It is extremely important for everyone in the workplace for employees to be happy and healthy. Stress and burnout are major problems which can lead to a loss in productivity, unhappy employees and increased absences. Where suitable, pets in the workplace can help to reduce these stress-related illnesses. What potential benefits are there of taking your dog or other pet to the office? And what is important to take into account when you bring your pet to work?
More and more companies recognize the importance of pet-friendly workplaces. Research shows that pets lower stress levels by providing a more relaxed atmosphere and higher productivity at the workplace.
Potential positives include:
- Pets break the ice - pets can put people at ease and encourage conversations between colleagues
- Dogs ensure that employees take breaks from screens - Getting up to pat a pet or have a short walk helps the flow of mental creativity. Additionally, walking with colleagues is great for problem-solving and for bouncing around new ideas.
- Pets reduce stress - petting a dog or cat lowers blood pressure and can bring calmness. This can also be a source of comfort leading to less conflict and frustration.
- Pet-friendly offices can be seen as a great benefit for many employees - the ability to take your pet with you is seen as an added value to being a part of this particular office.
- Good for animal welfare - By allowing animals at work, pets don't have to spend long days at home alone.
Potential negatives to consider:
- Your workplace might not be safe for a pet - it depends on the industry you work in, the building itself and how secure it is, the neighbourhood you work in (should the pet escape), whether the workplace is very noisy or chaotic and many other workplace-specific factors.
- Your fellow employees might not want pets in the office - some people might be fearful of animals, or may suffer from allergies or have cultural objections to working in close proximity to pets.
- Your pet might not be suited to being in a workplace - this unfamiliar environment might cause stress or fear in your pet. It's important to put the needs of the pet first.
How to introduce a pet to work
As an organization, you might choose to host an office dog or cat. It is important to make clear policy arrangements about the daily care of the pet. Of course, the animal may not be able to stay alone at work after 5 pm, so make a clear agreement on who will take care of the animal after the office closes.
Another possibility is that employees are allowed to take their own dog to work. Always be careful introducing dogs to each other, and we don't recommend mixing nervous cats with boisterous dogs. If in doubt, don't do it.
To ensure that the pets are really well cared for, proper preparation is important:
- Create support - don't simply introduce pets to your office overnight. Instead, come up with a clear set of agreements and rules and make sure EVERYONE has their honest input heard. Revisit this regularly to make sure it's still working.
- Organise a test day - this is a non-committal day on which a pet/s is introduced. Take it slow.
- Pet-proof your office - make sure there are no dangers around that the pet might chew or be harmed by in any way.
- Take each other into account - as mentioned, colleagues may suffer from allergies, fear of animals, or might find pets a nuisance. Ensure that colleagues aren't disturbed or interrupted. Show understanding, listen to all points of view and find practical solutions if possible.
- Animal welfare is a #1 priority - Ensure that there is ALWAYS a responsible caretaker for the animal/s so accountability and responsibility are never vague. It must be clear who will walk the dog, when to feed the cat and change the litter/clean up messes.
- Discuss and come to an agreement about costs - pets can be expensive. If you will be having a workplace-only pet, make it absolutely clear who will be covering costs such as vet treatment, pet food, toys, flea and worming treatment, litter, microchipping, vaccination etc.
- Train colleagues - not everyone knows everything about dogs or cats. Teach colleagues first how to deal with pet behaviour, how to approach them, the basics of dog or cat body language, how to introduce them, when to leave them alone and when they need attention.
- Make pet treatment rules and put them in a clearly visible place in the office - this helps to maintain consistency between everyone so that the pet receives the same commands and learns/maintains good habits.
- Schedule a regular 'pet meeting' - This will helps you all deal with any problems swiftly and maintain a team approach to the care of the pet/s.
- Allow only well-socialised pets in the office - an office is not a suitable place to rehabilitate aggressive or anxious animals. Choose a pet that is calm, friendly and comfortable with people.
Take your pet to work or hire a pet sitter?
Many offices, (cat) cafes or even some stores are great to host pets. Often visitors or customers like it very much when a resident dog or cat is present. But not every workplace is suitable to house a pet - some places are simply too dangerous or not animal-friendly, or there are very legitimate hygiene concerns.
You don't have to feel guilty if you have to go to work and your pet has to stay at home, as a Pawshake pet sitter can walk your dog or keep your cat company during office hours. Search and book your pet sitter via the Pawshake website or app