Pets @ Work

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We all know that pets make great friends. But can they also be great co-workers? This past Friday was Bring Your Pet to Work Day, and businesses across Australia opened their office doors to furry friends everywhere.

In the spirit of animal companionship, here are some ways pets might benefit your office and how you can go about implementing a ‘pets at work’ (PAW) program. It could very well make your days at the office a little less ruff.

First, the benefits.

  • Pets are the ultimate people pleasers: Studies have shown that animals in workplaces act as social catalysts and encourage collaboration among employees. Workers tend to rate their teammates higher in terms of trust, team cohesion and intimacy in offices where pets are present.
  • Increased work-life balance: Bringing pets to work means employees aren’t worrying about their pets sitting at home all day. Often employees are willing to stay later when working on important projects because they aren’t rushing off to feed the cat or let the dog out.
  • Lowered stress: It’s no secret that scratching a dog’s belly is a great stress reliever. A study conducted in 2012 showed that employees who bring pets to work produced lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and higher levels of oxytocin. Having pets around can also lower blood pressure and increase opportunities for exercise during the day.
  • Increased creativity and productivity: Sometimes all it takes to get the creative juices flowing is a quick walk around the office. Having pets around makes it easy for employees to take brief mental breaks and return to work refreshed and ready to problem solve.
  • The morale factor: Wouldn’t it be nice if all disputes could be solved with a game of fetch? Some workplace issues require more attention, but if the internet has taught us anything it’s that animals have excellent comedic timing to relieve tension. Pets can immediately perk up a workspace and contribute to a comfortable, open and flexible work environment.

If all of this sounds appealing, here are some steps you can take to make your office a pet-friendly one:

1. Get everyone involved

Before you go any further with your plan, you should first gauge the interest of employees. Make sure everyone has the chance to address any concerns about having animals in the workplace, especially concerning animal allergies. Then, work together to create guidelines for bringing pets to work. Will it be an everyday kind of thing? A roster? Just one day a year? Tailor the policy to fit with the wants and needs of your employees.

2. Get building approval

Approach management and ask them to discuss the idea of bringing pets to work. Be prepared with a checklist and provide examples of other pet friendly organisations (Google, Purina and Australian Vet Association all have successful, longtime pet programs). It’s also a good idea to think of some potential risks ahead of time so you can easily address them. Some offices even have committees to monitor pets at work, enforce any rules and handle discipline issues.

3. Make sure pets have documentation

You wouldn’t let random people just show up to the office one day, right? The same should apply to any office animals. Before an employee brings his or her pet to work, it’s a good idea to have them fill out forms to keep a record of what animal they are bringing, its breed/gender/age, whether it has had all of its shots and whether it has any potential obedience issues. Any employee bringing a pet to work should also sign a liability waiver to remove risk and liability from the company. Once the pet is approved, give the employee an animal ID card or certificate to display somewhere so it’s easy to spot who has approval.

4. Make sure the office is pet-ready

Designate areas of the office where animals are off limits to ensure workers can get away from office pets if they want or need to. Keeping areas that involve food – such as kitchens, canteens or break rooms – pet free is a good place to start, as well as bathrooms and a couple meeting rooms.

Stress to employees the importance of good pet etiquette as well. Make sure that employees bring any appropriate materials for their pets, such as food bowls, bedding, toys, gates or litter boxes. Workers need to be responsible for their own animals, so clearly outline what is expected of them should your office implement a PAW policy.

5. Make sure pets are ready for the office

As much as offices are the ‘home away from home’ for many people, it probably won’t be the same for their pet. If possible, ask employees to try and introduce their pet to the workplace ahead of time when so many people aren’t there, such as after hours, during a half day or on a weekend. If multiple people are bringing pets, it’s a good idea to do introductions outside the office and walk animals in together. Ask employees to groom pets beforehand as well – it’ll help keep the office clean and minimise shedding.

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