The Pros and Cons of a Pet-Friendly Office

Pet separation anxiety is more prevalent than ever. With pandemic lockdowns and people working from home, dog ownership has risen. With the blurring of work and home, shouldn’t all inclusive, caring employers embrace an open-door policy for dogs?

What’s wrong? Isn’t it true that there is a growing body of research that shows the benefits of having pets at work?

Maybe. Pets can be a great asset to the workplace. They include reducing work stress, improving job satisfaction, and increasing social interaction.

Read more: Pet therapy: how dogs, cats, and horses help improve human wellbeing.

However, the same studies showing benefits and that most people support a pet-friendly workplace also highlight the risks, hazards, and concerns that must be considered for a pet-friendly workplace to be inclusive, equitable, and sustainable.

You should be able to care for your dog while you work without being disturbed. Shutterstock

Not everyone is a dog lover.

Not everyone loves dogs. Some people don’t even like dogs. Others fear them. This is called cynophobia.

Often, the number reported is 5 percent of the population. However, this may be US-specific, and rates vary by culture and country. According to global studies, about 3,8% of people have a lifetime of animal fear (2.4% of men and 5.4% of women), which includes dogs and cats.

Around 10-20% of the world’s population is allergic to cats or dogs. This rate is on the rise.

But all workers have the right to be safe at work and not to have their health compromised.

It doesn’t mean that a pet-friendly policy is impossible, but you need to explore and address all of these issues.

Read more: Understanding dog personalities can help prevent attacks.

Equity matters

Can you bring your pet to work for everyone?

Resentment may arise if the boss is able to do this because they have their own office, but others who share an open plan space are not.

Some colleagues may feel negatively impacted by the time spent on petting, feeding, or taking dogs for toilet breaks.

Since 2018, Google has allowed its employees to bring dogs to work. Shutterstock

What about people with other pets? Some cats suffer separation anxiety. Parrots like budgerigars and cockatiels can also develop strong attachments with humans. They may become very stressed if left alone.

It is important to consider the equity of getting to work. In many countries, a pet-friendly work environment will require that you drive to the office because only registered assistance dogs are allowed in public transportation and public spaces. It is unfair that only those workers who are able to go can take advantage of pet-friendly workplaces.

In most cities, only registered assistance animals can be taken on public transportation. Shutterstock

Read more: How the presence of pets builds trust among people.

What’s in it for the dog?

Most dog owners would like to bring their dogs to work. However, you should ask yourself if this is really in the best interests of your dog.

Dogs are highly social animals. Your dog will enjoy being around you. Like humans, not all dogs are people persons. Some dogs consider home to be their haven. They may even be stressed when they are away from their “human.”

Your dog, who is sensitive to human emotions and can be affected by stress, could also feel that at your work.

Consider the presence of other animals, such as dogs.

Organisational factors

To make a policy pet-friendly work, a workplace must consider varying factors.

It would help if you considered the feelings of every worker and whether or not the policy is favoring some workers at the expense of others.

It is important to make sure that the workspace is safe and hygienic for both humans and animals. Even though dogs’ needs for space vary greatly, they all need to be able to access water bowls as well as outdoor toileting areas.

It is not a good idea to have dogs under your desk. Shutterstock

There must be policies that codify the expected standards of behavior – for both humans and animals. It may be necessary to require proof of socialization, such as a basic obedience certificate.

There should be a set of procedures that cover all possible scenarios. The owners should be responsible for cleaning after their dogs and making sure they don’t cause any disruption. Whose insurance covers potential injuries to animals or humans or property damage? Workers’ compensation policies do they cover animal incidents?

Make your work pet-friendly

We may be focusing only on the barriers that prevent workplaces from being dog-friendly. Assessing and addressing the risks will increase the chances of success.

The Pets at Work Toolkit, funded by Mars Petcare, is a useful tool for working through issues. It covers everything from how to develop a workplace policy to making a good case for senior management.

The Safe Animal-Friendly Environments Multi-Species Companion Animal Risk Management Tool, developed by researchers at the University of South Australia in 2021 for the UK’s Society for Companion Animal Studies, is another useful document.

This document is designed to encourage people to enter aged care facilities to keep their pets. It also includes a list of all the risks, responsibilities, and mitigation measures.


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