These days, people consider their pets to be members of the family. We all appreciate the benefits of having companion animals in our lives. Pets can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, ease pain, improve your mood, help people socialize, and help children learn responsibility.
Having pets in our lives is great but many of us worry when we can’t get home to them on time at the end of the day. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just take our pets to work with us?
There are certainly precedents for having animals in the workplace. For centuries, cats have been prowling farms and breweries to kill rats and mice. K9 units obviously couldn’t function without the canine partner; hospitals and nursing homes have on-staff dogs or cats to comfort patients; and many retail stores have resident cats or dogs.
Many members of Congress take their dogs to work and some have said that having dogs on Capitol Hill can serve as a negotiating tactic, brought in to help seal the deal. Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican from Massachusetts says that his dog, Koda has served to diffuse many a difficult situation. “There have been times when people have a very serious issue and they are ready to rip my head off and I walk in — with Koda — and they say ‘oh, we can’t yell at him because Koda will get mad’.”
There is even an official “Take Your Dog to Work Day” created by Pet Sitters International to celebrate the human/companion animal bond and to encourage adoption from humane societies, animal shelters and breed rescue clubs. First celebrated in 1999, this year’s official day is Friday, June 22, 2012. (Helpful tips can be found at HYPERLINK “http://www.takeyourdog.com” www.takeyourdog.com)
But are animals in the office a source of distraction, or a legitimate tool for increasing productivity?
According to a survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, “having pets in the workplace can create a more productive work environment, lower stress, decrease employee absenteeism, and make employees more willing to work overtime.” This same study found that “17 percent of Americans work at pet-friendly companies; 23 percent believe pets should be allowed in the workplace; 70 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace reduces stress; and 46 million believe having pets in the workplace creates a more productive work environment.”
Companies that allow pets in the workplace are reporting that they have experienced improvement in employee morale.
In Portland, Oregon, an opera company has a resident cat named Nerissa and also allows dogs at work. “During stressful times, I get people coming in just to connect with my pet” adds Noelle Guest, an executive assistant. A mid-west marketing firm is also a fan of pets in the workplace. The owner reports that “having dogs around, and allowing people to have their pets with them, is a big morale-booster.” The Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School allows employees to bring pets to work and, says director Murray Low, it can be an inexpensive way to bolster productivity and reduce stress. “If the pet’s at work, it’s not as difficult for the employee to stay till 10 at night.”
Here are some things to keep in mind before you decide to allow pets in the office:
1) Acknowledge at the beginning that this is a trial and that it is up to you, the owner of the business, to be the final decision maker.
2) Set reasonable guidelines. One day a week might be just what you need to give your team a morale boost. Similar to “casual Fridays” the idea of bringing a pet to work one day a week can enhance the overall working environment.
3) Set standards for acceptable pet behavior. Written guidelines as to what is expected of both pets and owners needs to be established and agreed upon prior to trying out this idea.
With a willingness to try a new idea and a little planning, having four-legged animals in the workplace can go a long way toward improving the morale and productivity of the two legged animals in your office.
Written by Julianne Miller DVM of Canyon Pet Hospital in Flagstaff.