An increasing number of workplaces are opening their doors to pets and their stress-busting presence - or are being asked to by employees. In fact, according to the Society of Human Resource Management, seven percent of employers now allow pets in the workplace - a 5 percent increase from a few years previous.
So, should your office follow suit? Here we take a look at the benefits and challenges of having our furry friends in the workplace.
The benefits of pets in the workplace
- Pets help lower out blood pressure
Studies have proven that having pets around can improve our health by reducing high blood pressure. In most cases, people are more relaxed when pets are present. Our four-legged friends have a calming and soothing effect on people in their presence, which could result in fewer office arguments, a decreased risk of heart disease among office workers, and generally less stress.
- A boost to employee morale and happiness
Pet owners love being able to take their pets to work - and certainly see it as a ‘work perk’. The majority of dog parents will ask to see if they can bring their pooch in to the office, stating that they’ll worry about leaving Fido at home alone all day. And given the average US employee costs $15,000 to replace, and the average UK employee costs businesses £12,000 to replace, maintaining employee happiness is imperative to business success. Plus, there is growing evidence that suggests happy employees are far more engaged and productive, resulting in better work and fewer sick days.
- Greater convenience
Being allowed to bring your pet to work is a great convenience. You don’t have to find a pet sitter, or have to stay home or take a holiday day to take care of a sick pet. You also don’t have to rush home to feed your pet, which means you’ll be more willing to work longer hours.
- Better employee retention
It’s obvious: Less stress and improved happiness and convenience means better employee retention! Fortune recently highlighted research which proves that having pets in the workplace increases the likelihood of employees staying in the job for longer - and what employer doesn’t want that?
The cons of pets in the workplace
- Pets can mean allergies
Pets are great fun for those who own them and love them, but what about allergy sufferers? A lot of Americans are allergic to pet dander and other common allergens that pets carry with them. The pet experts at Catmania told us that about 10% of all Americans have pet allergies of some kind. Do you really want your workplace to become an environment where some of your employees are on antihistamines just to stop sneezing fits, when taking the pets out of the area can prevent the problem entirely? Consider your workforce and consult with your team before making your workplace pet-friendly.
- Did someone say… distraction?
Pets may boost their owner’s happiness and productivity in the long-run, but there’s also no denying that they are definitely going to be a distraction too. You can put them in their own area, set rules and boundaries for the employees, and yet still pets are going to distract employees with their fluffy cuteness. In addition to this, you’ll need to consider extra costs and who will be responsible for sorting everything out; pet beds and supplies will need to be purchased, which can range from $500-$1,500 a year. Having pets in the workplace could also make it harder to find quality employees, since you’ll have to filter out the allergy sufferers.
- Sick pets can cause problems
If someone brings their sick pet into work, either knowingly or unknowingly, it’s likely to cause issues. If the health problem is a contagious disease it can very quickly spread to other pets and sometimes even humans in the case of fungal diseases like ringworm. Even if it isn’t contagious, then you can be sure the owner won’t get as much work done when they have to take care of their ill pet at work.
- The mess
If you have pets running around the office, or even confined to a single area, they are going to make a mess. It doesn’t matter how well trained or well behaved they are. It’s going to happen- sorry! Pets are animals, and they will need a place to expel waste. They will also have times when they need to bark or cry, and they’ll definitely have moments of curiosity when they run wild through the building.
There are definitely some advantages and disadvantages to bringing pets into the workplace, and once you have considered them all, you can make a more informed decision about whether that would be right for your business. Good luck!