Should You Allow Pets in the Workplace?


Woman sitting at a table working on a computer while she pets a dog.

Before inviting animals to work, know the pros and cons. If you decide to go for it, craft your pet policy carefully.

As more employees return to the workplace, many are asking to bring their pets along. Lots of companies are giving pets a green light, but should your business allow it? Here are some pros and cons of a pet-friendly work culture.

Pro: Pets at work reduce stress and improve morale
Days packed with meetings, deadlines and difficult situations create stress. Research shows that pets can calm employees, reduce blood pressure and increase productivity.

 Pro: Pets are good for overall health
When the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative did an economic study in 2015, they found that pets have a positive effect on health equating to $11.7 billion in savings on U.S. healthcare costs. Pet owners visit the doctor less, and dog owners who walk their dog five times or more a week have lower rates of obesity.

Pro: Pet-friendly cultures can attract talent
Some companies use pet-friendly policies to attract and retain talent. It’s a perk employees highly value, too. Forbes reports that 83% of employees feel more loyal to pet-friendly companies.

Con: Some folks fear animals or have allergies
The presence of animals in the workplace can create discomfort and anxiety for those who fear them. Pets in the workplace can also threaten the health of workers with allergies.

Con: Animals don’t fit in every environment
While some workplaces easily accommodate pets, others simply aren’t a good fit. Work environments with loud noises, moving equipment and lots of interaction with the public are generally not good places for pets.

Con: The distraction of animals
Many people find it hard to resist interacting with pets. Too much attention to animals could cause productivity to suffer.

What government rules say about pets
OSHA has little to say about pets in the workplace and advises employers to contact their state and local health departments. The State of Michigan addresses how service animals must be accommodated in accordance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) but not pets. Local rules may vary.

Crafting your company’s policy
SHRM, the organization for human resources professionals, recommends getting employee input before you create a policy for pets at work. Your rules need to be very clear about the types of animals allowed, the behavior required, and how pets are to be leashed or contained while on site at work. Get more SHRM tips on becoming a pet-friendly employer here.

If pets can’t be accommodated
Pets simply can’t be accommodated at all workplaces, but this doesn’t change the fact that some pets will suffer separation anxiety when their owners return to work. One way you can help returning employees with pets is to provide tips for helping smooth the transition. Fast Company recommends these tips: enrichment in the form of toys to keep pets busy; providing soothing sounds by leaving a TV or radio on; not making a big deal about leaving or returning; and enrolling pets in daycare or hiring a sitter.

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