Pets bring a lot of joy to the office.

 

A 2012 study has shown that they reduce stress and increase productivity – boosting employee wellbeing; your friendly pooch is not just man’s best friend but an office cheerleader. While it’s great to have pets in the office for both your employees and their furry friends – it’s essential to be compliant and ensure that the office is comfortable and welcoming for all. 

If you’re considering becoming a pet-friendly office, you need to have a plan in place that will set out policies and procedures to ensure that things don’t get out of hand.

 

1. Check your building rules

First, make sure your building and contract  (if you’re renting your office space) allows for pets. If you are moving offices this would be a good topic to bring up with your potential landlord before committing to an office space.

 

2. Company-wide Survey

Before starting, it’s best to consult with your employees. After all, they are going to be the most affected. Checking how they feel about pets in the office is crucial to ensuring this policy is worth pursuing. You don’t want to start any process without the majority of the office supporting it. Some example survey questions you could ask, include:

– What are your thoughts on a pet-friendly office? (Positive, Negative, Neutral)

– Do you feel that pets in the office will interfere with your work? (Yes, No)

– Do you have any dog / cat allergies? (Yes, No)

– If you have a pet, how often would you bring it to a pet-friendly office? (Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Occasionally, Regularly)

– Should pet owners supply behavioural certificates before being allowed to bring their pet? (Yes, No)

 

3. Identify What Types Of Pets Will Be Allowed

When it comes to being pet-friendly, you need to make sure you identify what kind of pets are allowed. Perhaps you just want dogs, or cats, or both! You need to determine straight away what pets are able to join the office. This also ensures that there is no confusion for your employees.

 

4. Office Check

Loose cords? Or other hazards you might not be aware of around the office? You may want to do an office check. This will help in identifying no-go areas and making sure your pets are safe when they come to the office. You may have to place hooks for the cords and anchor straps to keep furniture from tipping over. This is a win-win, as you minimise the chance of workplace accidents protecting both your fur-employees and your human ones!

 

5. Create Pet Office Company Policy Or Standards

A policy needs to be in place for pets in the office. This protects not only your company, your employees and their furry friends but it also gives clear guidelines from the beginning. Standards are also important to put in place. Pets should be expected to behave in a way that minimises distractions in the office. You might want to consider:

– Who takes care of the pet when their owner is in a meeting? 

– What areas are no-gos?

– In the event of misbehaviour what is the recourse of action?

– What is the complaint process?

– Will employees bringing pets have to sign a waver?

– Is there going to be a minimum age for the pet to be allowed in the office?

 

6. Arrange (Or Rearrange) The Office

Pets are great, but you should make sure there are pet areas and no-pet areas. You also want to ensure that employees who aren’t comfortable around pets can have their own separate space. Don’t forget to also identify a place where pets can go to the toilet. Designating these areas will help keep boundaries within the office and let pet-owners know where their furry friend is allowed to go. 

 

7. Trial Period

A trial is a great way to test out the current policies in place. This is a perfect opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. It can also give you a chance to test whether the pet-friendly office is feasible without fully committing. While you can prepare most policies and procedures, only when a trial is in place can you see potential hazards or problems that have not been addressed. You can also see how certain dogs for example interact with one another. Knowing whether certain dogs do or don’t get along is crucial in your next step of developing a roster.

 

8. Develop A Roster

A roster is essential if you have multiple pets in the office. Having a schedule in place lets everyone keep track of what pets are in the office on any given day. It can also help, if you are having all kinds of pets that may not see eye to eye (cats and dogs for example) to have them on separate days. You may also want to have pets just come in a few days a week rather than everyday. A roster gives you flexibility and can be easily changed. It also provides a good guide to employees and keeps them informed about when pets are in the office. 

 

9. Evaluate

With any policy and procedure, you need to evaluate and review it every so often. In addition to this, make sure to have a reporting process in place to allow employees who may have concerns regarding the policy to your HR department. You want this arrangement to be suitable for all, without anyone feeling uncomfortable. Evaluating the policy ensures that procedures are adapted and modernised as time goes by. 

 

Pets are great for the office. However, as with any new policy or procedure you need to do your due diligence before entering it into the office. Pets are meant to provide joy for your employees, but without a plan in place, they can instead cause chaos and conflict, increasing stress and ultimately creating a toxic work environment – which no one wants. 

 

About the Author:

Solene is a senior HR advisor. Throughout her working career, she has gained experience in recruitment, payroll, and management performance, and has assisted in enterprise agreement negotiations, amongst other duties. Solene is a travel bug and has a deep appreciation and fascination for different cultures.