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What to Consider When Creating a Pet Friendly Office Policy

By some estimates, Millennials will comprise 50% of the workforce by next year. Their priorities when choosing employers and their preferences for office culture and workspace design will dominate the next 20 years in recruitment strategies. Surveys have shown that one very popular benefit among Millennials is the ability to bring pets to work with them.

Strengthening recruitment by allowing pets at work

Millennials really love their pets. Creating a ‘pets in the workplace’ policy could help you attract more top Millennial talent to your business. According to SHRM, 9% of employers already have an office policy allowing pets, including some well-recognized employers-of-choice including Google, Amazon, Salesforce and Workday. The percentage of workplaces allowing pets has more than doubled in the past four years, and benefits experts expect many more businesses will adopt an office policy for pets.

Consider these compelling statistics about Millennials and office pets:

Office dogs increase employee well being

In addition to aiding your recruitment strategy, improved physical and emotional wellbeing is another strong reason to make worklife easier for your pet-owning employees. Dog owners walk 79% further than non-dog owners, and dogs have been shown to help their people reduce stress, lower cholesterol and improve cardiac health.

8 considerations for a pet friendly office policy

If your business leaders feel ready to move forward in adopting a pet friendly office policy, you’ll need to consider eight important areas to ensure that all employees are comfortable and safe:

1. Legal compliance: If you lease your workspace, would your landlord allow a pets policy? Would local ordinances prohibit pets in your building? Consider your industry: Businesses handling food or healthcare are inappropriate for pet policies, for example.
2. Allergies: Some of your employees will have pet allergies. How will you ensure their health and comfort? Could you reserve one floor or one section of offices as a dog no-go zone? Could these employees have extra air filtration in their work area?
3. Fears: Some employees may have a fear of dogs. They should not be traumatized by encountering dogs in common-use areas such as break rooms. Will dogs be allowed in meeting rooms? If not, how will they be secured while their humans attend meetings?
4. Logistics: How many employees own pets and wish to bring them to work? Would this result in an overwhelming number of dogs in the office? If yes, you will need a system that rotates which employees bring pets on which days.
5. Workplace design: In consideration of fears and allergies, you might want some closed office spaces for dog owners. There will also need to be appropriate outdoor space maintained for taking the dogs out to the bathroom. Employees may need to bring a crate to the office to hold dogs when humans are not at their desks.
6. Liability and insurance: Your business liability insurer will probably have input about your adoption of a pet friendly office policy. Will certain breeds be disallowed? How much will your rates increase to cover the potential injury of employees or visitors?
7. Rules and enforcement: You will need rules to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort. Use of flea and tick preventative is required as well as full vaccinations. It might be a good idea to require the employee and dog to attend obedience training. You could require a note from the veterinarian stating that he or she has never treated the pet for injuries consistent with a fight. Define unacceptable behavior and set an enforcement policy, such as one or two infractions and the pet can no longer come to work.
8. Alternative pet benefits: If having dogs in the workplace just doesn’t seem right for your business, you can still add pet benefits to your recruitment strategy. Consider a stipend for pet daycare or dog walking, so pet owning employees don’t worry about their lonely pets during the workday.

Weigh the pros and cons of office pets

To compete in the war for talent, HR leaders try to create a culture that attracts top candidates, with as much flexibility for work life integration as possible. For some employees, particularly Millennials, the ability to bring a pet to work leads to greater workplace satisfaction and wellbeing. Carefully consider the pros and cons of adopting a pets in the workplace policy, and if you decide to pursue it, structure a policy, with rules and enforcement, that considers the needs of all employees.

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