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Pets in the Workplace

Pet-friendly workplaces are a growing trend. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the number of employers that allow pets at work increased from five percent in 2013 to eight percent in 2017. Although there are many benefits to having pets in the workplace, there are also several important considerations to keep in mind before allowing your employees to bring their pets to work. Here's what you need to know.

Woman at her work desk with a small dog in her lap.

Benefits of a Pet-Friendly Workplace

Scientists have long known that having pets is good for our health. As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) points out, people who own pets generally have lower blood pressure, as well as lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They're also less likely to experience loneliness, and they have more opportunities for exercise.

It's not surprising then that according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), being allowed to bring pets to work can have many benefits for employees. It reduces stress, promotes teamwork, boosts productivity and improves satisfaction. And as an added benefit for the employer, it can even help lower healthcare costs, since it contributes to keeping employees both physically and mentally healthy.

Considerations for Creating a Pet-Friendly Workplace

If you want to create a pet-friendly workplace that works for all your employees, there are certain considerations you need to take into account.

First and foremost, you need to consider your employees' health and wellbeing. Around 30 percent of U.S. adults suffer from allergies, and approximately 30 percent of this group is allergic to cats and dogs. In addition, people may be afraid of dogs, cats or other animals. For these reasons, all of your employees need to be on board with a pet-friendly workplace.

You also need to think about safety. A dog, cat or other pet may bite if it's stressed or afraid. Approximately 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year. That means that any pets in the workplace need to be socialized, well-trained and able to handle the surroundings and potential stresses. They also need to be in good health and up to date on their vaccinations. Remember that ultimately, if anything were to happen to an employee, you'll likely be liable since it's your responsibility to provide a safe work environment.

You should think about cultural sensitivities. For example, according to a recent study, employees from some religious or cultural backgrounds might not feel comfortable with dogs in the workplace.

Finally, you need to consider the wellbeing of the pet. An office setting is a very different setting than a home, and that can cause stress and unhappiness. In a workplace with multiple pets, the animals will need to- at the very least- tolerate each other in order to avoid problems.

While having pets in the workplace offers many benefits to employees and, by extension, to employers, it's important to tread carefully when creating a pet-friendly workplace. For more guidance on how to establish a good pet policy and implement a safe and healthy pet-friendly workplace, it's advisable to get additional advice from a trusted veterinarian and other experts.

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