Studies have shown that allowing dogs in the workplace can reduce work-related stress, improve morale and increase job satisfaction. But before business owners start bringing their dogs to work, or allowing employees to do so, it’s important to set some ground rules – and make sure everyone, especially those employees who don’t have pets (or may be allergic to pet dander), are on board with it.
To help avoid coworkers’ pet peeves, here are 14 rules for bringing dogs (and cats) to work.
1. Make sure no one objects
“We had a bring-your-pet policy for about a year before we had to end it,” says Casey Halloran, cofounder and CEO, Namu Travel Group. “The problem: not everybody loves pets. We had a handful of staff who really suffered from allergies and/or didn't enjoy animals around. Our rule going into the experiment was simple: If it really bothers one person, it ends. And so, to the chagrin of some pet lovers, it ended.”
“Talk to your coworkers before you bring in your pet,” says Sara Radak, content strategist at Embrace Pet Insurance. “Even if you work in an environment with a very open pet policy like we have at Embrace Pet Insurance, not all dogs get along and occasionally you'll come up against coworkers with allergies or phobias,” she says. So “it never hurts to double-check with those in your department to make sure that your favorite canine or cat will be a welcome guest.”
2. Check your insurance
“Even the most docile of dogs could become hostile in an unfamiliar environment or around other pets, so make sure you're covered in the event that a dog [or cat] acts out,” says Terrie Ard, president, Moore Communications Group. “In some cases, you may want to consider having employees sign paperwork committing to covering any damage caused by their pet.”
3. Designate pet-friendly days of the week
Pets, as wonderful as they can be, can also be a distraction. So to ensure productivity doesn’t dip (and to be sensitive to those who may not want pets around all the time), designate certain days, or one day a week, as pet-friendly days, or bring-your-pet-to-work day.
“At Petplan we have a Pets at Work shared calendar that our team uses to sign up for the days they'd like to bring their pet in,” explains Natasha Ashton, cofounder, PetPlan, a pet insurance provider. “The calendar lets everyone see which pets are scheduled to be in the office to ensure that all furry friends on the day get along with one another. We would recommend that any company considering going pet-friendly put a communication system in place,” she advises. “It'll help create a work environment that pleasant for two- and four-legged employees!”
4. Establish pet-free zones
“It's a lot more distracting to have an animal join meetings than it is to have them wandering the main floor [or parked in an office],” says Talia Shani, head of Content at Yotpo.com, a customer content marketing company. So before you allow employees to bring in their dogs or cats, “set some ground rules for where pets can roam free, and where they should steer clear.”
5. Take turns or limit the number of pets per day
“The best tip I can give is only having one pet in the office at a time,” says Sam Rosen, found & CEO, MakeSpace, a storage company. “At MakeSpace we have Lord Stanley, the office pup. Everyone really comes together to look after and play with him on a daily basis. It's a real opportunity for team bonding and a welcome outlet to help relieve day-to-day stress. Any additional pets, I believe, would be more of a distraction to the team rather than a benefit.”
6. Create a pet committee
“Set up a Rufferree team so employees can share any complaints or praise about how dogs are interacting in the office,” says Kathryn Lisko, education specialist, Rover.com, a dog sitting service. “The dedicated team can [then] follow up with the dog's owner,” should an issue arise.
7. Ensure your office is safe for pets (pet-proofed)
“Things like cables, cords and open trash bins can all be tempting for pets,” says Ashton. “Take the time to pet proof your office space to be sure it's safe for your furriest team members. At Petplan, we keep cords corralled and suspended under each desk and keep [a] lidded trash bin in each area. It also helps if cats and smaller dogs wear a bell on their collar so you know when they're under foot. (Trust me, rolling office chairs and stray paws don't mix!)”
8. If your pet is sick, keep him home
“Sick pets spread germs that could lead to a trip to the vet or worse,” says Radak. “If your pet is coughing, has a rash or you spotted a flea, keep him or her at home.”
“Before any pet visits the Petplan office for the first time, their [human] signs the Pets at Work Pledge acknowledging that their pet is healthy, up-to-date on vaccines, flea/tick and heartworm treatments and well socialized,” says Ashton. That’s because “we want to be sure their time spent frolicking is happy and healthy.”
9. Pets must be supervised
“Even the best-behaved pets get into trouble now and then, especially in a new environment,” says Radak. So only “bring your pet to work on days that you can keep an eye on [him or her]. Have a lot of meetings? Working on a deadline? Going out to lunch? Maybe that isn't the best day to bring Fido to work.”
“Each employee has a task and babysitting or tending to your dog is not his or her job,” says Steve Acree, owner, Seismic Audio Speakers, a dog-friendly business. “If your dog is constantly following other employees or going in to other offices or begging for food while employees eat, then he or she should be left at home.”
10. The pet must be comfortable being around people (other than its human)
“Nothing's worse than having someone bring in their dog and for the [dog] to spend the entire time barking, or to growl if you get too close,” says Jason L. Bauman, junior SEO associate, Trinity Insight, an ecommerce consulting and optimization company that allows employees to bring their dogs and cats to work as long as a few basic rules are followed.
“We constantly have people coming in and out of our office, so any dog that is in the office needs to be trained well enough that they don't jump on an unsuspecting visitor,” says Jake Lane, growth analyst, LawnStarter. “While we all love dogs in the office, not all of our visitors do. If the dog can't handle new guests, we ask that they are leashed [and in] an area where they won't cause any issues with guests.”
11. The pet must be OK around other animals
“We haven't had many days where two employees brought their pets in at once,” says Bauman. “But the last thing we want is for two pets to get into a fight, or one to be terrified of the other.”
12. The animal can't be super hyper
“We work in a small office that covers two levels connected by stairs,” says Bauman. “Since we spend most of our time researching and writing, the last thing our productivity needs is a dog that will run up and down the stairs nonstop, or get excited whenever anyone walks by our office door.”
13. Come prepared
“Make sure that if you bring your dog in to work, that they have everything they will need throughout the day,” says Lane. “Whether that is their favorite toy, food or a bed, it's best to make sure that they will be well accommodated so you can work through the day.”
14. Clean up after your pet
Bring plastic baggies with ties for taking care of dog poop. And if your dog has an “accident” inside the office or office building, be prepared to clean it up.
Also, “don't forget the fur remover brush!” says Elinor Mills, vice president of content and media strategy at Bateman Group, an integrated PR and social media communications firm. This way “you can clean up before an important client meeting, [and] your co-workers will thank you when they see traces of your pet [fur] on their clothes. In a pinch scotch tape works great too.”