If you’re looking for a way to reduce stress in your office and improve employee productivity, adopting a pet-friendly office policy might be the solution. Having dogs in the workplace can encourage employees to interact with each other and may even result in reduced employee absenteeism. Another perk is that a pet-friendly office can even help to recruit millennials.
But adopting a pet-friendly office policy is something that needs to be done strategically, since it can also have some downsides. The safety and happiness of both employees and their pets needs to be a priority, and bringing pets into the workplace also creates some legal liabilities that you should be prepared for.
Options for Employees Who Can’t Be Around Dogs
While many of your employees may love the idea of a pet-friendly office, you’ll need to consider the employees who either can’t or don’t want to be around dogs. According to Square Foot, employees with pet allergies can experience mild to severe symptoms with dogs in the office. The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes allergies as a disability in some cases, and if your office cannot accommodate the needs of employees with pet allergies, you could be discriminating against an employee with a disability (and breaking the law in the process).
It’s also important to consider the fact that some employees may be fearful of dogs. Square Foot states that fear of dogs is one of the most common phobias, and bringing dogs into the workplace could create a situation where employees feel unsafe or even are unable to function.
The layout of your office may allow you to create dog-friendly areas, so employees can avoid dogs if they need to. This solution does risk causing some employees to feel isolated or left out, though.
Liability Insurance with Pets in the Workplace
Bringing pets into the workplace can increase your company’s liability. If employees or customers are injured by a pet or a pet causes damage in the building you’re renting, your business could be held liable.
To understand how pets could affect your liability and your business insurance, start by having a conversation with your current insurance company. You may need to take out an additional business liability policy that specifically covers pets in the workplace.
In addition to taking out liability insurance, you should prepare a plan in case an employee is ever bitten by a dog while in the workplace. Your plan should incorporate elements like a method for promptly gathering information about the incident, reporting the bite to the authorities, ensuring the employee gets immediate medical treatment, and removing the dog from the workplace.
Dog Insurance to Protect Employees
When you bring multiple dogs into the same area for long periods of time, accidents and incidents can happen. Dogs can injure themselves while roughhousing with each other, and dog fights can and do occur. These incidents may result in costly vet bills.
Pet insurance can help dog owners to cover the costs of unexpected vet bills and medical issues. If a dog gets into a fight, accesses some food that he shouldn’t eat, or has any other type of accident in the workplace, having pet insurance can reduce some of the financial stress that a trip to the animal ER or vet can create. You may want to recommend that your employees look into pet insurance policies before bringing their pets to the workplace.
Having dogs in the office can carry the risk of diseases spreading, too. Kennel Cough is a highly contagious disease that can quickly spread when dogs are in close quarters. It results in a dry, hacking cough, and symptoms can last between one and three weeks. The disease spreads similarly to the way that colds spread among humans, and if dogs are together in an enclosed environment, like an office, the disease can spread rapidly. Employees may want to invest in a Kennel Cough vaccine for their dogs before bringing them to the office.
Pets as Workplace Distractions
Pets are great for relieving stress and driving engagement between employees, but a workplace filled with pets can also be distracting. Multiple pets underfoot can disrupt employees’ attention spans, and the sound of dogs barking the background doesn’t make for a professional conference call with clients.
If you decide to make your office pet-friendly, plan for ways to manage the pets and ensure employee safety. This may mean a restriction on the number of pets in the office each day and a requirement that pet owners bring in crates or baby gates to keep pets contained when they have to go to other rooms for conference calls. You may want to write a pet policy that dictates minimum age and training requirements for pets, office areas that are out-of-bounds, required vaccines for pets, and more.
Informing an employee that their pet’s behavior is not acceptable and that their pet cannot continue to come into the office can create a difficult situation, but these types of situations can and will arise when you have pets in the office. By making a pet policy as detailed and clear as possible, you can help your employees to understand what’s expected of them and their pets. A detailed pet policy can also help to avoid problems before they happen.
Plenty of offices are successfully pet-friendly, but it’s a decision that requires careful deliberation and preparation. Think about it thoroughly, and consider every scenario that could arise with the implementation of a pet policy. Get the opinion of all the office employees, and if it’s an overwhelming want, you can successfully make it happen.