Blog entry

Pets in the Workplace

Being a small business owner can be stressful, but having your cat or dog around can bring positivity to any work day and help reduce the amount of anxiety in your life. When deciding whether or not your furry friend should be brought to work, there are several things to consider. Let’s explore the upside, the downside and the how-to of having cats or dogs in the workplace.

 

The Upside

There are several benefits of incorporating pets into the work environment. Having a dog or cat in the workplace has been documented to lower the stress levels of everyone the animal visits with throughout the day. Whether it is from having a cat or dog visit your desk area, petting the animal, or taking it for a walk, studies have shown all the activities lower stress responses in the workplace.

Secondarily, the combination of lowered stress levels and the increased movement has been shown to positively affect task performance. Employees that experience pets in the workplace are more focused and productive than those without. Lastly, the furry companions provide a secondary social support system and promote positive interactions between coworkers. Overall, the four-legged tail wagging companions promote a healthier work environment by effectively reducing the overall amount of anxiety and influencing positive interactions between employees. 

 

The Downside

It isn’t always easy for animal lovers to understand the downside of bringing their pet to work, however there are a few. The first thing to consider is the health, safety and well-being of both employees and customers. Not everyone is comfortable around animals and it is the responsibility of the business owner to make sure employees feel safe in their work environment. Further, it is important to consider all people with allergies to cats and dogs. To accommodate allergies, employers need to ensure the workplace is cleaned more regularly, limit the areas the animals are allowed to wander or forego having pets in the workplace. A discussion with employees will determine the measures that need to be taken to avoid any allergic reactions.

Other areas of safety concern are the increased risk and hazards involved with animals in the workplace. This includes the increased risk and hazard of slips, trips, and falls that are associated with animals maneuvering about the work space. Additional, one of the most serious risks involved with animals is the risk of bites or scratches to employees or customers. While this can be avoidable for a majority of cases, not everyone that enters the workplace knows or understands animal body language or boundaries.

It is also important to be concerned with the welfare of the animal in the workplace. Some office spaces or worksites are not suitable for pets. On the flip side, not all cats and dogs are suitable for the workplace. It is important to know the cat or dog’s personality before introducing them to a busy work environment. Following Canadian standards of animal welfare, an animals primary needs can be met following the five freedoms; 1) Freedom from hunger and thirst, 2) freedom from discomfort, 3) freedom from pain, injury and disease, 4) freedom to express normal behaviour that promotes well-being, 5) freedom from fear and distress. Ensuring the four-legged companions can continue their freedom at work similar to how they act and behave at home is essential to their enjoyment of the day.

 

How-To

Implementing a policy in the workplace that clearly states the rules for bringing, caring and supervising pets in the workplace will make welcoming fuzzy companions much easier. The policy should include who to consult about bringing an animal to work and what documentation is required. Such documentation should include; a current insurance policy that covers the employee’s pets, proof that the pet is clean, properly vaccinated, and free of parasites, as well as an evaluation that the pet is adequately trained. A probationary period could be adequate to determine the pets training or an evaluation may be conducted. The policy should state the responsibility of the owner to make sure their animal does not make a mess, fight with other pets/ people, wander in prohibited area, or damage company/ employee property.  It should show clear rules of acceptable and unacceptable pet behaviour. Further, the policy should state where pets are not allowed in the workplace, such as the kitchen, coffee room or office spaces designed for employees with allergies. Lastly, it is always a good idea to think of the worse-case scenarios and design a complaint process to resolve any issues between coworkers and animals.

Once you open up the workplace to pets, make sure that the four legged companions are offered the basic necessities of life.  Clean water, a comfortable place to nap, and access to a litter box or a flexible walking schedule are just a few items to consider. 

Overall, welcoming dogs and cats into the workplace can alleviate the building amount of stress that occurs throughout the day. Small business owners and employees can enjoy the many benefits and the happiness that comes with having a fuzzy companion by their side.

By Alexis Forseille

Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin

Back to Top

About Community Futures

For over 25 years, we’ve been fostering entrepreneurship in rural BC. We offer small business loans, business counseling and specialized programs to help you start or grow a business, and to help communities become more resilient and dynamic.

266 Oliver Street
Williams Lake, BC
V2G 1M1

Phone: (250)392-3626
Toll free: (888)879-5399
Fax: (250)392-4813