Introducing Pets Into the Workplace

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As an employer, it can be a daunting prospect should you decide to allow employees to introduce pets into the workplace. Here are a few guidelines to follow.

Today marks International Cat Day, a day devoted to celebrating our feline friends and realising the joy that pets such as cats can bring us.

In a workplace context however, history has led us to believe that pets should be kept away from the office, as to not cause any personal conflicts of interest or provide more reason for distractions and reductions in productivity.

But as a study by Purina indicates50% of employees that aren’t currently allowed pets in the workplace would see it as a benefit, with some of the main positives relating to better worker health, better work-life balance and creating a more relaxed atmosphere.

If you are thinking about starting to introduce pets into the workplace, here is some advice to make the transition run as smoothly as possible.

Establishing a Pets at Work Policy

Hiring platform Workable suggests that when introducing pets into the workplace, a pets at work policy should be written up and actioned as to avoid causing disruptions in the office environment.

They cite:

“We believe that pets can foster a friendlier and happier workplace.

They’re fun, playful and can have a positive influence on our work.

We’ll allow our employees to have their pets at work when they wish.

However, we want to make sure that animals won’t disrupt our operations, damage properties or cause medical issues to other employees.

We expect everyone to read and respect this policy.”

Additionally, maintaining a pets at work policy isn’t just the responsibility of an employer.

Workable suggest that employees should also take the time to consider all the aspects required to make a pets into the workplace initiative work effectively, such as:

• Being sure to inform HR that their pet is sufficiently trained.

• Presenting any current documentation to prove that any pets have adequate insurance policies in place on them.

• Providing proof that their pet is clean, has been fully vaccinated and is completely free from parasites.

• Being able to confirm that their pet will not cause any colleagues allergies or avoidable medical problems.

Once these points have been considered, a waiver should be drawn up which states full information on any pets being introduced into the workplace and a declaration from the owner that they are entirely responsible for their pet.

Considering the Environment for Pets Into the Workplace

Of course, even after creating a pets at work policy, it may be the case that the working environment isn’t suitable for introducing pets into the workplace.

As Kim Tracy Prince, author of the article ‘Pets In the Workplace: Is It a Good or Bad Idea?’ explains, it’s irresponsible and dangerous to allow pets into areas of work which could land the company and employees in legal trouble.

“Noisy or hazardous work environments, like construction sites, machining facilities, or mining operations, can be very loud and disturbing to pets, not to mention dangerous for animals to be wandering loose and potentially getting injured.”

On the topic of how this relates to legal liability even if the work environment is appropriate for pets, Princeexplains:

“You can be held responsible for personal injury or property damage done by employees’ pets, or even the pets of customers who bring them into your place of business.

And let’s face it, even the most docile animals can attack people or other pets, or destroy property.”

Additional Factors to Be Aware Of

While establishing a pets at work policy and considering if the working environment is appropriate for pets are two of the main factors behind introducing pets into the workplace, there some other areas of interest both employers and employees should be aware of.

The article ‘The Benefits of Bringing Pets to Work’, produced by the University of Southern California, lists some of the more important of these factors as being:

• Additional costs that may be required for pet care and/or ‘pet proofing’ a workplace (including food, toys, treats, security measures etc.)

• Risks relating to distraction or impacting productivity with colleagues introducing pets into the workplace.

• Allergies to pets – employees should ensure their pets pose no allergy or medical risk to the rest of the team (this is a shared responsibility with the employer)

They also provide some more general tips for introducing pets into the workplace for the first time such as employers making sure to maintain the hygiene of their petsintroducing pets into the new environment slowly (e.g. allowing pets a controlled explore of the room during quiet periods, supervising pets and their behavior at all times) and informing the employer of a pets’ training and dietary requirements should they have any.

Making the decision to introduce pets into the workplace can cause a lot of apprehension for employers.

But with the rise of flexible working and the growing preference for workers to include pets in both their personal and professional lives, it is a benefit that many businesses can now consider with confidence should the workplace be suitable.

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Sam Rose

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