Dog at Work

5 Tips for Building a Pet-Friendly Workplace

A whopping 68 percent of U.S. households have a pet, according to a 2017-2018 national pet owners survey. This majority didn’t happen overnight, as studies show that pet ownership has been steadily increasing for more than two decades. That upward trend is expected to continue, making pet-friendly perks an enticing employee benefit.

Because people often regard their pets as part of their family, they’re naturally attracted to employers that support the bond they have with their pet. In fact, a study by Wellness Natural Pet Food found that “44 percent of Americans would consider a career move for a pet-friendly workplace.”

But, how do you cultivate a pet-friendly culture? Here are five tips to get you going.

  1. Acknowledge the benefits of having pets in the workplace.

According to a 2016 survey by Banfield Pet Hospital, 88 percent of employees and 91 percent of HR decision-makers said that having pets at work enhances morale. More recently, Pet Sitters International found that 82 percent of employees believed that pets help reduce stress at work. Further, 63 percent agreed that pets in the workplace improve collaboration and interaction among employees.

However, these benefits don’t mean that problems can’t arise. For example, increased coworker interactions may lead to employees being distracted from their work. So, make sure you have a plan to counteract issues that could stem from certain benefits.

  1. Assess your employees’ attitudes, beliefs, and opinions regarding the presence of pets in the workplace.

The goal is to identify personal, cultural or religious perceptions your employees may have toward different types of animals and, if possible, make accommodations for those perspectives and beliefs. Assessments can be done via surveys, focus groups, or questionnaires designed to capture employees’ thinking about having pets at work.

  1. Decide which pet(s) can be brought to work.

Most pet-friendly employers permit only dogs at work, but that doesn’t have to be the case with your business. When deciding which pets to allow, consider the results of Tip #2 plus any phobias, aversions or allergies employees may have toward specific animals.

Also, think about which animals are most practical to have around the office. For instance, a dog may have a sweet personality but its extra frisky nature could be disruptive.

Note that you might be required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to let disabled employees bring their service animal to work.

  1. Choose your perks.

There are many to pick from, including:

  • Bring your pet to work day
  • Employee volunteer opportunities at local animal shelters, like Great Plains SPCA
  • Pet bereavement leave
  • Pet insurance
  • On-demand vet consultation
  • Treats, snacks and clean-up kits for pets (get the best from Outward Hound)
  • Dedicated area for pets to play or stretch their legs
  • Pet-friendly workspaces
  1. Establish clear guidelines and policies.

When shaping your pet policy, consider the following:

  • Did you get buy-in from your management team?
  • What are the details surrounding your chosen perks (from Tip #4)?
  • How long do employees have to work for the company before they can bring their pet to work?
  • What is the approval process? For instance, do employees have a fill out a request form and obtain written approval from their manager?
  • What happens if an employee is injured by someone’s pet at work?
  • Who is responsible for the pet at all times?
  • Which areas of the worksite are pets authorized to enter?
  • Where should litter boxes and water bowls go?
  • Does your landlord approve of pets on the property? If so, to what extent?

After you’ve developed the policy, be sure to communicate and apply it consistently to all employees.