People buying dogs and cats to keep them company was a lockdown phenomenon, but now furry friends who got used to their human companions working from home may be in for a shock.
Pets in the habit of resting on their owner's feet, lounging on chairs, or wandering across tables, as people typed away at keyboards and attended Zoom meetings may miss their owners when they return to the office.
Lockdown restrictions have been dropped - including the compulsion to work from home where possible - but employers are advised to only bring people back to offices gradually and many will do so part-time with hybrid working becoming increasingly popular.
Nonetheless, experts say dogs particularly may struggle to adjust swiftly to their owners' absence even if only a few days a week and behave anxiously, while many animal-lovers will also worry about their pets at home. This has led to a call for pet owners and employers to acknowledge the potential issues and work together to address them.
Will your dog cope with being alone in the house while you're off at work? If not, there are things you can do about it
According to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association, 3.2million UK households have welcomed a dog or cat since the pandemic emerged last year, shelling out a whopping £7.9million on their welfare and needs.
It's likely that among both new and existing pet owners there will be some concern over how their much-loved animals will cope with newfound absence.
Ashley Goldsmith, chief people officer at HR and finance platform Workday, said: 'As organisations plan for the future of work, HR teams need to remember that emotional wellbeing isn't just for humans.
'Many employees will also be considering their pet's wellbeing, and how they will re-adjust to a partial or full-time return to the workplace.
'The pandemic has blurred the line between personal and professional routines and our ways of working have changed. With that, many employees have begun to rethink how their family – including pets – are being affected as they prepare for a new working normal.
'With so much change, it's imperative that companies offer flexibility and empathy as part of a 'return to office' transition.'
If you're unsure about how to head back into the office while at the same time taking care of your dog and cat's needs, Workday, pet specialists and owners share their tips and solutions on how to make it easy for all.
1. Understand your pet
Pet owner Paula Stewart, who works as a casting agent at The Animal Talent, says she gets a pet sitter to look after her Spanish mastiff, Timmy
Your pet has got used to you being around the house and your absence and lack of noise may make them feel anxious.
Workday and Berkeley Humane's 'Pet Parent: Return to Office Support Guide' points out that separation anxiety can manifest as barking, chewing, meowing loudly, or destroying items.
If you're going to keep them at home, give your pet lots of time to get used to your absence.
The guide recommends working on ending separation anxiety several months ahead, as the training process works best when done slowly.
Recommended tools to help with this include ThunderShirts, puzzles, and crates – all of which can help to calm your animal while you're gone.
If you have a nervous dog that you think will really struggle, Nanci Creedon, from Creedon's College of Canine Studies, adds: 'I recommend that you section off a zone which is pet safe and make it a spa zone.
'I would download an audio book and have it on the background. It is scientifically proven to calm dogs, so maybe download a bedtime story audio book.'
2. Invest in a calming product
Some owners may need to use tactics that sound similar to helping anxious children or youngsters who can't sleep.
Creedon recommends getting a calming product such as Pet Remedy, which is a plug-in essential oil diffuser which helps to calm anxious dogs, cats and humans.
Creedon says: 'Put a super comfy bed into the zone, bring your dog in and sit with your dog whilst they listen to your audiobook, take in the essential oils, and provide them with a chewy object that they love chewing.
'This releases dopamine, which calms dogs. Stay with your dog until they fall asleep. Next time, wait for the dog to go in alone, and stay with the door open until your dog falls asleep. Repeat this process until your dog is comfortable with the door being closed.'
Journalist Suzanne Baum makes sure she goes to dog-friendly hotels, so she can take her cockapoo with while she's working
3. Gradually spend less time at home
Don't leave your pet to fend for themselves for an entire day in one long burst, if they are not used to it.
Workday and Berkely Humane recommend leaving the room your pet is in for small increments of time, gradually working up to leaving for a few hours at a time.
They say: 'Remember, it is super important to come back before your pet gets too worried (it'll take time before that's hours). And try not to make a big deal about goodbyes or reunions as you come and go.'
4. Set up a video call to check if there may be problems
Obviously, setting up a Zoom, Skype or Teams call with your dog or cat while they are at home alone all day is a fairly tricky thing to do - pets are not renowned for their computer skills.
However, using Zoom or another service to monitor how your dog is when you are not there in preparation for your days out at work can help.
Creedon explains: 'All dog owners should know how their dog responds to being alone, so one thing you can do is to set a Zoom call with your dog.
'Angle the camera so that you can see what is going on, leave the house like you would go it work, and then watch how your dog responds.
'If your dog appears anxious but settles down in 20-30 minutes, then there is nothing to worry about and you should monitor their behaviour for the rest of the day.'
Jennifer Bailey, CEO of Calla Ltd, took her dog Billy the French Bulldog to her work photoshoot
5. Take them to work
More companies have pet-friendly policies these days. Big names that welcome pets in the UK include Workday, Purina, Nestle and Amazon.
Other smaller companies may also choose to do so, although it is worth bearing in mind that colleagues may not want pets in the office and may suffer from allergies.
Jennifer Bailey CEO of Calla Ltd, which sells shoes online, takes her dog to work. Billy the French Bulldog even attended a photoshoot.
Jennifer says: 'We have waited a long time to get a dog as a family but lockdown and the fact that I am able to work from home and take my dog in to the office helped seal the deal. I use co-working spaces in Manchester and fortunately they accept well-behaved dogs!'
Meanwhile, journalist Suzanne Baum adopts a mixed strategy when it comes to the care of her cockapoo, Coco.
She explains: 'As a celebrity interviewer I either go to a celeb's house to interview them or dog-friendly hotels and everyone seems to be accepting of dogs.
'Even yesterday when I interviewed Lorraine Kelly, for example, she was totally dog-friendly. So, my plan is, to work more from dog-friendly cafes and hotels, use my dog-walker once a week to keep up their relationship and then on the odd few hours leave Coco home alone.'
6. Get a dog behaviour specialist
There's a chance that you may need to hire an expert to help with the transition to an empty home during the week.
There are plenty of animal behaviour counsellors, and veterinary behaviourists that can all help to work on your pet's behaviour.
To find the right one for you get recommendations from veterinarians or friends with animals.
7. Get someone to care for them
If your dog still can't cope, then consider hiring a dog walker, pet sitter or checking them into doggy day care. Rates for dog walkers, sitters and day cares can vary depending on where you live.
A dog sitter can be ideal if your pet is comfortable in the home. However, if your dog is sociable you may prefer to hire a dog walker, or get them to interact with other dogs at doggy day care facilities.
Paula Stewart, a casting agent at The Animal Talent, says she makes use of a pet sitter. She says: 'I use a pet sitter that visits my home and even does overnight stays.
I have prepared a care booklet for my pet sitter which informs her of each animal's preferences, characteristics and needs
'I have prepared a care booklet for my pet sitter which informs her of each animal's preferences, characteristics and needs. She sends me picture updates whilst I'm away so I can see that my animals are safe.
'It's expensive - £80 for an overnight stay of 24 hours - but it's worth it. I didn't adopt my animals to then have them face abandonment again. I wanted them to enjoy their lives in a happy, secure home.'
If you can't afford this type of care, consider the Borrow My Doggy app, which connects you with people who want to borrow dogs but who don't necessarily want to own a dog.
You don't get charged if someone borrows your dog, you just pay a membership fee. At the time of writing, premium membership costs £44.99 a year and £12.99 for dog borrowers.
A Borrow My Doggy spokesperson says: 'The membership fee helps to cover our safety checks, accident and third party liability insurance and access to a 24/7 vet line.'
The alternative is to ask any neighbours who work from home to check in on your dog or to keep the pet at theirs until you get home.
What if things aren't working?
There's no specific step-by-step guideline on what to do if you think something's not working.
It's best to try as many options as you feel comfortable with before settling on a solution that's right for you and your pet.
Don't be overly enthusiastic about saying hello and goodbye. This could result in your pet thinking it's an unusual situation.
Remember you want them to think that you leaving the house for a couple of hours is a natural set of events.