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Give Pets at Work More Than a Dog's Chance

Considering pets in the workplace?

Anyone who loves a dog or other animal knows the good feelings having a pet around can create. The American Pet Products Association in 2008 released the results of a poll of American workers, showing that “75 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace makes people happier” and “70 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace reduces stress.”1

We found it stunning that the number of respondents to the poll appeared to exceed the population estimate for Thailand. So we got in touch with the association and learned that the poll results were based on a sample of 1,000 Americans 18 or older.

Still, whether you ask 1,000 respondents or 75 million, you’ll probably find that people like pets.

Do you think you might want to allow pets in your workplace? Here are some considerations:

1. Pets improve employee health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having pets can facilitate health benefits, such as decreased blood pressure and cholesterol.2 Pets also decrease people’s feelings of depression and isolation. Healthy, happy employees can increase your bottom line and are less prone to be sick and miss work.

2. Pets at work increase collaboration and creativity. When pets are around, people tend to feel more collaborative. One study mentioned in The Economist3 compared how different groups of coworkers collaborating on an advertisement felt about each other. Some groups had a dog present and others didn’t. Members of the groups with a dog reported feeling greater trust and intimacy with their teammates than did their dog-less counterparts.

If your business relies on creative, collaborative thinking, you might improve productivity by allowing dogs into the office environment.

3. Make sure every employee can weigh in. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has no standards prohibiting pets in the workplace, other than to call for a “safe working environment.” But if pets cause other workers distress, it might be an issue. Before you allow pets in the workplace, ask all your employees about their feelings. Some employees may be allergic to certain animals. Others might just be afraid of dogs. Improving the work environment for pet-loving workers at the expense of others isn’t a fair policy.

4. Is your environment pet-friendly? Ensure that a pet’s experience at work is as positive as your own. Pets can be a fun way to relax employees and greet customers at the door and give everyone a warm and fuzzy feeling. But is your business a safe place for a pet?

Nail and hair salons with harsh smells and chemicals can be toxic for pets. Chocolate, avocados, grapes, and all sorts of other foods are potentially lethal for dogs. And even the most urban of pets need a little piece of grass on which to run around.

5. Think it through. Although there are many benefits to allowing dogs and other pets in the workplace, it’s important to consider all the potential drawbacks before enacting a new policy. Everyone in the organization might agree that having pets in the workplace would improve performance and productivity, but remember that having pets involves responsibilities that could potentially detract from work. Dogs might need walking a few times per day. Chewing, fighting, messes, and other mishaps are likely to come along with pets in the workplace, so make sure you’re prepared.

With a little planning and care, your business could be the next pet-friendly place to work. It’s a great way to foster your employees’ loyalty and creativity and to keep things light and happy.

1. “U.S. Companies Continue Trend of Allowing Pets in the Workplace
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Health Benefits of Pets”
3. “Manager’s Best Friend: Dogs Improve Office Productivity
4. “Dogs Allowed: Creature Comforts at the Workplace

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