Pets and the workplace
On an annual basis, in June, many businesses in the UK participate in a nation-wide event ‘Bring your dog to work day’. The main scope behind this event is to raise money for animal-welfare charities, dogs in particular.
Large corporations, such as Google and Amazon, have policies in place that allow and encourage pet owners to bring their furry buddies to the workplace. Some have even built dog parks on location.
Locally, businesses are very slowly warming up to this idea.
Bringing pets at work brings some positive benefits for the company. They help the wellbeing of their owners, which in turn leads to increased productivity. Studies have also shown that pets, in general, help lower their owner’s blood pressure and lessen anxiety. These benefits can also decrease the risk of depression and heart-related problems . So, why are we keeping back from bringing these benefits also to the workplace?
Of course, businesses need to consider a few points before taking the decision to allow pets, at the workplace.
If you are considering the idea, an anonymous survey amongst all employees may help obtain a better understanding whether all employees are on board with the idea of pets at the workplace.
The rest of the team
Not everyone is a pet owner, and some people are actually not keen on having pets around them at all (phobias, allergies, smell, etc.). How are you going to accommodate these employees? Are you going to encourage teleworking? Can you separate the pet owners from those who are not keen or cannot have pets close-by?
While pets may improve employee wellbeing and productivity, having their pet around will most definitely distract their owners (and also those close-by) whenever the pet needs attention. They may also distract the other employees who aren’t keen on having pets around, feeling tense and on the lookout, rather than focused on their work.
So, it is important to set the rules:
Will you be accepting all types of pets or restricting it to, for example, a dogs only policy? Are the pets to be confined to their owner’s respective office or space? What happens if the pet owner needs to attend a meeting, where will the pet stay and who will keep an eye on it? Are pets to be kept on a leash all day? How tolerant is the company’s policy towards misbehaving pets?
Employers need also consider pet-proofing their premises. They don’t need to go all out and create a pet park but they need to ensure that it is a safe workplace for pets too. They need also consider a space where pets can relieve themselves
If you totally discard the possibility of accepting pets at the workplace, what other alternatives may you offer to pet lovers? Examples may include pet bereavement days, pet insurance or simply a yearly or occasional ‘Bring your pet to work day’.
About the author
Maria Bartolo Zahra is Managing Director and HR Advisor at SurgeAdvisory. She has over fifteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.