As we know there are many domestic benefits to pet ownership. Dogs have been proven to improve both the physical and mental health of their humans, helping to increase fitness and become the focal point of new social interactions. But how does this translate to a professional environment? We investigate the growing trend of the ‘pet friendly’ office and see if it really is a case of man’s best friend or if we’re barking up the wrong tree.
Pet friendly workplaces have seen a rise in popularity over the past couple of years with companies like Google, Amazon and Ben & Jerry’s allowing employees to bring their furry friends to work, offering water coolers at canine height, dog biscuits galore and even off-lead dog parks for dogs and employees alike to enjoy on their breaks. Although there are an increasing number of companies allowing pets in their offices full time other companies have opted for the more manageable option of having monthly bring your dog to work days.
As with everything there are pros & cons to accommodating our four-legged friends in the workplace. Let’s start with the pros:
- Stress - Dogs and other pets are proven stress relievers and with the workplace capable of being a very stressful habitat it makes perfect sense to have a living stress-ball curled up under a desk. A pet can also help other employees feel more relaxed and comfortable around the office.
- Performance – As well as reducing stress levels pets can also increase staff performance with employees working longer hours and reporting fewer absences. Pet owners will stop worrying about having to leave their pets at home whilst they are at work and having to rush home to cater to them at lunch time.
- Image – There aren’t many people who don’t have some sort of affinity for animals and pets of some kind. Clients, customers, suppliers and visitors will have a more positive perception of a business just from hearing about the new policy. If they get to meet some pets on a trip to the office this will increase even further softening the companies image and as things stand, make them seem progressive and forward thinking.
- Interactions – Having animals around the office will help to improve team morale and encourage communication between employees and departments that might not necessarily interact with each other. These new interactions could generate new, refreshing ideas that could prove to benefit the company going forward.
- Retention – Staff turnover can be a problem for businesses. Time and money is invested in recruiting and training new staff for them to up sticks and leave 6 months down the line. A pet friendly office poses a nice incentive to new and experienced employees and could be the deciding factor between a member of staff seeking greener pastures or sticking around.
- Recruitment – In the same way that allowing pets in the office can be effective at retaining employees it can also be a great recruitment tool. Despite its increasing popularity it still isn’t a feature that potential recruits expect from companies, so it may tip the scales in that companies favour if a candidate is faced with multiple offers.
- Atmosphere – Dogs have the ability to put a smile on nearly anyone’s face despite what kind of day they may be having. An increase in the overall mood and atmosphere in an office will become apparent quite quickly when there are several cheerful canines in the mix.
Despite the positives outlined above there are things to take into consideration before welcoming pets into the office. Here are some of the cons:
- Legal – As with pretty much anything that goes on inside office walls there are always legal considerations. Say for example in the unfortunate event that one of the pet’s bites or trips another employee or a visitor to the office. It is important to seek legal advice before hand just in case such accidents were to occur, so they can be dealt with correctly the same way any other health or safety issue would be handled.
- Allergies – Not everyone can be around animals, people have allergies to animals such as cats and dogs, some might be quite mild others can be quite severe. Either way it is important to consult all the employees to find out if anyone is allergic to animals and to what degree.
- Phobias – Some people may have deep-rooted fears of specific types of animal. Again the company would need to consult their employees to find out about any such fears before establishing any kind of office pet policy. It may be an option to set up ‘pet-free zones’ in the office but this may not be a substantial enough resolution for some.
- Distraction – Probably the most obvious issue is that pets can be a distraction, not only to their owner but to other people around the office as well. That could be from barking or whining or just from their presence in the office drawing animal lovers from all over. Pets also need regular toilet breaks and exercise so how this would fit around the companies break policy should also be taken into account.
- Destruction – Even the most well-behaved pests can be prone to accidents from being caught short before break time and resorting to the carpet to chewing a table leg cleaning and repair costs all need to be considered as well as punishment for repeat offenders which may mean banning that pet from the office.
- Cost – There will be initial expenses when bringing in this change. Biscuits, drinking facilities, bedding and toys are required before welcoming the new ‘employees’ is the company going to pay for this or will part of the policy be that the staff provide their own.
- Rules – When dealing with any number of animals indoors it’s important to have a set of rules that are to be followed so that everyone can get the best out of the pets in the office. These rules will be in the form of a policy that employees will make sure they fully understand and agree with. The policy should specify what types of animals are allowed in the office and the frequency that they are allowed in along with punishments for bad behaviour and how and where they are to be kept during their stay in the office.
There you have it, a list of some of the pros and cons relating to the trend of allowing pets in the office. There are a lot of things to consider before a decision can be made but as more and more companies are deciding that the pros outweigh the cons, now is a good a time as any to think about that pet policy.
By Andrew Mairs – Marketing Executive