Pet-friendly policies are a very inexpensive way to provide a valuable perk to employees. Recent research suggests that pet perks are not trivial—a growing number of Americans own pets and are looking for pet-friendly places to work.
However, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of pet-friendly policies before making any changes. Further, planning ahead to get employee buy-in and developing reasonable policies can go a long way to mitigating the downsides of allowing pets at work.
Benefits of Pet-Friendly Workplaces
Recruitment and Retention
A 2017 study by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) showed that pet ownership is on the rise, with 68% of American households having at least one pet. Among these, 60.2% have dogs and 47.1% have cats. 82% of employees surveyed in a 2016 survey conducted by Banfeild responded that they have greater loyalty to their company as a direct result of pet-friendly workplaces. Perhaps even more interesting, over half (53%) of employees working at companies without pet-friendly policies said they would be more likely to stay at their current job if their employer offered pet perks.
The same survey also questioned HR managers about their perceptions of the recruitment process. 65% of these professionals indicated that candidates often ask about pet friendly policies during the hiring process. The positive impact of pet-friendly workplaces may be even stronger among Millennials.
The health benefits of the human-animal bond have been extensively researched and include positive impacts on blood pressure, heart rates, depression, anxiety, and rates of obesity.
One of the most studied aspects of the human-animal bond is the positive effect that time spent with companion animals has on stress levels. This has been confirmed in the context of the workplace, however, it is important to note that the benefits are not distributed equally.
Higher Morale and Productivity
These two important factors of workplace health are related to each other. When employees have higher levels of job satisfaction and morale, they are more productive in general. The 2016 Banfield survey also shows significant increases in employee perceptions along these lines, with:
- 79% reporting better relationships with coworkers
- 77% reporting more satisfaction with their work
- 67% reporting higher overall productivity
- 75% reporting increased ability to work longer hours
Positive Branding and Customer Appeal
If your business engages directly with customers, consider the potential benefit to your branding efforts with pet friendly workspaces. Pets have a way of opening up conversations and promoting positive social interactions. Depending on the nature of your company, including pets may help your branding efforts to cultivate customer loyalty and repeat business.
Mitigating the Downsides of Pet-Friendly Workplaces
The potential downsides of pet-friendly spaces are fairly obvious: Not all employees like animals, pets introduce risk of injury and property damage, and they can be a distraction. Are there ways to minimize the downsides of pet perks at work? Let’s take a closer look.
There are people who can be negatively impacted by the presence of pets, for example, those that have allergies, fear of dogs, or those that just find pets a nuisance. In order to mitigate the potential downsides of pet-friendly policies, it is critical to get broadscale employee buy-in and input before instituting workplace policies that allow pets at work.
It’s Not a Free for All
If you are considering allowing employees to bring pets to work, it is important to understand it is not an all-or-nothing obligation. Reasonable restrictions should be in place from the start, and policies should include provisions to restrict participation.
Consider appointing a committee of employees to work together (be sure to include those without pets) to develop restrictions such as:
- Allowing/restricting participation on a pet by pet basis based on criteria such as sociability with people and other pets
- Creating pet free zones for those that have allergies or don’t want to spend time with animals
- Limitations on participation such as weekly or monthly “pet days”
- Excluding certain breeds such as Pit Bulls or German Shepherds that may make employees feel unsafe at work
Accommodating Pet Needs
Pets have their own needs that should be considered when instituting pet friendly policies. Taking the time to plan ahead can make the transition to including our furry friends go more smoothly.
At a minimum, you (or the pet parents) should provide:
- Pet-friendly outdoor spaces for walking and potty breaks
- Rest areas such as crates or dog beds
- Constant access to fresh water
- Optional indoor or outdoor secured areas for quick games of fetch or play zones to burn off steam
Because pets introduce a degree of risk to property, other pets, or people in the workplace, it is important to make sure you will be covered for damages. Your insurance provider may have resources such as liability waivers. Working with your insurer is an important part of making pet perks sustainable for your company for the long term.
Conclusion: Are Pet Perks Right for Your Company?
If attracting and retaining top talent is a priority for your company, it is definitely worth considering the value of pet perks as an inexpensive way to give candidates as well as current employees one more reason to love your business.
The place to start is by opening the conversation with your current staff to get input on their enthusiasm for such perks, as well as get a sense for any existing resistance or concerns among them.
In addition, make sure to get employees involved in crafting policies that will make sense for your workspace, workflow, and personnel. Expect an open-ended process that includes a little trial and error along the way.
Author Bio; Mathew Coulton has worked with dogs for just under a decade and is the founder of WileyPup.com, a doggy lover’s website that provides great tips and advice for pet parents everywhere.