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Pets in the Workplace: Benefit or Pitfall?

How do you feel leaving your dog at home when you go to work in the morning? Does your dog stare at you with sad eyes and beg you to stay with just one look? What if you were able to bring your dog with you to work? What if you allowed your employees to bring their animals to work?

Employers in a variety of industries have adopted policies that allow their employees to bring their fur babies to work. However, there are many factors to consider prior to offering this unique benefit.

Why consider a pet-friendly workplace?

According to a study by Banfield Pet Hospital, 83% of employees are more loyal to employers who provide a pet-friendly workplace. The same survey discovered that over 50% of employees at a company that does not allow pets would be more likely to stay if they were able to bring their pet to work. As of April 2019, the federal unemployment rate was 3.6%. When surveyed, employees that can bring their pet to work find it very difficult to go to another company that does not allow them the same benefit.

Unique retention strategies are more important than ever. A pet-friendly workplace can also have a positive effect on employees including increased morale, decreased stress levels, and reduced absenteeism. Pets also require employees to take necessary breaks and step away from their desks periodically. Employees who do this have higher levels of productivity than those who do not.

It's no surprise the Sacramento SPCA is a pet-friendly workplace. "Work-life balance is a difficult thing for many people to obtain and pets tend to keep people focused in the present moment," says Dawn Foster, the Director of Marketing & Communications. Foster also states, "having pets at work can encourage their owners to take breaks throughout the day and exercise, both of which contribute to a healthy work-life balance."

Creating a pet-friendly workplace

Prior to becoming a pet-friendly workplace, it is important to seek feedback from your employees. In the case of mixed feedback, introducing pets on a trial basis can help test the waters. A strong and clear pet-friendly workplace policy is critical to communicating expectations to employees. Your policy should include what is expected of the employee and the pet. These expectations can include being house-broken, up to date on vaccines, friendly with other animals, and being spayed or neutered.

Safety

Employers must also factor in the risk to the company. A bite from a visiting dog may not be cause for a worker's compensation claim as it was not caused in the scope of the employee's work. The employer may also be to blame if two dogs get into a fight and there are injuries.

Your policy should cover what is considered unacceptable behavior from the animal. While a three- strike escalation process may be acceptable for lesser complaints, an animal bite should be immediate cause for expulsion from the office. Lesser complaints may include excessive barking, whining, or a potty accident.

In conclusion

While a pet-friendly workplace policy might be an option for some employers, it may not work for all. There are still options to be pet-friendly without having animals in your office every day. Sponsoring a volunteer day at your local shelter or offering pet insurance are other options. If you decide to implement a pet-friendly workplace policy, a consultant is available to assist you with the process.