearly a compromise solution. It does require good management, however.

Maria’s partner has been asked to return to the office for three days a week but Maria has asked to do only one. She said:

“I would never go back to the office five days a week. I actively sought this job because of flexible working and that trusting relationship, and I’m just hoping I can continue to find that.”

But there is a shift away from home working. Elon Musk demanded that all Twitter employees work from the office and if they don’t agree they will have to leave the company. A lot of employers silently agree with this kind of policy.

The trouble in the UK is that there is a dearth of potential employees with a large number of vacancies. It’s an employee market. They can make demands. But the predictions are that things will change. There will be a shift in power from employees to employers.

Employees are as keen today as they were during Covid to work from home (surprised!?). I suspect that a factor in this desire is that they can adopt a dog or indeed a cat and care for that animal properly. The problem as I see it is that working from home is less productive in many instances than working from the office. I guess there are too many distractions and there’s the dog to take for a walk. And you’ve got to go for a cycle ride in the afternoon to keep fit.

Frankly, it is human nature to abuse that situation. It’s almost certain that people working from home, in general, don’t work as hard as they would if they were at the office. We all know it. The employers know it and productivity is down.

Hannah Slaughter, an economist at the Resolution Foundation said that “in theory you think that workers still have the upper hand because the pool of unemployed people is small relative to the number of vacancies [in the UK]. But we’re not necessarily expecting that to continue. And people are thinking ahead.”

It will be dog days for dogs in the future. I can see some real problems developing in the human-to-dog relationship in many households in the UK over the forthcoming couple of years. There was a huge surge in the number of dog owning homes during Covid. The Times reports that there is an extra 1.3 million pandemic pets at homes in the UK. I think it is higher than that in fact.

The root cause of the problem really is that many people adopted dogs on a short-term basis to keep them company during Covid lockdowns. That is not the way to adopt a dog or cat. They either thought that working from home would be permanent or they didn’t care whether it would be or not. They just wanted to adopt a dog and have some fun for the next 18 months until Covid petered out.

My thanks to Helen Rumbelow of The Times.

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