Pet-Friendly Workplace: The Benefits and Pitfalls
Pets are a person’s best friend and an important part of people’s lives—67% of American households, or about 85 million families, own a pet of some kind, whether it’s feathery, furry, or has scales. Besides offering a pet insurance benefit, being in a pet-friendly workplace can improve team morale and company culture, along with other benefits.
What is a pet-friendly workplace?
A pet-friendly workplace means pets are allowed to join your employees at the office. Pet-friendly workplaces usually have policies to include dogs or cats only. Regardless of whether your workplace is pet-friendly or not, some employees may require a service animal. A service animal is defined as an animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are seen as providing a “reasonable accommodation” to your employees and is compliant with the ADA.
What are the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace?
- Reduces stress: Studies show pets help lower cortisol (a stress hormone), lower blood pressure, increase feelings and improve overall job satisfaction. Dogs and cats are cute, cuddly, and fluffy, so it only makes sense that having them around would be a mood booster.
- Boosts office morale and promotes productivity: An office with happy, stress-free employees increases productivity. While it might be distracting to have an office full of dogs and cats, the benefits of being able to take short breaks to pet your dog or cat are worth it.
- Improves workplace communication: Poor communication between employees blocks productivity. Pets help create bonds and connections between employees and facilitate conversation, which are great for enhancing communication.
- Improves work-life balance: Employees’ pets get socialized with other pets, and instead of your employees paying for expensive pet sitters or worrying about leaving their pets at home, they can bring their pets to work and lavish them with affection—a win-win for everyone.
- Improves employee retention and company loyalty: Because pets help improve work-life balance, employees will have fewer stress issues and fewer health issues, leading to higher job satisfaction and fewer work-related absences.
- Makes your workplace appear more attractive to prospective employees: When your workplace is pet-friendly, it is an incentive that might encourage like-minded employees to apply for positions at your business.
What are the pitfalls of a pet-friendly workplace?
- Compliance considerations: You will need to understand your local and industry rules and regulations when it comes to a pet-friendly workplace. Also, you will want to have insurance coverage before launching your pet-friendly workplace program to cover issues like:
- Pets damaging something at your workplace
- Pets being injured from something at your workplace
- Pets potentially hurting other employees/pets
- Pets potentially hurting visitors to your workplace
- Potential source of distraction: Yes, pets are cute. But they can have the potential to be a little too distracting to employees that need to focus on work.
- Potential tension: If you allow pets to roam around freely, there’s the potential of causing tension in employee relations if someone’s pet bothers another employee or pet.
- Allergies and phobias: Some employees may have allergies to pet dander, which will lead you to have to install a new HVAC system at your workplace to filter this dander. Some employees may also have phobias of dogs or cats, and in this instance, pet-free zones will need to be established.
- Cleanliness issues: Pets can, and do, have accidents. It’s unavoidable. Pet-friendly cleaning supplies and poop bags need to be made available to employees to clean up after their pets.
Make pet-friendly workplaces work for all employees
Even with the pitfalls, the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace will make a happy and healthy working environment for all. Create a policy that protects your workplace and enables safe, work-appropriate pet fun. Carefully review both the benefits and the pitfalls, and talk to your leadership board, advisors, and legal counsel for help in implementing your pet-friendly workplace.
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