Bring your dog to work! (If you can)

Mary Hope Kramer, an animal expert, caught my attention recently with a pros and cons listof why you should (or should not) bring your pet to work.

According to Kramer, pet-friendly workplaces like Google, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s and Etsy are becoming increasingly common. One study found that 17 percent of employers had pet-friendly workplace policies.

Millennials Want Pets

As if the entitlement stereotype attached to this generation weren’t bad enough, having pets at work is especially popular with Millennials, forcing the hand of decision makers to be more inclusive of pets.

“Employers are starting to realize that having a Millennial bring … a pet to work, you wind up getting a more focused employee, you get someone more comfortable at the office and a person willing to work longer hours,” said Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, in an interview with CNBC.

Some companies have dog-owner play groups and offer pooch play areas and pet gates in cubicles; a few provide free pet training, pet walkers, and offsite pet sitters as well as pet pampering services such as grooming and dog spas.

There are some serious benefits to implementing a pet policy, but also some obvious hazards to bringing Smokey or Rocky to work. As your company considers all options, Kramer highlights some of the better business reasons you should have pets in the workplace:

1. Pets relieve stress.

Kramer says having pets in the office reduces stress and makes employees feel more relaxed. She cites a 2012 study that found individuals who brought their dogs to work had decreased hormonal stress levels when compared with those who did not bring any pets to work. Those who did not bring pets to work

showed steadily increasing levels of stress throughout the workday, says Kramer.

2. Pets promote positive social interactions.

A pet-friendly workplace tends to increase employee satisfaction, improve morale, and promote an atmosphere of teamwork and communication, Kramer points out.

3. Pets at work save employees money.

Allowing employees to bring their pets to work helps their wallets, which could be a great financial perk when you consider the cost of doggie day care

or dog walking services for employees who work long hours or commute long distances every day.

4. Pets improve your company image.

Allowing pets in the office can boost a customer’s perception of the business, says Kramer. Most customers have a positive response when they are offered a chance to interact with an employee’s pet, and it can help them to relax and enjoy their visit to the business. Having pets in the office also tends to soften the company’s image and makes a business seem more progressive and forward thinking, Kramer notes.

5. Pets increase employee performance.

Kramer says, “Employees of pet-friendly businesses tend to work longer hours and have fewer absences. They don’t have to worry about rushing home to let the dog out or staying home to watch a pet that may be feeling under the weather.”

6. Pets attract top talent who are pet owners.

Employee turnover is costly, and companies are always scanning the horizon for perks and benefits that will draw loyal employees. Just as female job candidates will at times choose the workplace with the most generous maternity leave and child-care policies, a pet-friendly policy will work for similar reasons for that much-desired prospective employee.

The Downside

Implementing a pet policy will not always be a walk in the dog park. Not all workers are pet lovers, and pet-friendly policies just aren’t suitable for certain places of business or professional settings. Add to that the health risk to other people — employees, clients, and customers who suffer from disabling pet allergies or pet phobias — and things can get, uh, pretty hairy.

According to Kramer, here are some of the top reasons workplaces should reconsider bringing pets to work:

  • Pets can certainly be a distraction for both the owner and neighboring co-workers.
  • Pets can cause damage to office equipment, carpets, furniture, etc.
  • There may be legal and insurance issues related to scenarios where a dog could bite or trip an employee, customer, or service provider while on company property.
  • Pet fights could not only disrupt the workday and endanger the welfare of the pets and people involved but also cause lasting damage to co-worker relationships or customer goodwill.
  • Allowing pets in the office necessitates drafting a comprehensive “pet policy” that could burden an HR team with extra work to manage and oversee.

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