It’s Back To School Season for Rover-Time

What We've Learned The Past 18 Months

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Back to School Season for Rover-Time 

It’s hard to believe that summer has ended! September is here and most families are finally sending their kids back to school or are returning to work in person. Some parents are still working from home, either part-time or full-time, with children learning remotely due to the recent spike in the COVID-19 Delta Variant. After 18 months of dealing with pandemic realities in the real world, we’ve learned quite a bit about ourselves as a company and the clients that we work with! So in the spirit of “Back to School” season, here are some of the main things we’ve taken away from these long 18-months of pandemic life.

Flexibility Is Crucial.

Being in an industry that relies immensely on our hardworking, dedicated, and flexible staff, the loss of one such individual always rocks the boat. Our employees work diligently to learn the ins and outs of all the dogs on their routes. They build relationships with not only their animals but their families as well. It is one of the best parts of working for Rover-Time, being able to create and grow that bond between our staff and the households we serve.

While we’ve always recovered by welcoming in new hires (like Zach & Evin!), we’re still short-staffed (and still hiring!). Each week, it’s all hands on deck for our staff. Recently, even Julia, Rover-Time’s owner came out of dog-walking retirement to help in the field, all while juggling homeschooling her oldest and tending to her father who’s battling aggressive cancer. We’ve learned that like many other service-based industries, we’re not immune to labor shortages and that sometimes everyone needs to work together to weather the storm. This fact makes us appreciate our staff even more than we already did before.

Coupled with the shutdowns across Chicago and many people working from home, to make up for the lost workload, we had to think outside the box. While not all our ideas were winners, some have turned out to be wonderful additions to our service line!

  • We began doing one-hour adventure walks for those dogs that enjoy the exercise at the dog park or want to sniff everything they possibly can!
  • We branched out into home check-ins for clients who were on vacation, stopping by to water plants, check the house, and make sure everything is up to the level. For a lot of our clients, these services have been ways that they can continue to support Rover-Time, even if they don’t have room for dog walking right now.

Without the shutdown, we may not have added these services. Sometimes when you’re forced to think outside the box is when you can find your best solutions.

Appreciate, Appreciate, Appreciate.

When the lockdowns went into place, we were unsure whether to keep our doors open or, like many other dog walking companies around the country, temporarily ending operations with the hope of reinstating service once the lockdowns ended. Ultimately, we decided to keep our company running. What we didn’t expect was the amount of generosity our clients showed us. Our inboxes were flooded with an outpouring of support messages and inquiries for how to help Rover-Time carry on. Many clients donated walks to support our staff. Some donated for months. It was a humbling experience to be on the receiving end of that kind of support, generosity, and kindness.

Families working from home understood our staff’s apprehension with entering their homes and coordinated with us to ensure safe handoffs of their dogs at the door, they provided us with sanitation stations and kept open lines of communication regarding their COVID exposure. It can’t be said how much this impacted our lives and the lives of our staff. Knowing that your clients view your company as something worth supporting, makes you appreciate them all the more.

During COVID, we found a new appreciation for our staff. They worked tirelessly and did amazing work. But what we most appreciated was their openness and honesty regarding the realities of working in the field during the lockdown. They let us know what worked, and what didn’t. Without their input and feedback, we would have likely floundered. In response to their openness, we made changes, adjusted schedules, and did our best to learn from initial mistakes or oversights when the pandemic began. We always tell our staff that we’re here to support them however we can. Their feedback gave us a better understanding of how to do that while being mindful of everyone’s mental health.

Being locked inside your home is hard. The mental, emotional, and personal toll it can take is enough to make you want to give up. But taking the time to appreciate the amazing people that are in your life can help lessen the burden. It’s a reminder that there are lots of things to be thankful for.

Growth can be hard, but it’s worth it. 

After 18 months, we’ve experienced and learned a lot. We had to restructure, have difficult conversations, and take a hard look at our values and whether we always live up to the level of excellence we want to be at. But after our self-reflection, we’ve improved as a company. We’ve streamlined and smoothed parts of our operations that needed attention and tossed out what didn’t work anymore. As our team became smaller, we refocused a lot of energy as managers to better listen and learn from our staff, so they know and feel supported as they work on the front lines. As we begin to re-grow and expand, we plan to keep these improvements to come back better than ever.

Want some dog-friendly homework? 

We write a lot of blogs related to dog training. This is no surprise since we not only work with dogs, we genuinely love them. If you’d be interested in learning some new tricks (or old basics), seeing our favorite dog walking gear, or how to start separation training, check out the links below. And engagement is everything so if you have a comment or question, drop those below. We’re also so grateful for those that take the time to share our posts with others.

Thank you for reading!

Picking the Right Training Method for You and Your Dog. Positive Reinforcement – what it is and why you should be using it. 

Tips, Tricks, and Gear for Better Walks. Tools of the trade from our Team Managers! 

Shouts & Murmurs, How Dogs Perceive Tone. How you communicate is more important than what you communicate!

How To Teach Recall. The most important command your dog should know. 

Separation Anxiety in Dogs. How to recognize it and tips for working through separation anxiety. 

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