The Rise of Pet-Friendly Offices

June 16, 2022
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The Rise of Pet-Friendly Offices
Jacquelyn Wong
June 16, 2022

In the past two years, the workforce has seen a boom in demand for pet-friendly policies at work. However, pet-friendly offices aren’t a new phenomenon—companies like Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s, and Etsy have had office pets for years now. In fact, a quick LinkedIn job search for pet-friendly jobs will show that pet-friendly offices are a popular employee benefit throughout the United States.

But if office pets are already common across many industries, why are we seeing this sudden increase in demand? To help explain this trend, we’ll look into the reasons why demand has boomed, the pros and cons of office pets, and some tips for creating a pet-friendly office with people-centered policies.

A Boom in Pandemic Pet Adoptions and Supporting Your Employees

Now, let’s start with a mind-boggling visual: 23 million recently adopted pets.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an estimated 23 million American households acquired a pet during the pandemic and have no interest in rehoming their new furry friend.1

While working remotely, employees had a unique opportunity to connect with their new pets. Employees spent valuable time creating memories and bonds with their furry friends during work, breaks, weekends, and holidays. So, when employees receive an email titled, “NOTICE: Returning to the Office,” what will they do?

If companies don’t have a policy for office pets, an in-person or hybrid return-to-work strategy could push some employees to make a difficult decision: give up their beloved pet or find work elsewhere. For many people, the last thing they want is to induce separation anxiety by suddenly abandoning their dog or cat.

Some managers may have experienced a flood of messages or calls asking about bringing a dog or cat into the office. Considering that it costs an average of $520 a month to board a pet,2 it’s no wonder why some people are pleading for new pet-friendly benefits. For company leaders, making decisions about pet benefits can be tough. 

To develop this conversation, we’ll cover the benefits of—and objections to—these four-legged companions.

The Many Benefits of Pets

A serious-looking cat sitting on top of a closed Macbook computer

As we’ve already mentioned, recent pet owners have established deep connections with their pets. Pets can also bond with people outside the home. Your managers and peers are simply new people for your pet to meet. So, what benefits can a dog or cat bring to your office space?

  • Stress Relief. A survey from the University of York and the University of Lincoln revealed how the overwhelming majority of more than 6,000 participants believed their pets helped reduce stress at home.3 How does this translate to the office? Even 10 minutes of interaction with a pet could improve symptoms of stress by 33%.4 If employees in your office can’t seem to shake their stress, a dog or cat may do the trick.

  • Physical and Emotional Support. Pets may bring a sense of security and comfort to over 85% of working professionals.5 Employees perform better when they experience relief from challenges such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, or inattention. Many people have experienced a draining morning at work, where they feel like they’ve had a full workday before the lunch hour. However, a quick walk with their dog can bring relief and boosts performance for both the employee and the company.6

  • Collaboration and Connection. Research from multiple case studies shows that office pets improve communication and foster social cohesion between employees.7 Giving employees a break during the day is fantastic—but do your employees spend that time bonding with one another? Petting a dog, going for a walk, or talking about pets at home are great ways to ignite conversation between employees who previously preferred time alone.

The Real Objections to Office Pets

While there are many research-backed benefits of having pets at home and in the office, employees have equally valid concerns and objections to having pets at work.

  • Allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, up to 30% of Americans have allergic reactions to cats and dogs.8 Even with hypoallergenic breeds, people can still have allergic reactions to your pet. As an employer, you should be mindful of the needs of your pet-owning employees. However, you’ll need to be just as considerate of your employees who simply cannot be around pets.

  • Focus. A litter of puppies, a sick pet, or even just too much stimulus can harm the productivity of a work environment. If a pet gets too rowdy, the pet could cause major issues in the workplace. Trevor Ford, the Head of Growth at Yotta, shared an experience of one particularly troublesome pup: “I had one coworker who brought a dog to the office, and the dog, which was still barely out of the puppy stage, could not sit still. At one point, he trotted into the boss’ office and started chewing all of the wires connected to the desktop and phone … Avoid those awkward moments by keeping your pets at home.” Now, this doesn’t mean you should implement a zero-tolerance policy for pets. Instead, it could mean your policies surrounding office pets may need some adjusting.

  • Legal Challenges. Workplace safety programs, such as OSHA, generally don’t provide any clear language on having pets in the workplace. However, employers should be aware that a severe pet allergy may be considered a disability and may be protected by the American Disabilities Act.9 If you have an employee whose performance would be impaired by pets in the office, be tactful in how you go about developing an office pets program.

Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and consultant for FiveBarks, worries about the well-being of pets who spend their 9-to-5 in an office. “What dogs really need is lots of one-on-one attention … daily time spent outdoors, brain games, training sessions, etc… [and an] owner at work will be too distracted to be able to provide what their dog needs for the duration of the working day.” So, in addition to the concerns listed above, think about the wellness of potential office pets. Take actionable steps before fully welcoming pets to the office. Maybe that’s providing access to walking areas, social environments, and toys.

Fact: People Make Career Decisions Based on Pet-Friendly Policies

A golden retriever napping while its owner works from a Macbook on a bed

According to a study from LiveCareer, 52% of respondents said pet-friendly benefits and policies are important to them when considering an employer.10 Additionally, 49% said a pet-friendly work environment could convince them to take a job offer10 and 41% of respondents would consider switching jobs if it meant they could bring their pets to work.10 Employers must remember that saying no to creating a pet-friendly workplace could mean shutting down potential job candidates.

At Order in New York City, Karen Kuhn mentioned how the company modified OfficeTogether’s people tracking system to track “office dogs.” During the day, “people can follow the various office dogs that they love and know when they're going to be in office,” Karen mentioned. Order understands how pet-friendly offices can both motivate employees to come to work and encourage job candidates to apply.

So, how can you go about creating a pet-friendly office space while supporting all of your employees equally?

Become a Pet-Friendly Office with Three People-Centered Policies 

The rise of the pet-friendly office means it’s time to consider the policies and procedures your office will follow to protect employees and their pets. These three people-centered policies can serve as inspiration as you navigate decisions about office pets.

1. A “Bring Your Pet to Work” Day

Upon surveying your employees, you may discover that they prefer having one or two days a week where pets are admitted to the office space. In a hybrid office, this could work in the favor of both people who want pets and people who can’t be around pets. While some employees with pet allergies work from home on Friday, pet lovers get to spend time surrounded by their peers’ dogs and cats!

In this scenario, be sure to balance the number of pet-friendly days in the office. The last thing you’d want to do is make allergic or pet-adverse employees feel left out of the office culture.

2. Case-By-Case Strategy for Allowing Pets at Work

A pug puppy laying on a desk with mugs, notebooks, and toilet paper

Instead of making an open policy for office cats, you may choose an opt-in strategy for specific cases. Service animals and therapy dogs may be guaranteed access to the office. Meanwhile, pets with separation anxiety or those that need special attention may require a more delicate and strategic approach. Be sure to speak with your employees to help determine the best solution for them, the company, and the pet!

3. Clear Guidelines, Automated Agreements, and Manager Oversight

If “Bring your pet to work” policies and case-by-case strategies are too hands-on, consider creating an automated program for office pets. For example, you may consider the following list of topics to pre-screen potential office pets:

  • The pet’s species and weight
  • The pet’s vaccination status and proof
  • Behavior guidelines (e.g., sociability, chewing)
  • A responsibility agreement for animal behavior

Ultimately, pet owners should be responsible for their pets. Employers should protect themselves and other employees from pets with bad ‘puppy’ behavior. You may want to consider adding a reporting tool for in-office or hybrid employees to report rowdy pet behavior.

Our Tool for Tracking Pets, People, and More

Pets and their owners share a special bond—but asking your employees to spend eight hours away from home could leave both the pet and your employee feeling anxious. Our three people-centered policies are good places to start if you want to consider boosting employee morale, lowering stress levels in the workplace, and increasing employer attractiveness.

Just like we helped Order manage the people and pets in their workplace, OfficeTogether is ready to help you. Our hybrid office software is purpose-built for hybrid offices in need of features such as people tracking, health checks, event management, and more. Visit our site today to see how we can help you optimize your pet-friendly office.

Sources

  1. https://www.aspca.org/about-us/press-releases/new-aspca-survey-shows-overwhelming-majority-dogs-and-cats-acquired-during 
  2. https://homeguide.com/costs/dog-boarding-cost
  3. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0239397
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7178231/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8646605/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21487144/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7824880/
  8. https://www.aafa.org/pet-dog-cat-allergies/
  9. https://www.aafa.org/asthma-allergies-and-the-american-with-disabilities-act/#:~:text=Does%20the%20ADA%20Apply%20to,regarded%20as%20having%20such%20impairments.
  10. https://www.livecareer.com/resources/careers/planning/pets-in-workplace

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