More and more businesses are latching on to the idea that having a pet-friendly office can be good for business. Their decision is boosted by recent studies that show that pets in the workplace can significantly boost employee wellbeing and even result in lower stress levels.
While it is hardly surprising that the Humane Society is leading the charge by welcoming employees’ dogs and reimbursing some pet care expenses, major corporations like Google are also in on the trend, offering pet perks which include on-site haircuts and complimentary pet massages. Another pet friendly big brand is the Build-A-Bear Workshop, where pets get birthday “cele-bear-ations” and a special concierge service to their doggy day spa. Not to be outdone is the pet insurance company Trupanion, which gives employees access to pet insurance, full-time dog walking services, and pet bereavement leave.
Benefits of having pets in the office
Around the country, the trend is growing. According to The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPMA), nearly one in five American companies allow pets in the workplace. Research seems to suggest that allowing employees to bring their pets to the office can generate positive benefits for both workers and the company. A 2012 study showed that employees who bring dogs to work produced lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and experienced a decline in stress levels of up to 11 percent as the workday progressed.
Then there is the issue of work-life balance, which is often a major concern for millennials. Employees who bring their pet to work don’t spend their work day worrying about them, and may even be willing to leave work later since they don’t have to rush home to care for their pet. Bringing a pet to work can also boost creativity, as the brain relaxes while the owner is interacting with his/her pet or taking it for a short walk during breaks.
Nurse Janet Myers founded a pet-therapy program at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, Indiana and travels the country advocating the benefits of pet therapy with her dog, Bentley.
“It’s been proven that people are always more productive when they are happy,” Myers told The Indianapolis Star. “If Bentley is by my side, I am not thinking of needing to be home to care for him or that he’s lonely. I often stay late at work with him snoozing away under my desk. He is a big part of my life.”
Despite the obvious benefits, many companies are still struggling with the question of whether to allow pets at the office. After all, the decision could have far reaching implications for some employees as well as the company’s bottom line.
Policy & design considerations for a pet-friendly office
Before a decision is made, there should be certain considerations on whether or not to allow pets in the workplace. Chief among these is the wellbeing of all employees and whether the office design itself can accommodate animals.
The decision may require changes to the office layout to ensure that it is safe and functional for the employees as well as their pets. This may involve the implementation of simple rules like requiring employees to walk their dogs at agreed intervals, or can go as far as building an indoor park where pets can play and roam freely.
The installation of a baby gate might even be necessary to keep the pets within designated areas and away from animal-free zones. And since most animals smell, shed and will likely cause a mess at one point or another, an important consideration is whether the HVAC system might need to be upgraded with HEPA filters to remove pet allergens from the air.
Even when there is consensus, having a pet friendly work place can give rise to some contentious issues. For example, pet allergies are a common complaint, and companies should be mindful of this and take steps to accommodate employees who may be affected. Persons who suffer with serious pet allergies may need a separate, healthy environment in which to work. In addition, some breeds are more hyperactive than others and could cause distractions in the workplace. In allowing a pet friendly office, it might be necessary to restrict the movement of the animal from common areas such as the cafeteria or rest rooms.
Consideration should also be given to leash rules to protect those employees who may be afraid or uncomfortable around animals. In addition, it would be inconsiderate (and unwise) to have pets in the office who are not housebroken, or who display aggressive traits like growling or biting in the presence of other animals or people.
Thinking about going pet-friendly?
Implementing a pet friendly policy might be easier for small to medium-sized businesses, where there are fewer viewpoints to consider. However, for it to work successfully, certain factors should be taken into account.
- Check with employees to enquire about pet allergies or fear of animals and ask for evidence of up to date vaccinations.
- Outline clear rules that allow only housebroken and well-behaved pets, and create restricted areas where pets are not allowed.
- Talk with an insurance advisor about personal injury or property damage caused by pets.
“Be sure that if you implement a pet policy, you have rules set in place,” writes Jamie Bell. “Will you allow pets every day, or just on Fridays? Will you allow all types and breeds of pets, or just dogs? Do you require that the animals are housebroken and well-trained? Consider the impact these decisions will have on the environment as a whole, and not just on the pet owner themselves.”
In the end, a pet-friendly environment may not be suitable for every business. However, if you do decide to implement it, the decision can be an easy way to boost employee morale. With all the pros and cons taken into account, a pet friendly office may just be what the employees need to improve their overall wellbeing and boost productivity.
If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our others: