Should your workplace be pet-friendly?
Ask any dog owner about the benefits of living with a four-legged family member and you will likely get an earful. Dog lovers are a passionate breed, and they will gladly share story after story about their dog’s crazy antics and quirky personality. They’ll probably also show you the dozen or so photos of Fido on their phone. (Hey, they don’t call them fur babies for nothing.)
It’s no surprise that most dog owners wholeheartedly agree that dogs make life better, and it’s becoming more widely known that science backs them up. So, if it’s true that owning a dog (or a cat) can prevent heart attacks, lower your blood pressure, and encourage you to get more exercise, does that mean bringing a pet into the workplace is also good for employees?
It seems the answer is…mostly yes, and sometimes no.
Dogs are awesome! Cats are adorable! Here’s what your workplace stands to gain by allowing your employees to bring their pets to work:
- Pets reduce stress. Let’s face it. It’s pretty hard to wig-out about a deadline when you’re staring into puppy dog eyes. And who can resist taking a time out to cuddle with the sleepy kitty curled up and purring in your lap?
- Animals encourage team building. Employees who’ve never said more than “good morning” to each other will suddenly be drawn together by the new cocker spaniel puppy. Pets help break down barriers and can open the doors to new and better relationships between co-workers.
- Employees won’t mind working longer. A survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that companies that allow pets in the workplace not only have employees who are more willing to work longer hours, but also have a lower rate of absenteeism. Pet owners who take their pets to work also won’t have to rush home at the end of the day to let their dog out.
- You will attract younger workers. Today’s millennials (who continue to make large and growing percentage of the workplace) tend to view their pets as family, or “practice” families for the real thing. Having a pet-friendly workplace will appeal to this group’s love of pets as well as their desire for flexibility in the workplace.
On the flip side, not every workplace is conducive to critters…no matter how cute. Here’s why you may not want to become a pet-friendly workplace:
- Allergies! While adorable kittens bring big smiles to most faces (YouTube anyone?), they can also bring tears, itchiness and swelling to people who are allergic to their dander. If anyone is allergic to animals, banning them from the workplace must be non-negotiable.
- The landlord says no. Employees may be on board, but if your building’s landlord forbids them – for very real reasons like scratching or peeing on carpets – the answer is no.
- Your workplace needs to be sterile or it involves food. Obviously, if you work in a laboratory, or if you’re in the business of producing or serving food, pets at work aren’t a good idea (or probably not even a legal one).
- Employees are not following pet-friendly rules . Not every pet is suitable to come to work. If employees insist on bringing in untrained puppies who piddle everywhere and chew on everything, or pets who are threatening or unfriendly, or Joe’s cat does not get along with Jake’s dog, or the accountant insists on bringing in…snakes…it might be best to kibosh the whole idea.
If you decide that allowing pets at work is a good fit for your workplace, consider introducing a “pets in the workplace policy” so everyone clearly understands what’s expected of pet owners and their pets. An effective policy will spell out everything from what kind of pets are welcome, to where they can wander in the office, to what happens in if something is damaged, to identifying a complaints process should something go awry. Here’s a sample pet policy.
Good luck! And enjoy the dog days of summer. (You didn’t think I could get this far without at least one puppy pun, did you?)