Do pets in the workplace improve morale?

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Human resource managers are always looking for ways to improve morale and create a more appealing workplace culture. The popularity of the recent film release “The Secret Life of Pets” underscores the love we Americans have for our pets. In fact, around 65 percent of U.S. households are home to at least one pet. The majority of these are dogs and cats.

Pets increase health and lower stress.

Most pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family. There are numerous proven health and quality of life benefits of pet ownership, including the reduction of blood pressure, stress and cholesterol levels. Pets provide companionship and increase the likelihood of getting out for exercise and socialization (if the pet can be leashed and walked).

The benefits of being around animals have inspired human resource personnel and other business decision makers to allow pets in the workplace. The top motive for making this allowance is the stress-reducing effect that animals bring. Employees who are less stressed at work are more productive and miss fewer days due to being sick.

Pet-friendly businesses usually focus mainly on allowing dogs in the workplace. However, some allow cats, birds and reptiles. A retail business might have “shop cats” that live on the premises, or smaller animals kept in cages that can become company mascots and offer a source of stress relief for workers.

An Internet giant paves the way with pets in the workplace.

The city of Seattle and other Pacific Northwest areas are home to a high ratio of dog-friendly businesses. The Amazon company is well-known not only for allowing dogs to accompany their owners to work, but for making canines a part of the workplace culture. Amazon has a long-standing dog-friendly workplace thanks to a corgi named Rufus owned by one of its first employees in the 1990s.

These days, about 2,000 dogs accompany their owners to Amazon each day. Workers and management have embraced the culture, and the pet-friendly policy benefits both owners and those who don’t own pets. No matter what the workday brings, Amazon staff members are never far away from a coworker’s terrier or spaniel poking its head around a corner. Any stress they were feeling melts away.

Google has two campuses in the Seattle area, also offers a dog-friendly workplace. Numerous other Pacific Northwest companies have followed suit. Many retail stores are also liberal about allowing dogs to accompany their owners while shopping; this even applies to some coffee shops and cafes.

Pet-friendly workplaces rate higher.

Banfield Pet Hospital recently surveyed over 1,000 employees and 200 human resource decision makers for its Pets At Work barometer called “Pet-Friendly Workplace PAWrometer.” The goal was to measure worker opinions about pets in the workplace. Those who worked in pet-friendly offices were found to believe it improves the atmosphere in the workplace significantly.

The majority of workers in pet-friendly workplaces consider the policy to be positive. A full 91 percent of managers and 82 percent of employees felt workers become more loyal to the company with this policy. A large majority felt it made the workplace more productive, and 86 percent of workers and 92 percent of management reported decreased worker stress levels. Not only do pets in the workplace make the environment less stressful, workers are also less burdened with guilt about leaving a pet at home alone while they are at work. They are then more likely to work longer hours if required.

While pet-friendly businesses improve existing employees’ lives, they are also appealing to new applicants. It’s a benefit that millennials find appealing and offers a way to draw in a larger talent pool.

So, how do pet-friendly workplaces stack up in terms of pros and cons? Let’s take a look:

The benefits of pets in the workplace.

  • Happier, more productive workers. Both pet owners and non-pet owning employees report lowered stress levels and a higher level of job satisfaction with pets on the premises. This naturally leads to increased productivity.
  • Healthier workers. In addition to reduced stress levels, being around animals has documented positive effects on blood pressure, cholesterol levels and the immune system.
  • Increased loyalty. Over half of employees in non-pet-friendly workplaces report they’d be more likely to continue working for a company if they could bring their pet to work.

Potential problems you may encounter by allowing pets in the workplace.

  • Not everyone is an animal lover. There are people who dislike animals for one reason or another. Allergies, phobias, or a general dislike of animals could cause pets in the workplace to encroach upon productivity and quality of life for these individuals.
  • Hygiene and cleanliness issues. Even potty-trained pets can have an accident now and then. There is no guarantee this won’t happen in the workplace, especially with a high volume of animals brought to work.
  • Interoffice squabbles. Not all animals get along, so there is the potential for fights between dogs and cats brought to work.

While worker distraction is a concern for some human resource managers considering a pet-friendly policy, the vast majority report that the benefits to morale and overall productivity far outweigh time spent “distracted” by pets in the workplace.

How to develop a structured pet policy in the workplace.

Advocates of allowing pets in the workplace insist that there are ways around the “cons” or risks of pet-friendly workplaces. The key to a successful pet policy is a clear structure.

Employees should be required to apply for permission to bring their pet to work. Each pet should be screened for health and behavior issues. Once approved, a probationary period can ensue. Dogs in the office should be leashed, and cats kept within a set space such as an office or cubicle with a child gate. Outdoor pet areas for dogs should be provided by the business.

Yes, there are risks and concerns related to allowing animals in the workplace, but many businesses find that the benefits far outweigh them. Is a pet-friendly atmosphere right for your business? Why not survey the staff and see what they have to say?

About the online MBA in Human Resource Development at Spring Arbor University.

Spring Arbor University offers a fully online MBA in Human Resource Development that can be completed in as few as 18 months. As a student of the program, you learn the advanced skills needed to effectively lead an organization’s human resources department and develop talent within the organization. This includes a detailed understanding of organizational behaviors, and how to enhance group and team performance and promote workplace learning and development. Learn more.

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