The Pros and Cons of Bringing Your Pet to Work
Pet-friendly workplaces are becoming increasingly common in today’s business culture. Google, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s, Etsy, and many other large companies allow their employees to bring pets to work. A 2008 study conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) found that 17 percent of employers had pet-friendly workplace policies.
Pet-related businesses have even higher percentages of pet-friendly workplaces. While having pets in the office can be associated with many benefits, it can also open the door to a variety of interpersonal and legal issues. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of having pets in the workplace.
- Relieves Stress: Having pets in the office reduces stress and makes employees feel more relaxed and comfortable. A 2012 study by International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that individuals who brought their dogs to work had decreased hormonal stress levels when compared to those who did not bring any pets to work. In fact, those who did not bring pets to work showed steadily increasing levels of stress throughout the workday.
- Promotes Positive Interactions: A pet-friendly workplace tends to increase employee satisfaction and to improve morale. Pets are also a point of common interest that can help to promote an atmosphere of teamwork and communication. Pets are a great vehicle for social interaction.
- Eliminates Pet Care Costs: Allowing owners to bring their pets to work also provides a significant financial benefit—it eliminates the additional costs of doggie daycare or dog walking services for employees who work long hours or commute a significant distance from their home each day. Daycare or walking services can be quite costly, so this can be an excellent perk for a pet-owning employee.
- Improves Company Image: Allowing pets in the office can boost a customer’s perception of the business. Most customers have a positive reaction when they are offered a chance to interact with an employee’s pet, and it can help them to relax and enjoy their visit to the business. Having pets in the office also tends to soften the company’s image and makes a business seem more progressive and forward thinking.
- Decreases Employee Turnover: Employee turnover is a huge problem for businesses, especially when they invest the time and resources to train a new hire that doesn’t stick around for the long haul. Allowing pets in the office is an attractive feature for employees who are animal owners, and this can be a great recruiting tool for potential hires.
- Increases Employee Performance: Employees of pet-friendly businesses tend to work longer hours and have fewer absences. They don’t have to worry about rushing home to let the dog out or staying home to watch a pet that may be feeling under the weather.
- Potential Source of Distraction: Pets can certainly be a distraction for both the owner and their neighboring coworkers. A dog will need to go outside for a few walks, and there could be noise issues from barking or whining. Pets can draw small crowds of employees seeking entertainment.
- Employee Allergies or Phobias: Not every employee can be around animals due to allergies, which for some individuals can be quite severe. Others may have deeply ingrained phobias about being around certain types of animals. Employers may need to create pet-free zones in the office for those suffering from these conditions.
- Potential Damage to Office: Pets can cause damage to office equipment by having occasional accidents on the carpet or chewing the furniture. While the office’s pet population may maintain a very high standard of good behavior, accidents do happen.
- Potential Legal Issues: There are always potential legal and insurance issues related to scenarios where a dog could bite or trip an employee, customer, or service provider while on company property. It is important to discuss such issues with a lawyer.
Makes a “Pet Policy” Necessary
Allowing pets in the office generally makes it necessary for an employer to draft a comprehensive “pet policy.” This policy should include consequences for misbehavior such as placing an animal on probation (or permanently banning them), specifying what types of pets are allowed, specifying the frequency with which pets may visit the office, and clearly stating how animals are to be leashed or contained during their time in the office.