During my many years of being an office employee, I can recall strict rules that had to be respected in the workplace. Dress code was at the top of the list as a professional and tailored image was an important component to a business’s success. But then, Dress-down Friday’s became the latest perk and we all enjoyed that one day a week where casual wear was allowed providing you paid a small “fine” to be able to avail yourself of it. Later on, there was the occasional Take Our Kids to Work Day where your little darlings could come and see where you toiled all week to bring home the bacon.
Lately, we are discovering that many companies are allowing their employees to bring their pets to work with them every day. As with everything, there are pros and cons and advantages and disadvantages to this new protocol — and not everyone may be on board.
The workplace can often be a stressful environment and pets have been proven to soothe the savage human. But before you find a seat beside your desk for your pet orangutan, hedgehog or toucan, there are many considerations to be taken into account. Obviously, the first step to take is to ascertain whether or not it is even permitted. Then, find out which animals qualify as acceptable in the work environment.
Not everyone works in an office, so is your pet permitted beside you as you do assembly line work, drive a bus or deliver the mail? Safety is also an issue, as your coworkers need not feel threatened, nor have their work disturbed by the presence of your pet. And your pet needs to be protected and kept safe as well.
Some pros of having pets in the workplace are:
- Pets reduce stress and make employees feel more relaxed and comfortable. A pet-friendly workplace tends to increase employee satisfaction and improve morale. Pets are also a point of common interest helping to promote an atmosphere of teamwork and communication, as they are a great vehicle for social interaction.
- Bringing your pet to work, in the case of dogs, eliminates the cost of doggy daycare and dog walking. Many employees are unable to head home during the day to check on their pets.
- Pets at the office tend to soften a company’s image and make a business seem more progressive and forward thinking.
- They are a great recruiting tool for potential hires and for retaining employees long term.
Some cons of having pets in the workplace are:
- Pets can be a distraction for both the owner and neighbouring coworkers. A dog will need to go outside for a few walks and there could be noise issues from barking and whining. Pets can also draw a crowd while your fellow employees should be at their desks working.
- Not everyone can be around animals due to allergies and for some, these allergies may be severe. Other people may have deeply ingrained phobias about being around certain types of animals. Employers may need to create pet free zones for those suffering from these conditions.
- Pets may cause damage to office equipment by having occasional accidents or chewing the furniture. While the office’s pet population may generally maintain a high standard of good behaviour, accidents do happen.
- There needs to be a designated space for the pet to remain all day so it doesn’t bound around and bother fellow employees.
Allowing pets in the office/workplace generally makes it necessary for an employer to draft a comprehensive pet policy. 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.
Some companies, such as Google, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s and Etsy, allow their employees to bring their pets to work. Does yours? Perhaps a St. Bernard with its iconic barrel of brandy around its neck might just be the morale booster employees need!