Does your organization allow employees to bring their pets into the workplace? Is it something you would even consider?
Some would argue that because most cats and dogs sleep the majority of the day anyway, and their mere presence can be calming and reassuring for their owners and others, this may be a way to make employees happy, with little downside. Others would argue that the downside and risks are too great to be worthwhile.
Let’s take a look at some of the arguments on both sides and how this could be set up.
Should Pets be Allowed in the Workplace: The Pros
Here are some of the possible benefits of allowing employees to bring their pets:
- It may improve employee satisfaction because they’re able to have their beloved pet at the workplace.
- It could theoretically reduce illness because pets are said to be stress-relievers. This could be true for both the pet owners and other employees.
- Pets can foster conversation and improve employee working relationships, if managed well.
- It’s a benefit that does not take a lot of money to implement, yet it can save the employee money in the form of less money paid to dog sitters, dog walkers, kennels, etc.
- Having pets at work may allow employees to work a more standardized schedule or even more hours, as the stress of pet care will not be a concern.
- It could improve retention or be touted as a benefit to aid in recruiting.
- Pets could encourage employees to take breaks (to go for a walk, etc.), which is actually beneficial for the employee.
Should Pets be Allowed in the Workplace: The Cons
Here are some of the drawbacks:
- If any employee is allergic to pet dander, this could cause a problem. The same concern exists for customers or suppliers on the premises. This may be able to be mitigated by allowing the practice only on specified days and allowing those with allergies to work off-site or in a separate pet-free space on those days.
- If the pet is not well-behaved, it could prove to be disruptive.
- There may be a question over liability if the animal causes an injury or gets injured.
- If the employer does not own the premises, there may be additional hurdles to jump through to get permission, or it may even be against the lease terms.
- There’s also a question of who is responsible if the pet causes damage to the premises.
- Some employees (or clients or suppliers) may not like the idea of having animals around or may be afraid of them.
How to Get Started
If this is a benefit you’re considering offering, think through all of the potential ramifications of pets on-site. Here are some tips:
- Consider creating a pet policy that outlines liability issues, and have each pet owner acknowledge the policy before bringing his or her pet. While this may not alleviate all liability, of course, it can help to set expectations. The policy should include information about the pet owner’s responsibilities, such as ensuring the pet has all of its shots and is free of fleas and ticks. Employees should understand what happens if their pet causes a problem.
- Talk with your insurance agents to see if adjustments will be needed to your policy, as well.
- Speak with legal counsel to determine how to mitigate the liability issues.
- Employees will need to have the time and space to allow the pets to relieve themselves and to eat and drink—employers will need to accommodate that without causing problems for others.
- The employer should probably have a process in place to preapprove an animal before it’s allowed to be at the worksite all day. You’ll want some type of confirmation that the animal is well-behaved, is up to date on all required vaccinations, and does not have fleas or ticks.
Obviously, some workplaces will not be suited to this, but some, such as many office environments, could consider it. What has your experience been with pets at work?