The Petiquette of Pet-Friendly Workplaces

With 9% of workplaces allowing pets at work, furry friends are becoming increasingly more common in the workplace.

Time.com reports that dogs in the workplace provide greater opportunities for co-workers to meet and interact. For example, at Amazon, which has a website dedicated to the 7,000+ dogs that roam its halls, “Dogs in the workplace is an unexpected mechanism for connection,” said Lara Hirschfield, Amazon facilities manager. “I see ‘Amazonians’ meeting each other in our lobbies or elevators every day because of their dogs.”

While having pets in the workplace can contribute to lower stress, boost morale and collaboration, and there are a few things to bear in mind when crafting and rolling out an office pet-friendly policy,

Establish petiquette

Companies such as WellPet and Harpoon Brewery, which ranked third on an annual list of America’s most pet-friendly companies, have “petiquettes” for their four-legged employees to hang around the office. The dogs must be able to get along with other dogs and humans, owners have to take them out regularly for bathroom breaks, and employees must keep food out of their trash bins so the dogs don’t eat it.

When thinking about opening your doors to pets, employers should be aware of the “one-bite rule,” and other policies related to safety that varies depending on the jurisdiction.

Quoted in a SHRM article, attorney Joshua S. Bauchner said, “If a dog has bitten in the past, the owner is on notice that it can happen again and subject to strict liability. By inviting the dog into the workplace, the employer reasonably may assume that liability for failing to ask if the employee’s dog has a record and by failing to take other necessary precautions.”

Establish policies

It’s important that an organization’s pet policy outlines when pets are allowed at the office as well as the compliance steps a pet-owner needs to take in order to bring their pet to the office. HR should also establish a process for reporting poor-pet behavior as well as check-ins to ensure there’s been no change in the pet’s behavior and ensure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations.

It’s equally important to consider the opinion of others, especially the 10-20% of those with allergies to dogs and cats. Some of these allergies are so severe that they cause rashes, temporary breathlessness, panic attacks, and even severe respiratory disorders.

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In addition to a physical reaction to the presence of pets around them, some co-workers and visitors may be genuinely scared of animals. For such individuals, the presence of a pet in their workplace is not a comforting addition.

What other things should you consider? See “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Take Your Dog to Work Day.”

Bear these folks in mind when inviting pets in the workplace and adjust plans and policies accordingly. Encourage pet owners to ask their managers and neighboring colleagues if they are OK with them bringing their pets to the office. HR can also ask everyone who is allergic or not on board with the new pet-friendly policy to confidentially disclose their preferences in order to mitigate problems at their onset. The result may be limiting the perk to once a week and on those days employees can opt to work remotely.

When opening up the office to our furry friends, enforce boundaries – consider making areas such as the break room or kitchen and conference rooms off-limits. Establish if dogs can sit on office chairs, which often go uncleaned, and how to handle unexpected events such as an unplanned client visit or a sudden meeting outside the office for the dog owner.

Another thing to consider is office carpeting, as it is hard to clean and traps hair and fluids. Hard-surfaced floors are ideal for pet-friendly offices as they are easier to clean, disinfect, and deodorize.

A version of this article was originally published on wforce.org.

Dr. Arthur Langer is director of the Center for Technology Management at Columbia University and chairman and founder of Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a nonprofit with a mission of developing the skills of untapped talent from underserved and veteran communities through partnerships with organizations dedicated to diversifying their workforce. Since its inception in 2005, WOS has served 5,300+ individuals through partnerships with more than 65 corporations in 60+ locations worldwide. For more information, please visit www.wforce.org.ᐧ

 

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