Did you know that one in five American companies allow employees to bring their pets to work? That's according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association. They also say that having pets at work means more productivity, lower stress, less absenteeism and even greater employee willingness to work overtime.
Why all this commotion about Fido and Tabby? Seems we American workers love our animals. For many, it's beyond the buddy stage. More and more of us see our pets as members of our family and feel guilty about leaving them home alone. Also, while doggie and kitty day care is available in many areas, not everyone can afford the cost.
Having pets at work is nothing new. In fact there's even a Take Your Pets to Work Day every June. If you are looking for a pet-friendly employer, you can check online with sites like simplyhired.com that provide a data base of companies that are dog-friendly. What's more, some progressive businesses allow birds and other pets. According to dogfriendly.com there are several pet-related companies in Florida that allow pets at work. There is also a smaller list on non-pet-related companies that allow animals.
But it's not all rosy in pet land. Some people aren't so keen on animals in the workplace. There's a growing backlash and it seems to revolve around workplaces without planning and policies. The biggest negatives are:
• A pet can distract the owner from his or her work.
• Employees with allergies or other health issues can be negatively impacted.
• Employees with fears of animals may be uncomfortable.
• Poorly supervised pets that roam into other people's work areas can cause trouble.
• Customers may have negative feelings about encountering your pet at the work site.
• Insurance considerations can cause problems. Will the pet be a hazard? What are the insurance implications for the business?
Paving the way
Establish "pettiquette" at your workplace. Paw-Rescue.org suggests many strategies including the following:
• Establish a policy that includes what type of pets your company will allow and when, where and how they will be welcomed into your workplace.
• The policy must respect co-workers' space and make sure the pet(s) do not frighten co-workers or are not around co-workers with health or allergy issues that would be compromised by the pet.
• Forewarn all employees that pets are coming and when.
• Ensure that the pets are housebroken and comfortable around strange people and in strange surroundings.
• Allow only healthy pets.
• Owners must provide food, treats and water for their pets and take them outside for breaks. Owners must also clean up after their pets.
• Owners must be responsible for their pet's behavior. For example, the best type of dog to bring to work is one that is calm and obeys simple commands like sit, stay and lie down.
Marie Stempinski is founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations and marketing, business trends and employee motivation consulting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.