They say that dogs are man’s best friend, but what about a man’s best coworker? Many companies around the world have started to allow employees to take their dogs (and sometimes other pets) to work. These pet-friendly companies include thought leaders like Google, Amazon, Etsy, and Autodesk, among others.
It’s been a big hit among employees, with many citing that having pets at the office is their favorite perk, so why isn’t everyone jumping on the pet-friendly train? After all, it’s a policy that can do a lot to boost employee satisfaction, and costs absolutely nothing. Well, as they say - there are two sides to every story.PROS:
Employers who allow animals in the office say they notice that employees are more productive, creative, friendlier, more relaxed and most importantly, happier. Morale also seems higher in pet-friendly work environments.
2. Mental Health
Many studies have shown that these furry, faithful companions are great for reducing blood pressure and stress, as well as calming our bodies and minds. It’s no surprise that doctors often advise patients suffering from hypertension or anxiety to get a dog as an alternative form of therapy. That being said, work tends to cause stress, no matter how great your job is, so a canine friend could really help.
A study published by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management sums it up: dogs boost morale, decrease stress levels, and increase employee performance and satisfaction. Further, the less stressed people are, the more productive they’ll be, and the lower the margin of error and absenteeism. There’s also a financial advantage: many pay for doggy daycare or dog-walkers, but if the dog is at work with them, then there’s no need!
Another benefit is that pets can help create a homey vibe, so employees will feel more comfortable, especially if they’re used to living with pets. Additionally, if your business is one where customers visit your office in person, dogs could help from a customer service standpoint - if a customer has a positive experience with the pet, or admires the company’s pet policy, it could just lead to repeat business.3
Besides the aforementioned mental health benefits, dogs are also great exercise partners. Employees who can take their dogs for a walk (or a run) as a break from their desk get additional exercise and fresh air - great for stimulation. Working for 8+ hours a day can be exhausting and spending some break time with your pets makes the time pass in a happier, more fulfilling way.
However, even though the dogs-at-work trend is immensely popular, some argue that it does present some downsides.
Millions of people around the world suffer from pet-related allergies, especially to fur-coated cats and dogs. These allergies could be real trouble, resulting in sneezing, runny noses, rashes, panic attacks, temporary breathlessness, and even aggravate asthma.
2. Cynophobia (fear of dogs)
Some people are simply afraid of, or at least uncomfortable around dogs. For those people, having dogs in the office would create anxiety and discomfort, which could very well lead to decreased performance. If you are genuinely afraid of dogs, a pet-friendly work environment would probably deter you from a company, rather than draw you in, as is the case with dog-lovers.
Even though pets can benefit employees in many ways, it’s possible that they could cause harm to the office: breaking objects, chewing on or eating things they shouldn’t, begging during lunchtime, and having “accidents” indoors are some of the things that come to mind. Further, not every pet is great around a bunch of strangers, or in a new environment, which could cause the animal to misbehave or act cruelly at the office, even if they’re perfectly friendly and obedient at home. You’d hate to have to deal with a lawsuit because of an attack in the workplace.
While many can concentrate wonderfully on their work with pets around, others may have trouble doing so. Pets need to eat, play, rest, and be walked throughout the day. Sometimes, you’ll need to cater to the dog’s schedule instead of the other way around, which could disrupt your workday and make it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand. That’s not to mention they’re pretty darn cute, so you might spend too much time merely petting and doting on them.
When it comes to whether or not to allow pets in the workplace, there’s truly no right or wrong answer. Dogs especially can help reduce stress and help create a positive, comfortable, and relaxed environment. On the other hand, things like allergies and distractions are risks you may be taking with a pet-friendly work policy. In the end it should come down to your employees: is this something they’d love, or resent? Before you make any decisions, be sure to gauge how your workforce feels about it. Perhaps you could come up with a compromise - pets are allowed on certain days of the week, or only in certain areas of the office, etc. Whatever you decide, make sure to weigh your options first!