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Want Better Engagement and Morale? Maybe You Need a Pet Friendly Workplace

By HappyOrNot
It may be hard to believe, but last week was the 20th anniversary of the pet friendly workplace.

Way back in 1999, Pet Sitters International (PSI) established Take Your Dog To Work Day and what began as a quirky event that only a few organizations embraced is now a big annual event that has been growing in acceptance by companies both big and small.

For example, last year Fortune listed 15 pet friendly companies, and they included some pretty prominent ones like Google, Amazon, Mars Inc. (maker of M&M’s as well as Iams and Pedigree dog food), and of course, Purina.

Who knew that such big businesses would jump on the pet friendly bandwagon?

And, this trend is growing. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2017 Employee Benefits research report, the number of companies that allow pets in the workplace has doubled from 4 percent in 2014 to 8 percent in 2017. Although the trend towards pet friendly workplace policies started slowly, it’s now gathering steam as more and more organizations see the benefits it can offer their employees.

Here’s how pets make for a better workplace

Studies have found that allowing pets in the workplace can reduce stress and lead to happier work environments. For example:

  • Employees are more loyal to companies that have pet-friendly policies. A 2016 survey by Banfield Pet Hospitals found that a whopping 83 percent of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to employers that have policies that encourage pets in the workplace.
  • Pet policies also help retention. More than half (53 percent) of workers in companies that don’t allow pets say that having a pet-friendly policy would make them more likely to stay, according to the Banfield study.
  • Allowing pets in the workplace is also a great recruiting tool. Nearly four out of five (79 percent) of human resources managers are using pet friendly policies in their recruiting pitch to candidates, according to the study. That’s a good thing too, because the survey also found that 65 percent of job candidates ask about pet friendly policies during their interview.

As good as all of that is, organizations with pet policies usually see even larger benefits — such as better morale and a much more engaged workforce.

In fact, the numbers are pretty stunning, with 88 percent of the 1,006 employees surveyed by Banfield agreeing that having pets at work improves morale. Two out of three of those employees (67 percent) also said that pets on the job increased their productivity, and 75 percent believed that it improved their ability to work longer hours.

It all started with Take Your Dog to Work Day

Take Your Dog to Work Day really launched the trend of pets in the workplace, and it’s always celebrated the Friday after Father’s Day and “encourages employers to experience the joys of pets in the workplace for one day to support their local pet communities,” according to Pet Sitters International.

Although the focus was originally on dogs, it has expanded to accommodate cat lovers (and other pets) and those who cannot participate on TYDTW Day. The entire week leading up to the event (June 18-22 this year), is Take Your Pet To Work Week, and Monday June 18 was observed as Take Your Cat To Work Day.

Yes, there are more and more animals in today’s workplace, and that means it’s important that any company thinking about allowing pets on the job take a little time to first lay out some clear and specific pet policies.

Patti Perez, an employment attorney with the law firm Ogletree Deakins, told HR Magazine that it’s critical to get input from employees at the very beginning — BEFORE creating any policy that involves bringing pets to the office.

“Everyone’s opinion must be heard,” she says. Are you willing to lose good employees because some don’t want to work in a pet-friendly office? If the feedback is mixed, one way to gauge the potential impact on your culture, she says, is to try allowing pets one day per week or month.

Solid rules and guidelines are a must

“Bringing a dog to work is a privilege, not a right,” says Robbie Eddison, a service desk manager at Softchoice Corp., an IT consulting firm based in Toronto. Eddison told HR Magazine that she oversees her office’s Dog Committee, and that Softchoice has allowed dogs on the premises for at least 20 years. More than 700 employees work in the Toronto office, and they share the space with about 115 dogs each day.

She also said that each of Softchoice’s 21 U.S. and eight Canadian offices sets its own rules and guidelines for its dogs-at-work program, including negotiating agreements with local landlords.

In the Toronto location, employees are required to have worked at the company for three months before they can apply to bring their dog in. When workers make the request, Eddison says, they need to note:

  • Their department;
  • The location of their desk;
  • Their dog’s name, age, breed and gender;
  • Whether the dog has been fixed;
  • Whether it has had obedience training; and,
  • How often the pooch would come to work.

Eddison told HR Magazine that employees must also get their manager’s written permission and confirm that they have asked nearby co-workers if having a dog around would be OK. A manager can revoke an agreement at any time if he or she believes that the situation isn’t working out, and people who aren’t dog lovers or who are allergic can request to work in a dog-free zone that has its own entrance and exit and a separate HVAC system.

Yes, there is a lot involved if you are considering allowing dogs and other pets into YOUR workplace. But, sometimes it’s just not possible for a company to offer a pet friendly workplace.

You can still be pet friendly even if you DON’T allow pets in the office

If that’s the case, it’s still possible for your organization to be “pet friendly” by offering pet benefits, such as pet insurance, or time off for employees to volunteer at a pet shelter or the local humane society.

This kind of out-of-the-box thinking can help employers develop other policies and benefits beyond Take Your Dog to Work Day that will still attract and retain employees who really are motivated by pet friendly employer perks.

Keep this in mind as you consider your own pet friendly workplace: Some 75 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace makes people happier, and studies have even shown that organizations that implement pet friendly policies have lower employee stress and better overall health than organizations that do not.

Gallup reports in “The State of the American Workplace” that employees who are engaged are more likely to improve customer relationships, with a resulting 20 percent increase in sales. These policies have been integrated into employee wellness programs to help combat rising insurance costs. In fact, more companies even offering paid pet bereavement days to employees when their beloved companion passes on.

It’s pretty clear that pet friendly policies not only make sense in the workplace but offer specific and tangible benefits to your organization as well.

So, what are you waiting for? With 41 percent of pet parents, especially Millennials, believing that a pet friendly workplace is important, isn’t it time for your company to jump in and become pet friendly too?