The Pros and Cons of Pets at Work

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Can allowing pets at work help create a better experience for your employees? The answer likely depends on your organization's particular circumstances, but it may be a question worth asking. As pets have become an increasingly valued part of our society, growing numbers of businesses have implemented policies that allow pet owners to bring their furry friends to work. For instance, Google and Etsy are famous for their dog-friendly policies.

If you're considering offering a pet at work policy, here's what you need to think about first.

The Pros of Workplace Pets

Bringing pets to work can make work more fun, friendly and less stressful for employees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 7 percent of employers now allow pets in the workplace, citing improved health benefits and employee morale, as well as great interaction and cooperation among co-workers. "Plus a pet-friendly policy is a coveted perk with employees and costs the company virtually nothing," SHRM notes.

The first thing to decide is whether your workplace is truly conducive to pets. How easy or difficult would it be for owners to take their pets outdoors when needed? If there's a chance customers or vendors would come into contact with pets, could that present a problem? The right decision will ultimately depend on your facilities, employee preferences and workplace culture.

The Cons of Workplace Pets

What's cool and fun to some people could potentially be stressful for others. For example, an employee who has allergies to or fears of cats or dogs would have difficulties working next to a colleague's pet, and the possibility of dog bites could present a liability.

Employers that want to make it possible for pets to come to work should have policies in place to ensure safety and success. Establish a vetting procedure to verify pets are well-trained and docile, and include guidelines governing whether pets must be vaccinated and free of fleas. Employees who prefer not to work in the presence of pets should also have the option to work in a separate space.

How to Get Started

If welcoming pets into your workplace appeals to you and your employees, start small by hosting limited "Take Your Pet to Work" days. Start by allowing a few employees to bring their pets, considering how the animals may interact and what to do if problems arise. Make sure people with allergies will not be affected. Communicate with all employees about the guidelines for pets, and let employees know that any agression or problems will mean the pet cannot come back. Also, make sure participating employees understand they're responsible for bringing everything their pet might need, including food and water bowls, toys or beds.

A short trial can help you determine whether a full-time pet policy would work well for your office. As with any new perk, gauge employee interest, weigh the pros and cons and determine what works best for your particular workplace.

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