HR Management & Compliance

What to Consider Before Becoming a Pet-Friendly Workplace

It’s no secret there’s a growing trend among companies to develop pet-friendly policies that allow employees to bring their favorite animals to work. The benefits of a pet-friendly workplace—often seen touted across social media—include increased productivity, retention, and well-being.

pet

Source: Aleksey Boyko / Shutterstock

Although corporate giants such as Google and Amazon have embraced this new culture and demonstrated its success, a pet-friendly workplace may not be for everyone or every company. The following are some things you should consider before becoming a pet-friendly workplace.

Benefits

The benefits of allowing pets in the workplace include stress reduction, talent acquisition and retention, and improved and increased social interactions among coworkers. Studies have found employees who bring their pets to work experience lower stress levels, report higher levels of job satisfaction, and feel a greater sense of loyalty to their employer.

In addition, pets can have a positive effect on the social interaction among employees. In fact, studies have observed an enhanced social atmosphere in offices that allow pets, resulting in an increase in conversation frequency and a closer bond among coworkers.

Challenges

Although the benefits of allowing pets in the workplace may be enticing, there are obviously some challenges you should consider. Pets’ presence in the workplace can create health concerns and safety hazards for your employees.

It’s likely some of your employees are allergic to pets. Symptoms can vary widely from itchy and watery eyes to breathing problems and hives. Severe allergies could potentially render an employee disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and necessitate reasonable accommodations. Additionally, among the more serious safety concerns are animal bites, which may open you up to some liability. Pets can also become trip and fall hazards due to their small size, leashes, and scattered chew toys.

Don’t be discouraged, however—there are ways to overcome or minimize the challenges. For instance, to reduce pet allergens and alleviate allergy symptoms, consider allowing pets only in designated areas or installing air cleaners with HEPA filters. You can also reduce the risk of trips and falls by training employees to be aware of a pet’s whereabouts, limiting the lengths of leashes, and keeping toys in designated areas.

Develop a Pet Policy

If you decide to become a pet-friendly workplace, it’s advisable to create and implement a policy detailing what is and is not permitted. In the policy, you should consider addressing the following:

  • Weight, age, and breed restrictions;
  • Designated pet areas or “pet-free” areas and their locations;
  • Protocols for tending to messes;
  • Protocols for handling aggressive behavior;
  • Vaccination and medication requirements; and
  • Minimum grooming requirements.

A policy that addresses these topics will ensure a safe and productive working environment for both the employees and the pets.

Other Options

If permitting pets in the workplace is not for your company, there are other ways you can capture some of the benefits achieved by embracing a pet-friendly culture. For example, you can designate limited “pet-friendly days” when employees are able to bring animals to work or encourage and sponsor pet-related activities outside of the office. You also may consider bringing in therapy dogs on a quarterly or monthly basis to help employees unwind and relieve stress.

As for an option not involving pets in the workplace, consider adding pet insurance to your employee benefit package.

Bottom Line

No matter what option you choose, incorporating pet-friendly policies and benefits will certainly set you apart from other employers while improving employee productivity, retention, and well-being.

Cassandra Forbes is an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC in Charleston, West Virginia. You can reach her at cassandra.forbes@steptoe-johnson.com.