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Pets in the Workplace

I fell in love with Hazel the moment I saw her. It wasn’t her beautiful brown eyes, silky black hair, or pretty face that did me in. It was because Hazel is a puppy and puppies always have that effect on me. I’m certainly not unique in that respect, as most of my co-workers quickly fell in love with her, too. 

My colleague Justin Thorn, Senior Support Specialist at Worklogic HR, started bringing Hazel to work about a month ago and said people stop by his office more often now as a result. “I know people are coming by just to see Hazel, but then they end up talking to me. I’ve gotten to know my co-workers a lot better since she’s been here, which is a good thing.” 

Most of us visit Hazel when we’re stressed. “People come to see her because they need their puppy love,” said Justin. It’s true that just a few minutes of doggy kisses and tummy rubs makes us feel better and we’re able to return to work in a happier mood. Hazel has definitely increased our morale, decreased our stress, and made our workplace a better place. 

Lots of studies have shown that dogs and other pets are good for the workplace because they have the same effect that Hazel has on us. That’s why about seven per cent of U.S. employers allow pets at work, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. However, before allowing employees to bring their pets to work, here are some things to consider (courtesy of 14 rules for creating a bring-your-dog-to-work policy by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff). 

Not everyone is an animal lover and some people are allergic to animals. Tip: ensure everyone is on board with the pets-at-work idea first.

Accidents happen. I’m not just talking about puppies pooping on the carpet. Scared animals sometimes bite and scratch. Tip: make sure your insurance will cover these things (or have pet owners commit to coverage).

Pets can be distracting. I took Hazel into a workshop that I was facilitating at our office, which was a big mistake because everyone was more interested in her than my training. So, allowing pets into all work areas or to roam free might be unwise. Also, having them at work all day every day might be too much of a distraction for their owners. Tip: consider having pet-free zones and pet-free days.

We can’t always get along. Allowing more than one pet at work at a time might lead to fighting among animals. Determining who gets to bring their pet to work and who doesn’t might lead to fighting among employees. Tip: have a “one pet at a time” policy and take turns.

What’s on the floor will be chewed or eaten. Just like baby proofing a home, you’ll need to pet-proof your business. Tip: ensure computer cables and the like do not turn into chew toys. 

Not everyone is a good pet owner. Pets might not have their shots up-to-date, might have fleas, or might be ill. Also, just like some people don’t clean up after themselves in the break room, not everyone cleans up their doggy’s doo. Tip: create clear expectations for employees who bring their pets to work.  

To successfully integrate pets into the workplace, Schiff suggests creating a pet committee to address the issues above, create pet policies, and ensure accountability. This might sound a bit bureaucratic, but just winging it and hoping everything works out could lead to unpleasantness for the pets and their people. 

Done right, pets can be wonderful additions to the workplace. 

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Disclaimer: The information and resources provided herein are not a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not constitute legal advice or attempt to address the numerous factual issues that inevitably arise in any employment-related dispute. Although this information attempts to cover some major recent developments, it is not all-inclusive, and any recommendations are based upon HR best practices and procedures. We recommend you consult an attorney for legal guidance.

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