Workplace Operations

How to Structure Your Office Pet Policy

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Raise your hand if you'd bring your dog to work if you had the chance? It turns out that one in three employees who work for non-pet-friendly companies wish they could bring their dog to work with them, according to a 2017 Purina report. What's even more telling is that those who are allowed to bring their four-legged friends to work experience better work-life balance and tend to collaborate more with their fellow coworkers.

But creating and implementing an office-wide pet policy isn't always so easy. How do you handle employees with allergies? Or those who simply aren't into the idea of sharing their workspace with dogs? 

Here's how to structure an inclusive office pet policy in a way that works for everyone.

Seek understanding from your coworkers

Don't assume that just because you're a dog lover everyone else in your office is, too. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests first getting an idea of how your team feels in terms of opening up the office to pets. This could be as easy as conducting an informal office-wide survey or quick group meeting. Considering asking the following questions:

  • Would you bring your pet to work with you if you had the chance?
  • What kind of pet(s) do you have?
  • How would you feel about having pets in the workplace?
  • What would you say is a benefit to having dogs in the office?
  • What would you say is a drawback to having dogs in the office?

Making it a two-way conversation brings your team into the decision-making process. It could also reveal some helpful insights and ideas that will help you in crafting a pet policy that everyone's on board with. The SHRM makes one very compelling point in all this: Are you willing to potentially lose strong employees if they don't want to work in a pet-friendly workspace? It's all about compromise. 

Protect against allergies

When putting together the foundation of your pet policy, be sure to account for employees with allergies. As many as 30 percent of Americans are allergic to dogs or cats. Employees in this camp can't be expected to be comfortable and do their best work if they're sniffling and sneezing all day. On top of that, SHRM highlights that employers may be legally expected to make reasonable accommodations for these workers under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

So how do you do this? Consider setting up a separate space in your office that's designated for pets. (This also accommodates employees who simply aren't pet people.) Investing in portable air purifiers and HEPA filters aren't a bad idea, either. The main objective is to create a workspace that's safe and inviting for everyone.

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Clear any logistical hurdles

Depending on the size of your company, you may need to get approval before implementing an office pet policy. This means locking down executive buy-in from upper management. 

One selling point to drive home is that the same Purina report mentioned above also found that 63 percent of employees say they'd be more enthusiastic interviewing for a new job if the company had a pet-friendly policy in place. 

The other factor is making sure management is comfortable with the potential risks. Dog bites in the office, whether to an employee or visitor, could trigger insurance claims. Find out before you propose a policy if your company is covered if a pet damages part of the office.

Review your policies clearly to make sure you have a handle on these details before an incident occurs. Speak with your landlord or consult your commercial lease to see if your office is legally able to accommodate non-service animals. 

Set clear expectations

An important step to a lasting and effective pet policy is setting a high standard. This begins with each interested employee signing an authorization and release waiver of some kind. 

Saint Louis University, which adopted its bring-your-dog-to-work policy in 2011, requires participants to fill out a form stating that their dog is up to date on all vaccinations and is free of ticks and fleas. They also assume responsibility in the event of damage or injury. On top of that, the owner must agree to clean up after their pet and steer clear of designated pet-free areas. 

Think about the areas of your office that may be better off without furry pals. (This is in addition to separate workspaces for those with allergies or who prefer not to work side by side with office dogs.) You may want to keep conference rooms, for instance, clear of pets to allow for limited noise and distraction.  

Lastly, be sure to pet-proof your workplace to prevent damage wherever possible. Peppering your office with some doggie beds, chew toys and bags is a good jumping-off point. When all is said and done, you want your office pets to feel comfortable and content clocking in with their owners day in and day out. The same goes for their human co-workers.

Managed by Q created a Pet Policy template to help get you started!

Download the template

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