Pets in the Office: The Pros and Cons

Kristi Birkeland on Dec 22, 2017 3:00:00 AM

Everyone loves an adorable puppy. Admit it! You’re only reading this blog because that doggie pic is just so darn cute.

But is bringing Mr. Fiddlesticks to work taking it too far? Can pets in the office be too much of a good thing?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Reasons to wag

If the thought of having pets at work has you wiggling with excitement, you’re not alone. Many employees under 35 list a pet-friendly office as their most desired workplace perk. This could give pro-pet workplaces an edge when it comes to recruiting talent.

And there are lots of other reasons a pet-friendly workplace policy may have you drooling.

Pets at work have been shown to:

Permitting pets at work also gives many employees more flexibility with their time, which allows them to be in the office more often.

We all know people who are constantly grabbing their keys and running home to care for their pets. Lunch meetings? Out. After work functions? No can do. Staying a few minutes late to finish a project? Maybe. But the stress of pet care is real, so you can bet most of these folks count on clocking out immediately at the end of their shifts.  

In addition to providing joy and flexibility, allowing furry friends at work can be a huge financial benefit to pet owners. After all, doggie daycare isn’t cheap. Neither is replacing the couch your lonely, anxious pup chewed to death while you were gone.

But it’s not all fun and games.

Reasons to bark

If the thought of adding animals into the Human Resources mix rubs you the wrong way, you may be justified.

It’s hard enough to make sure all of your employees get along. Now you have to manage the relationships between them and their pets? And any legal and liability issues that may arise? It’s enough to make you want to curl up on the floor and take a nap.

Potential drawbacks include:

Increased distractions

Bringing a pet to work requires caring for it during the day. This can be good if your employees tend not to take their much needed breaks, but bad if they add in pet care time on top of them. And you’ve got to admit— it can be pretty hard to concentrate on your work or take that business call if there is an anxious, aggressive, loud, overly-friendly or super adorable dog nearby.

Workplace conflict

Differences in pet parenting styles and what behavior is acceptable has caused many an argument on the internet. A pet-friendly policy could easily bring these same discussions to the workplace, causing both dogs and employees to bark angrily at each other.

Accidents

Yep. Those kind. There’s enough crap in the workplace already. No need to add to the pile. Or the carpet cleaning bill. But there are other accidents as well. Chewed cords. Spilled coffee. And the potential for a confused or unhappy pup to lash out.

Liability

If someone does get bitten at work, it can quickly escalate into angry words and even lawsuits. Legal action can also arise from employees with allergies or fear of animals who feel like they are not being adequately accommodated.

Unintended Consequences

You may love the idea of a pet-friendly office, but it’s not for everyone— including those who suffer from allergies or asthma. A workplace full of pets could be a deal-breaker for many job seekers, making finding that perfect candidate even more difficult. (Or shall we say ruff?)

Unwanted visitors

“If Joe can bring his dog, why can’t I bring my python?” This is a question you may need to answer, so make sure your policy covers it. Also, be aware that even the sweetest, most adorable puppy or kitty can bring unwanted guests with it. Treating a flea outbreak at home is hard enough, but once it hits the office, look out.

A walk in the park

Thinking of dipping your toes into the pet-friendly waters, but afraid to go all in? Try starting off small.

Consider getting an office dog, cat, or other animal instead of instituting a bring-your-own policy. You could also participate in Bring Your Dog to Work day to see how it goes, or establish one day per month when pets are allowed. If you have particularly slow or overly stressful times during the year, look into hosting animals on-site for a few hours at a time for a little fun and/or workplace stress relief.

If you want to support employees and their pets without actually bringing furry friends into the office, there are other ways to offer pet-related perks:

  • Create flexible paid time off programs that include room for veterinarian visits, pet emergencies, adoption, or bereavement
  • Allow for work-at-home options when pets are sick or injured
  • Offer discounted pet insurance as a voluntary benefit
  • Support employees who adopt animals with recognition, a pet-related gift, or a company donation to a pet-related charity.

Other ideas for animal-loving businesses include getting involved with your local humane society or animal shelter by sponsoring events, matching funds donated by employees, or offering time off for staff members who want to volunteer.

That way, whether or not you allow animals on-site, Mr. Fiddlesticks will feel the love. And so will your employees.

This is the second post in a two part series on workplace pet policy. For more information on this topic, read Do Pets Belong at Work? or subscribe to this blog to recieve articles on a variety of HR and employer-related topics.

Photo by Tara Gamby

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Topics: HR Strategy