Pets in the Workplace By Frankie Wallace |Published 12-09-2019
The trend of having pets in the workplace continues to grow, and in many ways, that’s a good thing. Pets can provide many benefits, including reduced stress and encouraging workers to get up and take short breaks from their tasks so that they’re refreshed and better focused when they return to their responsibilities.
But bringing pets into the workplace is a decision that needs to be made carefully, since there are some downsides and potential issues that go along with this practice.
From the potential for injury to the fact that pets can be distracting, it’s important to understand both the benefits and the downsides before allowing employees to bring their pets to work.
There are plenty of reasons to bring pets into the workplace. For example, dogs in the workplace have been shown to offer many benefits, including boosting employee productivity. Employees have to get up and take their dogs outside throughout the day, and these outings can help employees to combat fatigue and better focus on their work.
Having pets at work can also help employees to deal with mental illness. Pets can help to reduce stress and, for people who have anxiety or depression, pets often facilitate social interaction.
Pets are cute, fun, and a great icebreaker and conversation-starter, so employees who might otherwise have difficulty striking up conversations or maintaining small talk can more easily engage with others when a pet is involved.
Pets can also help to boost employee morale and increase job satisfaction. When employees are happy, they do better work, and employees also tend to be absent less when their workplace allows pets. Pets are also a great source of comic relief, which can be ideal in high-stress, high-pressure work environments.
A workplace that allows pets can also attract new talent. Pet-owning job applicants may be drawn to jobs where they can bring their pets to work with them, so a pet-friendly policy can help an employer to attract quality applicants and retain new employees.
Having pets in the workforce not only helps employees enjoy their job, but benefits employers too.
Just like there are many benefits, there are plenty of challenges that go along with having pets in the workplace, as well.
Employees with allergies may not be able to tolerate having pets around, especially if the workplace has an open floor plan or if the employees have severe allergies.
Some employees may be afraid of certain pets, like dogs, and bringing pets in could make them feel uncomfortable and unsafe at work.
As great as pets are, they can also distract employees from their work. While the occasional break from work can increase productivity, pets who demand frequent attention can negatively affect employees’ productivity, both the owner of the pet and their desk neighbors.
If animals make noise, play loudly, or even fight with each other, it’s difficult for employees to focus on their work.
The type and layout of a workplace will affect how easily pets can be integrated, which is another challenge to consider. For instance, it’s easier to allow employees to bring in pets when each employee has their own fully-enclosed cubicle within an office.
Open offices or workplaces that see many clients a day or that are open to the public can make this integration more difficult.
What’s more, there are also significant safety issues to consider. An employer will need to come up with ways to ensure that the pets stay safe, both from each other and from being able to access dangers in the workplace, like chewing electrical cords or eating out of trash cans.
In addition, pets could pose a safety risk to employees and clients. No employer wants to create a situation that increases the chances of someone being bitten by a dog, so establishing boundaries, procedures, and criteria for bringing dogs into the office is a must when it comes to everyone’s safety.
Even if an employer decides against a pet-friendly policy, they may still need to make accommodations and face some of these same challenges if an employee needs to bring a service animal to work.
The Americans with Disabilities Act states that service animals are a reasonable accommodation request that must be honored, so even if general pets aren’t allowed, employers must accommodate service animals.
Even though there are many benefits for allowing pets in the workforce, the downside is there are challenges, some more complicated than others.
Bringing pets into the workplace can be difficult, but it can also be worth the work. If you decide to move ahead with it, it’s important to develop a pet policy with details on the types of pets allowed, when and where pets are allowed, and the circumstances in which employees may be asked to remove their pets from the workplace. This pet policy will look different for every employer.
The pet lifestyle doesn’t have to be limited to time spent away from the office. In many cases, employers can successfully implement pet-friendly policies as long as plenty of planning and thought is put into how to bring pets into the environment safely.
Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from Boise, ID. If her spirit animal could be anything, it would be a beagle--inquisitive, and always searching for food.