You want what’s best for your company and the people you’re responsible for, and maybe you’re anxious about the extra variables welcoming pets will add to your operation. It’s understandable, but many businesses have successfully adopted pet-friendly policies and we’re here to help you create policies that work best for yours.
Like any new business strategy, start by looking at other businesses with pet-friendly policies. Go close to home. Do any offices near yours offer “pet days” or anything similar? Are there any other pet-friendly restaurants or stores in your region that could give you advice? Don’t just observe, reach out — people love talking about their animals and this is a great way to network.
If you don’t have any neighbors you can learn from, you’re in the right place. Mars Petcare has a lot of information on safely allowing pets in the workplace. A sample workplace pet policy for offices, that you might be able to adapt to your needs can be found here. While you might not want to use this policy verbatim, it should provide a great starting point. Banfield Pet Hospital has also compiled a lot of information from managers, employees, and HR reps about pets in the workplace in their PAWrometer surveys, accessible online.
Here are some aspects unique to your business that you should factor into your policy.
Is your workplace customer or client-facing? Or is your office mostly private to your employees? Do you plan to make your business welcoming to your customers’ pets, or your own? If you’re catering to your customers, then it might be difficult to require everyone who brings a dog through your door to agree to a formal policy, but you should still post clear guidelines.
An office dog can be a great way to make visiting clients remember you, but you should carefully consider the effects of visitors on pets in your workplace. Some animals can get anxious when confronted with new visitors; make sure you keep their health and safety at the forefront.
Consider your floorplan. You will have employees or visitors with allergies or other issues that you should be sensitive to. If you want to permit animals on-site, you may want to consider limiting their movement with pet gates, doors, or other barriers so people who need pet-free areas can work in peace. Be approachable about this — employees may feel reluctant to open up about their needs, but it’s your responsibility to look after them.
Do you have any unused space? Pets can get antsy in a new place, especially one as busy as your workplace may be. A quiet calm-down spot — in the basement or by your sanitation area, for example — can work wonders.
Consider your schedule. A lot of offices have seen great responses from a pet day and they can do a lot to refresh employees in the middle of the week. Depending on your work environment, allowing pets all the time may not be appropriate. If your business is customer-facing, letting in pets on your slower days can be a huge draw.
Consult local laws regarding the types of animals you can allow and in what capacity. If you serve food, for example, you’ll have to be mindful about what pets you allow.
Can you set up sanitation areas around your business or office? A space for animals to relieve themselves is essential even if you don’t let pets into your workplace.
Are you able to provide pets with plenty of water? You’ll want a space you can set down water that’s in a safe, accessible location. Even if you don’t let pets into your business, keeping a water dish or two on-hand can make a huge difference for a thirsty pet who’s passing by.
Are you air conditioned? Some pets have to deal with a lot of fur and they might end up extra thirsty or even sick if your workplace runs hot in the summer. By the same token, you might want to expand your pet policies in the summer months for employees who may be concerned about leaving their pets in a hot home all day.
Providing extras like treats or leashes can go a long way to making a good impression. If you expect guests or employees to provide their own pet food or waste disposal bags, be up-front about it.
Establish clear consequences for pet misbehavior. If a pet breaks something, for example, what are the repercussions? A clear policy for escalation has a preventative effect, keeping pets’ owners alert and ready to keep them out of trouble.
If you decide to allow pets in your workplace, consider a “doggy dress code.” Welcoming pets into your workplace doesn’t mean you should permit animals that might pose a threat to the safety of others — those that haven’t been vaccinated or trained, for example. Common sense is helpful here, but be sure your decisions are reflected in policy. If an animal seems dangerous, you might consider erring on the side of caution. With employees, this can be easier to enforce.
As a basic set of guidelines, Mars Petcare recommends you limit yourself to welcoming pets who are:
Finally, you might want to think about your social media policy — cute pet pictures are long-standing favorites across the Web. Even in a private office, getting employees to post pictures from a pet day can help to build your brand and generate buzz. At the same time, keep employees sensitive to privacy issues and people’s comfort around cameras.
Have you educated your employees about federal laws for service dogs? These can require exceptions to the policies you try to follow.
If your business is open to customers, how will you train your employees to deal with complications? Better Cities for Pets has an excellent guide for potential issues with customers who may be afraid of animals or those who attempt to ignore your policies.
Whether through a lack of pet-oriented benefits or a lack of pet-friendly policies, many workplaces are poorly equipped to accommodate the needs of pets and their owners.
Pets are a huge part of our lives. Over two-thirds of American households own a pet, and that number is rising!