Pet ownership is booming. According to the American Pet Products Association, an estimated 84.9 million U.S. households owned pets in 2018. Millennials are the largest demographic of pet owners — and there’s a reason for that: 44% of Millennials are not sure whether they want to have children.
What does this mean for business owners? In a professional world that prioritizes benefits, culture, and perks, employers must recognize the important role pets play in employees’ lives.
Employers who acknowledge pet owners as parents will have happier and more productive team members. Researchers believe there are many benefits of pet ownership, including lower stress, greater heart health, and increased happiness. Considering a recent study found that happy employees are up to 12% more productive than a control group, an office full of pet lovers can accomplish incredible things.
The benefits of pet-friendly work policies go beyond happier and healthier employees. A recent study by Nationwide found that 90% of people who work in a pet-friendly environment feel “highly connected” to the mission of their company. Considering only about 65% of workers felt the same way in companies that lack pet-friendly policies, the power of pets is clear.
Happy Pets, Happy Employees
Major businesses such as Google and SalesForce have embraced the benefits of allowing canine compadres into the workplace. In fact, more than 6,000 dogs visit Amazon offices each day with their humans.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be chaos when four-legged friends enter the office. Follow these seven tips to create a safe, valuable, and productive environment for both humans and dogs.
- Establish policies.
To protect both humans and animals, it’s important to facilitate a safe and harmonious environment. You’ll want to create and enforce policies about leashes, vaccinations, barking, no-dog zones, and a three-strikes rule regarding the safety of people and pets.
Stress to your employees that bringing dogs to work is a privilege rather than a right. If necessary, your company should revoke that privilege so you can ensure a happy and safe workplace for everyone. With a few boundaries in place, it’s more than possible to have a happy, tail-wagging environment.
- Require training.
Dogs and their parents both need manners, so hold etiquette training before you allow pets to come to work. You’ll want pet parents to learn how to keep dogs from an unexpected run-in at an elevator door, for instance. We don’t want any surprises leading to dog — or human — conflicts. For help, reach out to local training facilities or veterinary offices.
- Set up a ‘doggie door.’
Establish a dedicated pet entrance so employees who bring their pups will enter and leave through a single area. Not only will the dogs appreciate the routine when visiting, but the structure also benefits other employees. Team members who might be afraid of dogs or not want to interact with them can avoid that entrance. Bonus: Visitors and clients won’t have to wade through excited pups to reach reception.
- Keep dogs close.
A pack of roaming, barking, excited dogs is not conducive to a productive workplace. Allowing dogs to run unsupervised is not safe for them, either. Provide a way for pup parents to keep their pets near their desks or secure in their offices — whether it’s a leash or a gate.
- Create signs and signals.
Implement an officewide color-coded system to notify others about the presence of dogs or other pet preferences. Colors could indicate that a dog is “working” at the desk today, a dog does not like other dogs, an employee is not a dog fan, an employee is allergic, or an area is considered a dog-free zone.
- Encourage poop hygiene.
Let’s face it: Coming to work in dress shoes and stepping on a landmine is not a pleasant experience. Offer poop stations with free baggies to encourage responsible pet ownership and prevent co-workers from having to wear the evidence of the pet policy on their shoes all day. Provide a clean-up kit in a common area with cleaner, paper towels, and a contact person to notify if more cleaning is needed. If possible, avoid carpets in pet-friendly office spaces.
- Build community.
Consider providing other special benefits, such as water stations, communal toys, a dog park, or a drop-in dog day care. To build the most engagement with your pet-parent employees, plan pet-friendly events and other activities to build community. Enact other policies that prove your dedication to your employees’ family members, regardless of whether they have fur. These policies might include optional pet insurance, bereavement time for the loss of a pet, and “pawternity leave” for new pet parents.
Pets are an increasingly important part of life for many people. Employers who seek to provide a positive work-life balance have an opportunity to embrace pet parents and build a community that supports them. With policies and boundaries in place, dogs and humans can happily and productively coexist in nearly any workplace. If you want to learn more about the benefits of pet ownership, visit Waltham.com. If you already have a dog and want to feed him personalized food, take Puppo’s online quiz.
Written by Dr. Laura Duclos.
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