Pros and Cons of a Pet-Friendly Workspace

November 9, 2018

In today’s competitive labor market, employers are definitely looking for perks, especially inexpensive ones, that will appeal to younger generations of workers. In the US and Canada, pet ownership has been on the rise over the past decade. Nearly 75% of Millennials own a pet, even though this same demographic has postponed marriage and family life at higher rates than older generations.

According to SHRM, pets are allowed in 7% of U.S. workplaces, an increase from 4% in 2014, but it’s still a less common perk. Employers considering offering this perk to employees need to consider more than just the practical aspects such as what types of pets to allow and how to ensure that proper hygiene is maintained. Pets in the workplace may impact productivity. Employees with allergies will need appropriate protections and accomodations. Below are some of the benefits and risks of bringing man’s best friend and others into your workspace, as well as some best practices for managing pets in the workplace and alternative ways employers can support pet owners.

Pets at Work: the Upside

As stated above, allowing pets in the workplace can be a differentiator for employers, given that the policy has minimal adoption. Google, Mars, Etsy, Amazon, Ben and Jerry’s, Salesforce, and GoDaddy are a few well-known U.S. based companies that allow pets in the workplace. Employers who allow pets at work report that their employees are more engaged at work and pets have been found to decrease stress not only for their owners, but other co-workers as well. More importantly, 83% of employees who have the option to bring a pet to work or who enjoy other pet friendly policies, report having greater sense of loyalty to their employer. Allowing pets at work is an excellent retention tool because it is so uncommon. An employee who is accustomed to bringing her dog to work will to have a hard time choosing to take a position that does not include this special perk.

Other benefits employers see when allowing pets in the workplace include an increased sense of unity in the office and greater opportunities for people in different departments to interact. 91% of HR decision makers in a survey by Banfield Pet Hospital found that having pets at work improves morale. Employees with more serious mental illnesses are more likely to return to work when there is a strong sense of support and care, and the presence of pets can be impactful in those situations.

Pets at Work: the Downside

Probably the biggest issues with pets in the workplace are cleanliness and safety. Pets can be smelly and even the best trained pets may still have accidents in inappropriate places. Pets can also be aggressive and create liability issues for the employer. Pets may also damage office property and create ADA compliance issues if an employee has severe allergies.

For some, pet’s may not have the positive impact of increasing engagement and productivity. Pets can be distracting to those who do not care for animals and even for some who love pets too much. Pet’s can also be be noisy, which could be highly distracting for anyone regardless of their level of appreciation for furry friends.

Policies for Pets in the Workplace

Employers who are seeking to welcome pets into their workplace should consider the following questions:

  • Does the company’s lease allows pets in the building?
  • What types of pets should be allowed?
  • How the workspace will need to be altered to facilitate pets?
  • How often will pets be allowed to come to work?
  • What types of scenarios may or may not be covered by the company’s insurance?
  • How will employees with allergies be accomodated?
  • How much freedom will pets have to roam?
  • Will pets be allowed to attend client meetings? If not, who watches an employee’s pet in this situation?
  • How will misbehavior be addressed with the employee pet owner?
  • Who will handle complaints and conflicts involving pet owners?

Alternatives to Allowing Pets in the Workplace

Many employers may opt not to open the workplace to pets, but there are still many other ways to provide perks that will be appreciated by pet lovers. Companies may choose to foster pets in shelters and allow employees to make donations that the company might match. Many employers offer pet insurance, which is become a very popular ancillary benefit and some have a quarterly or annual Bring your Pet to Work Day. Animal therapy days are also a popular way to bring some of the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace without some of the daily headaches.

Workplaces are changing in many ways. Pet-friendly workspaces are just one of the many ways that employers are striving to make the workplace a comfortable and productive environment for employees. Asure Software provides variety of tools essential to supporting the management of a modern workspace.