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Bringing pets to work could help bring office sector back to life

With workplaces around the country struggling to get people back to work, allowing pets could help bring offices back to life, according to an expert.

Ray White Commercial Head of Research, Vanessa Rader, said the majority of households in Australia already have a pet, so bringing them into the office might help boost workplace vibrancy.

“Australians have grown the pet population with 68.7 per cent of all households having a pet, up from 61 per cent three years ago, and after spending so much time with them during lockdowns, there has been an increase in pet anxiety, which has been a key stumbling block for staff returning to work on a full-time basis,” Ms Rader said.

“Surprisingly, prior to COVID-19 there were a number of tenants actively seeking acceptance in lease terms to allow pets in the office. 

“The majority of these being technology companies who saw the benefits and wellbeing positives in having the calming influence of a pet in the workplace and often sought to attract young and forward-thinking staff into their organisation.”

According to Ms Rader, tenant enquiry and the requirement to allow pets in the workplace have subsided since Covid, but surprisingly, pet-allied demand to occupy stock have seen some increase including users such as pet insurance companies and pet creatives.

“While for some businesses this may have been a fun initiative to help provide emotional support to both staff and pets, other issues such as travelling to work with a pet and time spent taking the pet outside may cause more problems and resentment amongst staff,” she said.

Ms Rader said typically younger working people are the ones who own pets.

“The bulk of pet owners in Australia are aged between 18 and 39, with 80 per cent owning a pet, a stark difference to the baby boomer age group, with only 52 per cent of baby boomers owning a pet,” she said.

She said pets in office spaces have always been a contentious issue and, while some businesses have embraced furry friends in the working environment, balancing all-of-staff wellbeing can sometimes be a struggle.  

Ms Rader said aside from pets, workspaces were also looking at other options to bring the office back to life.

“While in the past tenants have been responsible for the vibrancy of their own business, using communal areas, ping pong and foosball tables to create positive team interactions, now building owners are becoming more invested in helping tenants grow their building activity,” she said.

“Recently we have seen a number of building owners get creative with facilities in their building, no longer are bike racks, end of trip facilities and lobby cafes enough to satisfy occupiers.”

Ms Rader said sporting facilities, such as basketball half courts, squash courts and virtual golf, had started to emerge in Sydney CBD office buildings, used to entice new tenants into their building. 

“The health and wellbeing associated with fitness and exercise, together with the fun interactions across the whole building, could help with bringing staff back regularly into our cities,” she said.

“With more than 13 million adults in the country actively playing sport and more than 90 per cent having an interest in sport, could we see more sporting offerings within offices make a splash in CBD’s across the country?”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.