As many offices start to switch back to a full time or hybrid schedule, dog parents wonder: what do we do with the dog all day?
This may be a new question for people who adopted animals during the pandemic. And for long-time dog owners, our dogs may have gotten used to having us home. What if the answer is bringing your pet to work?
A pets in the workplace policy is a great benefit for companies and organizations to offer as a way to attract new employees, and to help current employees who are trying to adjust to coming back to the office.
Reasons for a pet-friendly workplace include:
- Improved mental and physical health. The presence of pets has been shown to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and stress.
- Increased morale and teamwork. Pets provide a neutral and casual opportunity for employees to connect and bond. They also encourage people from different departments to interact with each other more than they might otherwise.
- More attentive and focused employees. Being able to bring pets into the workplace alleviates the stress and cost of figuring out daycare, dog walkers.
Creating a pets in the workplace policy can sound like a daunting task, but doesn’t need to be. For many years, the MSPCA-Angell did not allow workplace pets. Usual concerns when considering a pet-friendly workplace included distractions, messes, and what to do in a workplace where not everyone has an office or desk. On top of these, we already have a lot of animals in the buildings and probably have more employees with pets than the average workplace, raising additional concerns. However, after soliciting employee opinions, we created a committee consisting of employees to provide representation across the organization to help implement this policy, respond to feedback, re-visit the policy, and assist with enforcement. This committee put in place a pilot program before committing to a permanent policy that staff came to rely on.
Below are some areas that a pets in office policy will likely want to address.
- Number of animals: how many animals — and which species — will be allowed per employee?
- Cleanliness: what rules will be needed to ensure that the workplace remains clean?
- Food: The MSPCA policy requires picking up dog food to be sure we don’t attract mice.
- Spaces: determine which spaces should be off limits: the cafeteria, conference room, bathroom, etc.
- Aggression: Just like people, every dog does not love every other dog, and though office workers may know to be circumspect about their irritation with, even dislike, of a colleague, dogs will not hide their impressions, and may bark or growl at the other dogs in the office. Make sure your policy addresses these situations (see our website below for more information on how we’ve handled this).
- Anxiety: if your dog barks or howls when they are alone in your home, they may also do that in your office when you leave the room at work. Treat separation-related anxiety before you make your dog an office dog.
- Health concerns: animals should be up-to-date on vaccinations and flea and tick prevention.
- Signs: The MSPCA requires that staff have a sign on their door to indicate there is an animal in the office; see our website for our sign.
- Application: Some workplaces have an application to apply for the pets in offices program. This can also be helpful to know how many animals are in the building and where.
- Spaces within the office: The MSPCA requires that an animal be crated in the office under certain conditions. Note that smaller spaces can create tensions between dogs; think of standing in an elevator vs outside with two colleagues; it is a different feeling entirely.
- Your dog’s office occupation: what will your dog do in the office? Can you develop enough independent activities for your dog to engage in as you work?
- Basic training: your dog should be trained to follow basic commands, such as sit/stay/lie down. “Leave it” is also handy for dropped food.
- Stagger in office: Some workplaces may want to stagger the number of animals who come into the office, due to space or other concerns. One of the things we have noticed is that the dogs who routinely (a couple times/week) come to work become better office pets and they settle in easily and become accustomed to the routine.
Our policy can be used as a template for any office looking to make the workplace open to pets. You can find this template and more information at https://www.mspca.org/pet_resources/pets-in-the-workplace.