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If you stop into the Integrity HR office for a visit, you’ll quickly notice an unusual jingle floating through the halls.

Soon enough, you’ll see a little white fluff jogging around the corner to greet you and snag some free tummy rubs.

Nigel is our “Canine Executive Officer,” welcome committee, and Integrity HR team mascot. He’s a friendly Westie who always comes to work dressed to impressed sporting his very own bow-tie.

Our Integrity HR team has embraced a pet-friendly policy, a trend that is spreading throughout a variety of business industries.

As professionals who have experienced the treats and the tensions of “hiring” furry friends, we’ve developed a list of pros and cons to help you decide if a pet-friendly policy is right for your business.

Do you need help adding your pet policy to your employee handbook? Not sure where to start? Give us a call at 877-753-0970 or learn more about our handbook creation services here. Believe it or not – we’ve actually written pet-friendly policies!

A Professional’s Best Friend?

The Pros and Cons of Pet-Friendly Workplaces

1. Employee Morale

Pro: The Benjie Boost

In 2016, Banfield Pet Hospital conducted a survey of 1,000 employees and 200 HR professionals on the impact of pets in the workplace. They found that 7/10 employees and HR professionals agreed that allowing pets in the workplace improves employee morale.

You might not be surprised to learn they also found having pets in the workplace decreases stress and increases satisfaction of both employees and leadership.

When there’s a cuddly puppy or fluffy kitten at your feet, it’s apparently a lot harder to lose your composure over the daily grind.

Pet-parents experience an added boost because they avoid any guilt at leaving their pet home alone all day as well as the fees of pet-sitters. Overall, it seems that man’s best friend is also a professional’s best friend.

Con: The Grumpy Cat

Although pet-lovers may find it hard to fathom, there are some people who just don’t share their affection for four-legged creatures.

Bringing pets into the workplace opens up the possibility of alienating employees or leadership who are uncomfortable around pets.

The potential for pets to bring a positive moral boost can easily become a source of anxiety and stress to those with a fear of animals. Adding animals into the workplace may also cause health issues for those on your team with allergies.

If employees have personal or medical concerns about a pet-friendly policy, you should accommodate them to the best of your ability and hep them to feel welcome.

Grooming Your Pet-Friendly Policy:

Pet-Free Zones: Define areas where pets are and are not permitted to roam. Restrict pets from accessing the work areas of team members with personal or medical restrictions. Clearly label these areas in your workplace and establish consequences for noncompliance with the guidelines.

2. Retention and Productivity

Pro: Best In Show

Companies with a pet-friendly workplace have an added advantage when recruiting new hires. Many businesses offer competitive benefits and vacation time, but not many businesses offer a pet-friendly policy.

In the Banfield survey above, 65% of HR professionals reported that candidates “often” ask about pet-friendly workplaces during their hiring process.

Having a pet-friendly policy gives your business an extra incentive to present to talented candidates who are considering joining your team.

Looking to hire younger employees? Forbes claims that millennials are likely to choose a pet-friendly company when given a choice between a workplace with and without pet-friendly policies.

Con: 101 Distractions

The parent who battles their child’s request for a puppy and the boss who hesitates to bring pets into their office know the same thing – pets take work. And if an employee is “working” for their pet, chances are their work for you has come to a halt.

While exercise and occasional breaks can be good for productivity, caring for an animal requires a certain level of responsibility that can’t be easily delayed for last minute meetings or urgent client needs.

Distractions can abound when pets that are especially needy or restless want to be taken outside for walks or entertained with play. Noisy or troublesome pets may end up wasting more time and resources for the company than the occasional employee break.

Grooming Your Pet-Friendly Policy:

Code of Conduct…for pets!: Outline appropriate conduct for pets and their owners in your pet-friendly office policy. How noisy is too noisy? How much time are employees able to spend tending to their pet’s needs? Do employees need to keep their pets on a leash? What behaviors are and aren’t appropriate for pets in your workplace? Remember to create a system for filing grievances if disputes or violations occur.

 3. Team Relationships

Pro: Adopt A Mascot

Whether it’s a stuffed mascot like the University of Kentucky Wildcats or a live mascot like the University of Georgia bulldog, Uga, teams rally around their beloved animals.

Your staff obviously isn’t a professional sports team, but you are a community of diverse individuals working for a common mission. Why not adopt a mascot to unite your team?

Pets have a way of diffusing tension and relaxing interactions. Bringing pets into your workplace creates additional opportunities for bonding and conversation.

Employees who would otherwise be hesitant to approach one another may do so to get an energy boost from a sociable pet.

Con: Animal Altercations

The key word above is “sociable” pets. It goes without saying that altercations between pets or between their owners can undermine your team dynamics just as quickly as they can reinforce them.

Pet related injuries can become an interpersonal and legal conflict for your team and your business.

On the less dramatic end, ornery animals have been known to make their ill feelings known. Leave a disgruntled dog alone in your office and you may return to a few unexpected presents and surprises.

Risking damage to office property or materials may not be a sacrifice you’re willing to make with your company’s resources.

Grooming Your Pet-Friendly Policy:

All Pets Aren’t Equal: Define which specific pets are permitted in your policy. What types, breeds, sizes, and temperaments are welcome in your workplace? Consult legal advice, disability laws, and OSHA when creating your restrictions. Pets should have an aggression-free track record and be well trained. Make sure to distinguish between office pets and service animals in your guideline restrictions. Your policy should probably include a section that states that employees are liable for any inquires or damage to personal property caused by the animal.

Interested in “hiring” some furry friends?

Here are some basic procedures to get you started on your pet-friendly policy:

1. Consult Your HR Professional

2. Write Your Policy With:

– Specific Guidelines*

– Consequences

– Grievances Procedures

3. Offer A Probationary Period or Trial Run

4. Distribute a Temporary Policy

5. Reassess and Evaluate

6. Establish or Terminate Your Policy

7. Include Policy in Handbook

– Host a Training

– Create a Contact Person

– Allow Accommodations

*Specific Guidelines may include restrictions on:

  • Sick animals
  • Animals with fleas or other communicable diseases
  • Animals that have not been properly vaccinated
  • Dogs that bark or behave aggressively
  • Animals that foul the inside of the building
  • Animals that have not been spayed or neutered

Do you need help adding your pet policy to your employee handbook? Not sure where to start? Give us a call at 877-753-0970 or learn more about our handbook creation services here. Believe it or not – we’ve actually written pet-friendly policies!

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about the author: Integrity HR

Integrity HR's human resources blog is filled with expert advice (and sassy commentary) on those everyday employment issues that give business owners and managers HR headaches. From tips on how to retain key employees to how to write your dress code policy, our blog has all the HR resources you need.