Who doesn’t love a puppy? Or a kitten? Science tells us that the love we feel for our pets is the effect of oxytocin, the brain chemical that is produced for a “tend and befriend” response related to maternal bonding and social attachment. This why pets in the workplace have been found to improve morale and camaraderie among coworkers. Pets also increase loyalty to the workplace, and relieve stress, which is why pets in the office lower employee blood pressure.
The benefits of having Fido and Fluffy at the workplace have been studied and accounted for, with as many as 8% of American workplaces, as of 2015, allowing employees to bring their beloved pets to work. Even the U.S. government is jumping on board when earlier this year the Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke rode a horse to his first day of work, and announced “Doggy days at Interior.”
With millennials outnumbering baby boomers as the largest pet-owning generation and making up almost half the workforce by 2020, more businesses are looking to keep the younger generation engaged by allowing employees to bring their pets to work.
Pet Pros and Cons
As pets become office fixtures employers say they are seeing a reduced rate of absenteeism. Workers are putting in longer hours because they don’t need to go home and tend to their animals. It also seems that pets provide a more comfortable working environment that boosts creativity and motivation. Plus, workers take breaks to play and walk their pets so employees’ overall health and mental outlook is improved.
However, it’s not all wags, licks, and purrs for everyone when pets go to work with their owners. Some people are highly allergic to animals. Some are afraid of them. When pets are included in work environments, it can be torture for these people. Add in bad pet owners and there is chaos waiting.
What makes a bad pet owner?
Typically, if a dog routinely misbehaves it’s not the dog’s fault but the owner’s fault. Some of the human behaviors that make a bad pet parent include:
- Not controlling the pet: letting the animal jump on people or letting it roam freely is not good for anyone. People with pet phobias or allergies will suffer and the animal isn’t safe if it isn’t supervised.
- Not exercising the pet: granted, this applies mostly to dogs but they need to let off some excess energy with a good walk or run. Exercised dogs are better behaved dogs.
- Not taking the pet to the vet: just like children, animals need to be vaccinated and examined for wellness. Not paying attention to an animal’s health is negligent.
- Not cleaning up after the pet: simply disgusting.
However, good pet owners can make mistakes where their pets are concerned. Pet owners can misjudge how a pet will act in a workplace. They can be calm and well-behaved in some situations but nervous and unpredictable in others. Some dogs might feel more protective of their humans in some situations, as well. These behaviors can lead to unexpected aggression to other animals or humans.
Let’s Be Reasonable
Certainly, there will be workers that will love the idea of bringing pets to work, and those pets will be well behaved and cared for. Other workers who don’t have pets might think that is giving special treatment to those employees. Employers will need to evaluate if implementing a pet policy is equitable.
And let’s be honest. Not all work environments are appropriate for animals. Restaurants, health clinics, or other clean or sterile environments are not good places for pets because of dander, fur, and cleanliness. Other hazardous or loud environments are not safe for pets. These might include construction sites, machining facilities, or mining operations among others.
But if you have a favorable workplace for critters, where the majority of employees are happy to include pets in their day-to-day routines, there are policies that can make it work. Here are some suggestions for creating a happy pet-friendly workplace:
- Evaluate what pets will be allowed at the office. Dogs? Cats? Fish? Turtles? Snakes?
- Create animal-free zones for people who have phobias and allergies.
- Implement a “pet-interview” process, where animals are evaluated for temperament around humans and other pets.
- Require employees to sign a “waiver” stating they are responsible for any damage a pet might do to the environment, or other employees.
- Dogs must be housebroken; cats must be litterbox trained, and all waste dealt with promptly and properly.
- Provide outdoor areas for pets to be exercised, if possible.
- Require proof of vaccinations, flea prevention, and health screenings.
- Be sure pets are confined through the use of leashes, baby gates, or crates.
- Curb barking.
- Banish aggressive animals immediately.