By Emma Goodey

Like it or loathe it, the pet-friendly office is becoming increasingly popular. Market-leading employers such as Nestle, Workable, Monzo and the Future Laboratory have led the trend in allowing dogs in the workplace, showing us what’s pawsible. Industry leader Google even has a dedicated club for its office pack, ‘The Doogles’, and has an estimated 70 pawfessional canines registered across its three London Offices.

Moreover, with an estimated 3.2 million pets being bought during lockdown (and 59% of this spike in new pet ownership attributed to under 35-year olds), the demand for pet-friendly workspaces is growing faster than ever.

However, most businesses simply don’t have the budget or space of Google with which to install a dog park in the office (The Doogleplex dog park is located at Google’s Mountain View Complex, California).

With that in mind, what are the pros, cons and purrrrr-acticalities of a pet-friendly workspace?

Pros

Stress relief – Studies have shown that interacting with animals helps to reduce levels of ‘the stress hormone’ Cortisol. Moreover, the unconditional love provided by a pet can help to boost confidence, reduce loneliness and increase feelings of social support. With many workplaces struggling with a ‘stress epidemic’; that’s one hell of a pro.

Salary Perks – The average cost of doggy day-care in the UK is £25-£30 per day. That adds up to a whopping £6,400 in pet care bills a year for those working in the office full time. For companies with a smaller budget, allowing pets in the office can level the playing field when competing with larger companies offering top-end salaries to attract talent.

Furthermore, with a rising trend among millennials of raising ‘fur babies’ instead of human children, making allowances for the responsibilities of ‘pet-parenthood’ goes a long way towards fostering goodwill among younger staff.

Staff retention – Though pet-friendly offices are becoming more common; they are still a rarity among most corporate sectors. For this reason, allowing pets at work can be a real gamechanger for staff retention. This is because so few offices allow pets at work; meaning that for those who can’t bear to leave their furry friends at home, scoring a position at a pet-friendly office is a perk most are unwilling to give up by moving roles.

Just – Those fluffy little faces.

 Cons

Insurance – If you are considering allowing pets in the office, you will need to ensure this is encompassed in either your public liability insurance or the insurance of the pet parent in question. In many instances, public liability insurance will be covered by your employee’s existing pet insurance, but there are specialist insurers such as Brooks Braithwaite who specialise in plans for dogs in corporate environments.

Ensuring any pets in your workplace are insured is essential; not just to cover the risk of accidental harm to humans (think leash-based trip hazards and over-enthusiastic greetings), but also to cover any unexpected property damage.

Toilet breaks – Like their human counterparts, all em-paw-yees will need regular toilet breaks. However, unlike human staff, they will need a little extra time for these breaks to get outside and find a suitable lamp post or spot of grass. This may prove time-consuming or impractical for staff meetings etc depending on your office location.

If you do want to invite dogs into the office but are worried about toilet break timings, you may want to start a pee-break rota so pet parents can share this responsibility and reduce time away from their desks. A good plan for this would be for one volunteer at a time to take the whole office pack out at once every couple of hours.

Allergies & Phobias – As absurd as it may seem, some people simply do not like dogs. Moreover, some people suffer from the devastating affliction of being allergic to a man’s best friend. In these cases, you will not be able to invite dogs into the office.

If you do introduce pets into your office, you may need to start checking potential employees are ok with this before making any new hires. Of course, this does not apply to guide dogs or service dogs, who must be permitted as a reasonable adjustment for disabled employees. You can get more information and advice on guide dogs in the workplace by clicking here

Meetings – It’s inevitable that at some point your human employees will have a meeting that their furry companion cannot attend. For the most part, it will be your employee’s responsibility to make arrangements for this, however, you will need to make this clear as part of your doggy induction process.

Practicalities

If welcoming pets into your office is something you’re considering, there are a few practicalities you will need to take into account:

Training – We all believe that our dog is a ‘good boy/girl’, but not all dogs are cut out for office life. Trial days and assessments are recommended for any dogs you do invite into the office to make sure they can be on their best behaviour.

Facilities – There are certain facilities you will need in place to be able to safely welcome four-legged friends. These include things like whether you have the physical space for pets if you have access to an outdoor area and nearby bins for their *ahem* mess.

Hygiene – One other thing to consider when allowing pets into the office is hygiene requirements for staff and customers as well as pets. Most people focus on the human need for hygiene when considering pets, but it’s important to think about whether your space is appropriate for the animal too. Just think of the potential trauma for everyone involved if a beloved pooch were to eat a stray piece of chocolate…

Whatever your opinion on pets in the workplace, we hope this article has given you paws for thought. Just remember, puppies are forever – not just for lockdown.

If you’re thinking of bringing more humans into your workspace, reach out to our recruiters for expert support and advice on post-covid hiring in your market.

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