Should You Say Yes to Pets at Work?

calendar September 20, 2018

When it comes to animal-friendly offices, the answer depends on who you ask. But one thing we can all agree on is that the topic of pets in the workplace isn’t going away any time soon. If your company doesn’t have a pet policy in place, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll need one.

According to SHRM, approximately 7% of all workplaces allow employees to bring their pets to the office, and this trend is on the rise. Research has shown that animals can be great stress relievers, lowering levels of tension, anxiety and even blood pressure. But you don’t need a PhD to know that pets in the workplace can also raise hackles, eyebrows, and concerns.

So how do you, as a business owner, decide what pet policies are best for your company?

Do your homework

Whether you’re looking to create a more pet-friendly workplace or put your no-pet policy in writing, there are a lot of resources you can turn to. A quick Google search will lead you to research articles, examples of pet-friendly workplaces, policy templates, and helpful warnings about things you need to consider.

But when it comes to pets in the office, the most important research you can do is internally. As in, how do your employees feel about it? This is a critical component to crafting your workplace pet policy, as it has the potential to directly affect every single person on staff.

If you’re thinking of going pet friendly, make sure to survey all of your employees to find out what they think about it. Ideally, this would be done anonymously to allow you to get the most honest and candid feedback possible.

Believe it or not, this can be a touchy topic. Animal lovers feel very strongly about their little loved ones. And rightly so. But even people who have genuine concerns like severe allergies or a crippling fear of dogs may feel pressured to agree to pet-friendly policies for fear of being labeled as that no-fun, anti-animal coworker who thwarted the company pet policy.

Things to consider

Even if your entire staff is 100% on board with pets at work, you may still have research to do.

What are the concerns?

  • Does your landlord allow animals in the building?
  • Is your set-up conducive to allowing pets on-site?
  • Are there health and safety regulations or concerns?
  • What happens if equipment gets damaged?
  • What’s your legal liability if something happens to a staff member, customer, or animal?

What are the rules?

  • Will you allow all pets or just dogs?
  • What requirements will you set for who can participate?
  • Do you need to cap the number pets allowed on-site?
  • Should there be designated pet-free areas?
  • Will pets be allowed in the lunch room? In meetings?

Determine these things in advance so you don’t come up with that perfect pet policy only to run into issues with implementation.

Write it down

Putting a pet policy into writing might not be easy, but it definitely has its advantages. Once you’ve done it, you’ll be able to clearly answer any employee or candidate questions that come up about what is and isn’t allowed, and use it to recruit team members who are a good fit for your environment.

Like any effective workplace policy, your pet strategy should be carefully considered. You’ll want to make sure it aligns with your organizational model, culture, and values, and that you re-evaluate it regularly to make sure it’s still the right fit.

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