Red Rover, Red Rover, should Fido come over to the office with your employees? Well, that depends on you. Over the past year many of us have worked from home and we had our furry companions right there beside us to keep us company. Many shelters reported record highs for the number of pets adopted during the pandemic. So now as we all return to the office, we are all left wondering can we bring our "fur-workers" to the office with us? As an employer the answer is not as simple as if you're a dog person or cat person, you have several other factors to consider.
While you may be seeing an uptick in requests to bring pets to work, keep in mind that only about 7 percent of employers allow pets in the workplace. However, if you decide against opening your office to pets, be prepared to explain why. Employees might not like your decision but may understand the rationale behind it. If you decide to become a pet-friendly workplace, then you will want to implement clear guidelines and expectations to support the policy.
I can certainly understand your staff's sentiments since many people have purchased and adopted pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. After spending months at home, many owners have developed strong bonds with their pets and dread leaving them for extended periods of time. Separation anxiety for pets and their owners is real. However, not all employers are ready for pets in the workplace. Simply because other organizations allow pets does not mean it will work for you and your company.
There are some key points to consider before deciding what is best for your company. Is your workplace conducive to pets? If you are in a larger office building, there may be regulations on allowing pets in the building. If you have outside clients, vendors, and partners, you will want to evaluate the impact on them. Additionally, some of your other employees may have allergies to consider. Think about the impact pets would have on your work environment. Would pets improve morale or productivity, or would they be a distraction? Also consider what types of pets you would allow.
As you assess your choices, a good trial run might involve sponsoring a "bring your pet to work day." It would give you an opportunity to further gauge how this might work.
If you decide to allow pets in the workplace, craft an approval process to address all relevant criteria, including type of pet and health standards. Clearly articulate pet care and behavior guidelines as you roll out the new policy.
Additionally, you may be obligated to consider a service animal in your workplace as a reasonable accommodation if one of your employees has a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Currently, only dogs are considered service animals.
I'll add this: Leaders should always gather feedback from staff, but as you weigh your options, look for the answer that adds value to the work. I hope you make the best decision for your work and your workplace. Good luck.
Parts of this article are from a recent SHRM article, read it here