Some pumpers take dogs along with them in the truck or let them hang out in the office. Here's why they're doing it right.
There’s a Boston terrier snoring under my desk as I write this, and his presence may be making me more productive.
A 2012 Virginia Commonwealth University study found people who bring their dogs to work report less job stress and greater job satisfaction. And it isn’t just the dog’s owner who benefits. For many people, petting a dog — any dog — can reduce stress, and having one present in the office can increase overall employee health and morale. The VCU researchers suggested employees who are not the office dog’s owner might ask permission to take the dog outside for a short walk and therefore build a healthy break into their day. A pet in the office may also be improving office-wide communication by generating conversation between workers who ordinarily don’t have much to talk about.
Benefits of pets in the workplace
Kennel Club, a UK group dedicated to “the health and welfare of all dogs,” lists these advantages of allowing dogs in the workplace:
- People are able to cope better in stressful situations when dogs are present, because petting a dog elevates the production of serotonin and dopamine in humans. These hormones lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
- Workers are more productive and creative when they take short breaks and get fresh air during the working day, and dogs encourage otherwise sedentary workers to take these breaks.
- Employers who allow dogs at work say they have noticed a decrease in absenteeism, improved work relations and improved staff morale.
Possible negatives of workplace pets
Of course, your dog is perfect and my dog is perfect, but not all pets are. Some dogs growl, snarl and even bite, which would not be welcomed in the workplace. Other dogs bark. A lot. At everything. Barking is not a good background sound for business calls.
Dogs have been known to mark their territory when first entering a place, and if that territory is your office, somebody’s going to have to clean it up. Some dogs (and cats) want to bolt out the door every time it opens whether or not there are trucks in the yard or a busy highway out there. Some dogs are anxious in new surroundings, especially if they are noisy and chaotic like an office, which could cause them to drool, shed profusely or pace nervously. Some cats like to sharpen their claws on furniture.
And then there are people. Some people are allergic to dogs or cats, or simply afraid of animals in general. And, hard as it is for pet owners to understand, some people just don’t like dogs or cats and don’t want to spend their workday with them roaming around the office.
10 rules for creating a pet-friendly workplace
Given the considerations above, if you still think you’d like to create a pet-friendly office, here are some steps to take, rather than just simply showing up with Barkley in tow some morning:
- If you rent office space, carefully read your lease before even considering a pet-friendly office. Animals may be prohibited, or you may need to get the landlord’s approval before bringing in any pets. There may be restrictions on the size, number or type of animal allowed. An additional security deposit or higher monthly rent may be required if animals are to be brought into the space.
- Know what you are suggesting. Do you want to bring your dog in and have it be the official company dog available for all to pet and scratch and spoil, or do you want to make it a perk of employment that any employee can bring their dog to work? Those are two different animals. What about cats? Cats are also different animals.
- Consult with your insurance provider. Find out if your liability insurance will cover you if a customer is knocked down or nipped by an overly enthusiastic office dog. What if an employee’s pet is accidentally injured or killed on your property?
- Consult everyone in the office. Find out if anyone is allergic, afraid, or just not a fan of dogs or cats. Don’t single a person out and make them feel bad for it; don’t let others blame them for putting the brakes on the free doggie day care. Ask those opposed if restricting animals to certain areas in the building would be an option they could live with. If not, don’t push it. An animal allergy could be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. On the other hand, if the request to bring an animal into the workplace is for a service dog, all efforts to accommodate the request should be made.
- Talk to the person responsible for cleaning. Are they willing to clean up after pets? Shedding pets may increase the need for vacuuming. Accidents could require more frequent carpet cleaning. Nose prints on glass could require more time spent washing doors and windows. Are you willing to compensate your cleaning person for these extra duties?
- Try it on a temporary basis. If everyone in the office seems game, bring your dog in every day for a week and see how it goes. Get feedback from everyone.
- Set some ground rules. Maybe you only want to allow small dogs. Maybe non-shedding breeds only. Declawed cats only? Or maybe no dogs under a year old. Certainly the rules should require dogs be potty trained and well mannered.
- Reserve the right to revoke any pet’s office privileges at any time.
- Have pet owners sign a waiver. Create an authorization and release form. There’s a sample form at Purina.com you can base your form off of.
- Be prepared to negotiate. What if Spike and Spunky are both perfectly lovely dogs, but growl and bare their teeth at each other when they come to work at the same time? Maybe set up a schedule so they take turns being “office dog.”
When it comes down to it, you have to consider the health and well-being of your employees, your customers, your business and the animals before deciding to allow dogs or cats in the office. Also keep in mind the effect it could have on the future of the business. A potential employee might come in for an interview, see Fido and immediately know her allergies and his dander won’t mix. On the other hand, it might be a case of puppy love at first sight and the factor that makes her pick your company’s job offer over another. Having a friendly canine greeter can also make your company memorable to first-time customers, provided that greeter isn’t overly enthusiastic.