Artwork by: Katya Simacheva
Sometimes it’s hard to leave our furry friends at home. But what about bringing them to work? Can a pet-friendly workplace be good for you? In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of having pets in the workplace, and how it can make your work life better.
It can be argued that supporting the mental health and well-being of employees helps them to be more productive and engaged in their work, and pets in the workplace may be a way to support that. For a lot of people, their pets offer emotional support and companionship, and many companies are taking advantage of this and establishing pet-friendly workplaces that allow their workers to spend their working hours with their furry friends.
In this article, we’ll discuss the phenomenon of allowing pets in the workplace, including:
Should pets be allowed in the workplace?
Getting the office on board with pets in the workplace
Pros and cons of pets in the workplace
Why a pet-friendly office may be the key to employee satisfaction
The bottom line: should you have pets in the office?
As long as all co-workers are “cool” with it, animals such as dogs can have positive effects on the overall work culture. And this isn't limited to the workplace either. While research is limited, it does appear that our society, in general, is more "pet-friendly" than it used to be when the appearance of our furry friends was limited to our homes and specifically designated parks. People have begun to use “emotional support” animals to enhance their health and mental well-being (although there’s little to no regulation on that at the moment), students are interacting with pets in the classroom, and many hospitals and care facilities offer “dog visits”.
In fact, in a recent study, participants were assigned to either a "dog" or "no dog" group and asked to complete a series of work-related tasks. Overall, behavior in the “dog” groups “was rated as more cooperative, comfortable, friendly, active, enthusiastic, and attentive.”
So, should pets be allowed in the workplace? It seems so. A Nationwide/HABRI study found that according to the participants' self-evaluation regarding pet-friendly workplaces:
97 percent of employees reported good physical health (as well as exercising 3.5 days per week).
98 percent of employees reported good mental health.
88 percent of employees plan to remain with the company for the next calendar year.
53 percent of employees who work for a pet-friendly company report a positive working relationship with their co-workers.
The numbers demonstrate that, overall, companies who institute pet-friendly policies have employees who are happier, healthier, and have more positive interactions with their colleagues and managers. They are also less likely to be looking for another job. Win-win!
It’s important to note that having pets in the workplace is a separate issue from service animals, which assist people with disabilities navigate their day-to-day life. Whether it’s a guide dog that helps their person get around or is trained to respond to health issues such as seizure, the presence of service animals is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
When you’re dealing with a group of people, no matter the size, you’re bound to have a wide variety of opinions. So getting everyone to agree to pets in the workplace might take some, well, work. There must be clearly defined policies in place, with workplace safety being at the top of the list, and all pets will need to be vaccinated and well-mannered. It would also be helpful to delineate "animal-free zones," as well as a cap on how many animals can be in the office at one time (one could also put actual caps on the animals themselves, which would be adorable).
Beyond inviting dogs into the office, companies can use other strategies to create a pet-friendly workplace, such as offering pet insurance coverage or paid bereavement time for pet loss. Hosting pet-friendly events after hours at a dog park, offering volunteer opportunities at a local shelter, or even creating a pet-themed Slack channel are other ways to cultivate a pet-friendly atmosphere while taking everyone’s needs into consideration.
There are several pros and cons to consider before welcoming pets into the workplace, such as:
Employee well-being. For pet lovers, the presence of pets can enhance an employee's well-being.
Recruitment and retention. Pets in the workplace can support employee recruitment and retention.
Employee morale. The presence of pets can result in a boost to team morale.
Stress. The American Heart Association recommends pets in the workplace as a way to reduce stress.
Company liability. Since many organizations only assume liability for two-legged employees, the complexities of inviting pets into the workplace must be taken into account.
Damage. As all pet owners know, pets can cause quite a bit of damage, so company property could be at risk if you’re sharing a cubicle with a cat.
Allergies or fear of animals. Both should be considered for the health and safety of all employees.
Distraction. As much fun as pets can be, they can also be a distraction, especially if there are multiple pets in the office!
It’s been shown that employees who “like” their jobs are more likely to be engaged, positive, and productive. It also reduces employee error, increases speed, and helps people to make overall better decisions. Dr. Meredith Wells-Lepley, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at USC, along with Dr. Rose Perrine, conducted research regarding pets in the workplace. According to the study on 31 companies in Lexington and Richmond, VA, “most employees in the study believed that workplace pets reduced their stress levels and positively influenced their health, job satisfaction, and organizational issues such as productivity and employee morale.” It can also help bolster positive employee interaction—pets can be a great icebreaker to get to know your co-workers, which can support an environment of teamwork, collaboration, and greater communication.
Additionally, companies that allow pets often have employees who are absent from work less often, as they don’t have to leave in a hurry at the end of the day to take the dog for a much-need walk or feel guilty about a pet that might be lonely being home alone all day.
While the benefits are numerous, don’t forget the nuts and bolts issues of having pets in the office. First, your building or office management needs to allow animals—if they don’t, it doesn’t matter how great morale is if the company loses its lease. Also, do you work in a pet-friendly field? There might be laws preventing the presence of animals, such as in the food and beverage industry.
Remember, while pets can be a nice addition to the workplace, they aren’t great for everyone, and their needs should be taken into consideration as well. And all staff members, regardless of whether they bring in a pet or not, need to be mindful of the established regulations and expectations so that the work, in the end, is still the top priority. If everyone is amenable, having pets in the workplace might be a great all-around perk to make your job a place you really want to be (even if they don’t put Fido on the payroll!).
Looking to find the right job for you? Check out our job tracker tool on Career.io!
Research suggests that companies who institute pet-friendly policies have employees who are happier, healthier, and have more positive interactions with their colleagues and managers.
When instituting a “pets in the workplace” situation, there must be clearly defined policies in place, with workplace safety being at the top of the list.
Companies looking to retain and attract top talent should consider allowing pets in the workplace as it creates a productive company culture.
Jennifer Inglis is a freelance writer and content creator with extensive professional expertise in advertising, media analysis, teaching, writing, and literature. Prior to working for Career.io, Jennifer was a public school teacher, teaching courses in college and career readiness, writing, and public speaking. Jennifer has a master’s degree in Teaching, and is the author of two published novels.