The Pros and Cons of Pet-Friendly Offices


Stephen Close

If you like having Millennials as part of your work force, you had better like having pets in the office too. The trend is already well established in the workplaces of major-league Millennial favorites: Google, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s and Etsy. In fact, one study reveals that 17 percent of employers have pet-friendly workplace policies in place.

“Employers are starting to realize that having a Millennial bring … a pet to work, you wind up getting a more focused employee, you get someone more comfortable at the office and a person willing to work longer hours,” Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, told CNBC.

Other ways to make pets (and their owners) feel at home: sponsoring pet play groups, offering play areas, pet training, pet sitters, and, if you really want to show your true pet-loving colors, pet spas.

Here are more ways that office pets can improve your business and your staff’s performance:

Pets reduce stress. Employees who bring their dogs to work have decreased hormonal stress levels when compared to those who do not bring pets to work, according to a study by Emerald Insight. In fact, employees who do not bring pets to work experience increasing levels of stress as the day goes on.

Pets increase employee satisfaction. The presence of office pets improve morale, and promote teamwork and communication.

Pets in the office save employees money. The costs of daycare and dog walking can weigh heavily on employees, especially those who work long days or have long commutes.

Pets “youthen” your image. Pets in the office can change the client or customer’s perception of your business. The relaxed feeling of pets’ presence can make your company appear hipper, softer, younger, and more in sync with the culture (and you probably are).

Pets improve employee performance. Pets in the office tend to inspire employees to work longer hours and have fewer absences. There is no nagging, guilty feeling of having to get home for feeding or walking or worry of leaving a pet alone if they are under the weather.

Pets attract talent. There is intense competition for attracting Millennial talent; if you offer a pet-friendly office, chances are you will attract the kind of young people who will want to work in an environment like yours.

This may sound like a Shangri-La to many people, but not everybody is a pet person. In addition, there are also a few serious downsides to having pets in the office:

Pets can be a distraction. Not everybody’s work will improve if a pet is perceived as a constant distraction for certain coworkers.

Pets can cause damage. You may have to set aside extra budget money for the replacement of office equipment, carpets and furniture.

Pets can present legal issues. Check with your legal department and your insurance company to be aware of pet-related scenarios that could lead to trouble: a pet bite or an accident, for instance.

Pets don’t read the employee handbook. Pet fights and other noisy disruptions could disrupt your staff and endanger the animals. It could also sour some employees’ or customers’ perception of your company or business.

Pets could overburden your HR department. Having to set up rules and regulations for inviting pets — and the possible implications of having them around — could mean a lot more work for your HR team, giving them more to be responsible for and to oversee.

If you want to take the temperature of the office before you make any going-forward decision, “your first step should be surveying existing employees on the idea, listening to feedback,” Teresa Marzolph, people strategist and founder of Culture Engineered told Business News Daily. “Expressed concerns should lead to discussions. It’s important to understand the root of any objection.”

Another preliminary step: read your lease. Make sure you don’t need special permission from your landlord to allow pets; your landlord may also be adamant about not having them on the premises.

If your business regularly handles food, you may have to check with your licensing bureau to see if you are green-lighted for pets present (in most cases, you won’t be — it most likely will be considered a health-code violation).

Workable.com offers a template for formulating the policy elements of pets in the workplace. Employees who agree to bring pets should also agree to the following:

  • Inform HR that their pet is adequately trained.
  • Present current documentation of an insurance policy that covers their pets.
  • Provide proof that their pets are clean, properly vaccinated and free of parasites
  • Ensure that their pet will not cause allergies or other medical problems for their coworkers.
  • Sign waivers that state their pets’ information and their owners’ responsibility toward them.

If allowing pets can be do-able — and if everybody is on board for it — you may be on to something when it comes to building community, providing comfort and reducing stress for your staff.

“Pets can foster a sense of connection and community,” Russell Hartstein, certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC), certified professional dog trainer (CPDT) and CEO of Fun Paw Care, told Business News Daily. “Pets also act as social lubricant, and people tend to act more compassionate and kind in their presence.”

 

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Stephen Close is a Senior Vice President for KBS, overseeing over 2.8 million square feet in the eastern U.S.