Human Resources News & Insights

Should man’s best friend also be employees’ best friend?

Is an employee pet policy good for the workplace — and right for your company?  

There’s no question about it: More companies are allowing workers to bring pets to the office.

Nearly 20% of U.S. companies allow employees to bring pets — mainly dogs — to work, according to a 2008 report from the American Pet Products Association.

And companies both big (Procter & Gamble, Amazon and Purina) and small (Cincinnati ad agency Barefoot Proximity, Seymour, IN, hospital Schneck Medical Center) have adopted pet policies.

But is a pet policy right for your workplace? Here’s the case for and against allowing dogs, cats and any other animal friend into your workplace.

For a pet policy

Advocates for a pet policy point to the numerous health benefits pets provide. They note that pets can:

  • Lower stress. A 2012 study from Virginia Commonwealth University found that employees who bring their dogs to work produced lower levels of the stress-causing hormone cortisol.
  • Decrease blood pressure and cholesterol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites research from animal experts stating that cholesterol and blood pressure levels decrease when in the presence of a pet.
  • Increase exercise and socialization. Staffers must get up out of their desks to walk their dogs, fostering exercise and socialization with other pet owners.
  • Boost productivity and morale. Employees who can bring their pets to work are more likely to be happy — and happier employees are more productive.

Against a pet policy

There are just as many reasons for not adopting a pet policy. You’d be remiss if you didn’t consider:

  • Employee allergies. Staffers who are allergic to dogs or cats will most certainly be unhappy if you allow those animals to roam the office during the workday. One solution: limiting animals to areas of the building where people aren’t allergic.
  • Distraction. Staffers may end up spending more time caring for their pets than getting their job done.
  • Liability. What if a pet bites or scratches another employee? Or runs into the parking lot and causes an accident? Are you prepared to handle the potential liability issues that come with having pets present at your firm?

Verdict and things to consider

It’s clear that there are both pros and cons of allowing four-legged friends to lounge under your staffers’ cubicles.

So what should a pet policy include if you decide to adopt one? Here are some things to consider from Pet Sitters International:

  • Take only well-behaved, healthy pets that are comfortable and socialized around strangers.
  • Dogs should be up-to-date on vaccinations, bathed and treated with a flea preventative.
  • Dogs should be leashed unless in an employee’s office or cubicle.
  • Bring a doggie bag with food, treats, bowls, non-squeaky toys, paper towels, clean-up bags and pet-safe disinfectant.
  • Designate pet-free areas, such as bathrooms, conference rooms and employee break rooms.
  • Respect your co-worker’s space and don’t force interactions.
  • Have a backup plan for taking the dog home if he or she is not comfortable at work
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