A pet in the workplace policy is a weird one because it simultaneously feels like a terrible idea and a fantastic idea.
On the one hand, pets are messy, disruptive, and distracting. But on the other hand, people love animals. A cat curled up asleep on your lap can do wonders for your stress levels, while a friendly office dog could make anyone genuinely look forward to coming to work.
This is why, if you’re going to let animals into the workplace, you need a policy. With a pet in the workplace policy you and your team can enjoy all the benefits that loving animals can bring, while carefully managing all of the challenges that come with owning pets.
The Benefits of Pets in the Workplace
Before you think about how to take a moment to think about why. If you can clearly communicate just what you want to achieve with your pets in the workplace policy, you’ll be more likely to get the support you need from your decision-makers.
Handled correctly, pets in the workplace policy can bring a number of benefits:
- Increased Employee Engagement and Motivation – Animals just bring out the best in some people. The company of a fluffy friend could make help certain employees to find more joy in their work. And from this increased engagement you might expect a boost to productivity.
- Reduce Stress Levels – Studies have found links between pet ownership and reduced stress levels. Your pets in the workplace policy could be the key to managing stress in your workplace. Also, if you have dogs in the office, the team could take it in turns to take this dog for walks, or to the park for a game of fetch. This is a great way to introduce physical activity into the working day, which is a key part of any employee wellbeing program.
- Better Workplace Relationships – People bond over their love for animals. Your pets in the workplace policy could be just the thing to bring your team together. You might also expect better relationships between employees and managers. Employees are likely to think highly of management that lets them take their pets to work.
- Improved Reputation – When word gets out that you let your staff bring pets to work, people may start to see your company as creative, compassionate and forward-thinking. This will help you attract the top talent you need to succeed, and it may even convince certain clients and customers to start working with you. Also, if you’re struggling for marketing ideas, pictures of cute animals tend to perform very well on every social media platform.
The Downsides of Pets in the Workplace Policy
With such benefits in store, why doesn’t every company have pets in the workplace policy?
Because, of course, there are some real downsides to letting animals into the workplace:
- Animals Can Be Disruptive – Your employees might be more motivated and engaged, but animals need a lot of attention. It’s easy to imagine how a needy dog might distract an employee from a more pressing task.
- Animals Can Be Messy! – Clawing at carpets and walls. Chewing up wires and knocking mugs off desks. Tipping expensive equipment as they bound around the office with wild abandon. Pets in the workplace might make your team more productive. But this productivity just might be offset by repair costs.
- Animals Aren’t for Everyone – Some people are allergic to certain animals. Some people just dislike animals. They’d much rather work in peace and quiet than spend their working day with other people’s pets. So while pets in the workplace policy might make some employees feel more motivated and engaged, it could make some employees dread and resent coming to work. That goes for your customers and clients too. Even if your whole team’s onboard with pets in the workplace, you don’t want to miss out on that big sale because your potential client is terrified of dogs.
- Think of the Animals! – Cats are territorial and love routine, so it can be distressing for them to be dragged from their homes into a loud and unfamiliar new environment. Dogs need constant companionship and reassurance, and if your team’s not able to deliver on this, they could get very unhappy. It’s vital that your pets in the workplace policy take into consideration the pets’ needs too.
How to Create a Workplace Pets Policy for Your Business
You’ve weighed up the pros and cons and you’ve decided that you’re going to let employees bring their pets to work. So now it’s time to put your policy together.
Your policy is going to have to meet the specific needs of your workplace and your people. But here are some elements you might consider including:
- HR Consultation – Any employee that wishes to bring their pet to work must first meet with HR. They’ll have to assure HR that their pet is well-trained, properly insured, fully vaccinated and free of infections and parasites. They may have to back up these claims with evidence. The employee and HR can then work together to ensure that their pet will not cause any allergies or other medical problems for any other member of the team. The employee should then sign a waiver stating that they accept full responsibility for their pet in the workplace.
- Which Pets Are Allowed – Your pets in the workplace policy should clearly outline which pets people are allowed to take to the office, and which are not allowed. Dogs and cats are generally included in all policies, provided they’re well-behaved. The sort of animals that are usually prohibited includes snakes and spiders (because too many people are scared of them) as well as rabbits and other rodents (because they’re more likely to chew up cables). Your policy might also prohibit people from bringing certain big and aggressive breeds of dogs.
- The Owner’s Responsibilities – If the employee who brings a pet is to sign a waiver accepting full responsibility for their pet in the workplace, you’ll have to outline just what their responsibilities are. As a general rule, the employee should be aware of their pet’s location at all times. They’ll also take responsibility and cover all expenses should their pet make a mess, damage any property, annoy any other members of the team, endanger themselves, wander into any prohibited areas, or fight with other office pets. You might set a “three strikes and out” rule – if a pet behaves badly three times, then the employee will no longer be allowed to bring them to work.
- Prohibited Areas – Your pets in the workplace policy should outline any areas where pets are not allowed, under any circumstances. These prohibited areas will vary from workplace to workplace, but examples might include the vicinity of any employees with pet allergies, potentially-dangerous areas like laboratories and warehouses, any areas where food is prepared or served, and any meeting rooms during visits from clients or other third parties.
- Complaints Process – Finally, your pets in the workplace policy should outline the steps any employee must take if they wish to raise concerns or report any issues caused by a pet in the workplace. This, combined with the “three strikes and out” rule, should help all employees to feel safe and respected in the workplace. The complaints process should operate in tiers. The employee with a complaint should first approach the pet owner to see if they can resolve the problem immediately. Failing this, they should report to that employee’s supervisors. And if this doesn’t bring a satisfactory resolution, they should approach HR, who will then decide whether it’s appropriate to file a formal complaint.
Please bear in mind that your policy should not extend to service animals. This is a separate issue entirely! Service animals should be free to go wherever their owners need them, and they count as a “reasonable adjustment” any company must make to make their workplace more accessible.
Is Your Business Ready for Pets in the Workplace?
You may have read all this and decided that a pet in the workplace policy is more trouble than it’s worth.
But don’t worry. You can still enjoy all the benefits of pets in the workplace policy can bring by taking a holistic approach to employee wellbeing.
Our Essential Guide to Workplace Wellbeing whitepaper has dozens of ideas for how you can make your team feel more engaged and motivated, with or without animals. Download your free copy today!