June 22 is Bring Your Dog to Work Day
Updated: Jun 16, 2018
With the annual Bring Your Dog to Work day coming up on June 22, HR professionals may be considering establishing a pet friendly policy for their workplace - either as a one time event or perhaps as a more permanent arrangement. Pets in the workplace may not be a good fit for every workplace culture, but there could be some benefits and to having a pet friendly workplace. Research suggests that pets at work make a positive impact on office morale so it is not surprising that approximately 7% of companies have a pet-friendly policy, according to the Society for Human Resources Management (2016).
Surprisingly, there are many resources available on the web for employers wanting to plan a fun culture event allowing employees to bring their pet to work. One helpful resource is from PetSitters International. They have an entire tool-kit for planning a bring your pet to work day to ensure your event is a success...for pet lovers and not-so-pet lovers alike!
Perhaps you are considering a policy for a pet-friendly workplace on a everyday basis? If that is the case, more careful consideration should be given to a policy that gives specific guidelines to help avoid conflicts and disruptions. Here are some pros and cons of having a pet friendly workplace:
Pets can ease everyday stress and anxiety.
Research has proven that pets can help reduce stress. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America's Steven Feldman says that "Not only are people happier in the presence of animals, they’re also healthier. In a survey of pet owners, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, and 75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved from pet ownership."
Taking "movement" breaks encourages mental clarity and physical health.
Employees who take breaks to walk their pet benefit from being re-focused and energized upon returning to their work tasks. According to Psychology Today, "Movement breaks are essential for your physical and emotional health...sitting at your workstation puts you at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity. Getting up from your chair to walk, stretch, do yoga, or whatever activity you prefer can reduce the negative health effects from too much sitting. Just a 5-minute walkabout break every hour can improve your health and well-being." Additionally, "Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative. Other research suggests also that taking regular breaks raises workers’ level of engagement which, in turn, is highly correlated with productivity."
Shows the employer cares about employees and their well-being.
We spend an awful lot of time at work. We are there to get a job done and contribute to the employers success - but that doesn't mean we can't have fun while doing just that!
While giving loves and cuddles will most definitely happen when pet-lovers get together, I expect that to be no bigger a distraction than catching up with a co-worker about the latest episode of This Is Us. The bigger concerns are barking at the most inopportune time, an altercation with another pet, or maybe even a pet-accident.
Slips, trips, and nips.
Safety is a considerable concern. You may think Sally's cuddly pooch is well-behaved or that she's super attentive when walking her pet, but you could have issues with tangled leashes tripping someone, an unattended pet accident causing a slip, or a pet biting a coworker.
Cleanliness (or lack of).
No matter how much they are brushed, some animals will still leave their mark on the office after they’re gone. From having to use the bathroom to shedding fur. So this could result in extra cleaning costs from your cleaning company.
Violation of a lease, property management rules or even local laws.
This would be the first place to investigate when considering a pet friendly policy.
Allergic or scared coworkers.
You want to ensure clear communication when implementing a new policy or hiring someone into an pet friendly environment. Remember there are laws that require an employer to go through an interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be made for someone with a qualified disability under the American with Disabilities Act, and yes, severe allergies could qualify.
When considering any new policy or activity, it always pays off to do your homework to avoid potentially sticky employee relations issues or risk of legal exposure for the company.
Amanda Gleason is a Human Resources Compliance Consultant and President of People First HR. Connect with her to learn how she can help you build compliant and effective programs that support and grow your organization and its people.