Pet Friendly Workplaces

One of the most popular items we posted on our blog lately happened to be the HR eCard about pet friendly workplaces. The card itself was mildly funny, but nothing spectacular. So what made this post so popular, we asked? Could it be that the topic of pet friendly workplaces was of particular interest to our readers?

Just in case it was the topic and not the cute HR eCard that caught everyone’s attention, we thought we’d do this follow up article about pet (or more specifically dog) friendly workplaces.  

Approximately 44% of Americans and 33% of Canadians own at least one dog. A rough calculation of the global dog population, estimated by Psychology Today, suggests 525 million dogs as a conservative estimate. In North America, the annual “take your dog to work day” is a firmly established tradition in many businesses, and the number of companies allowing dogs in the workplace on a regular basis is increasing.

Why are some businesses relaxing office policies to allow canine companions at work?

As it happens, there are a lot of good reasons. One study published in the March 2012 issue of the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that allowing pets in the workplace can increase productivity, boost employee morale, and increase sales.Dog at the office: Billy Belk with dog at the Leon County Clerk's Office in Tallahassee, Florida. State Library and Archives of Florida, 500 S. Bronough St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250 USA. Contact: 850.245.6700.

Another study by Virginia Commonwealth University researchers confirmed this when it showed that employees who bring their dogs to work produced lower levels of the stress-causing hormone cortisol. “What surprised us most is the fact stress actually decreased throughout the day among those participants who brought their dogs to work, while stress levels significantly increased for those who left their dogs at home or don't own pets,” said principal researcher Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., professor of management at VCU's School of Business. “We also found it very interesting that about half of those who bring their dogs to work said their productivity increased with their dog present. “

As reported in the Economist, researcher Christopher Honts, of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, demonstrated that dogs in the workplace increase collaborative behavior and helped ease social interactions. In this study, twelve groups of four participants were asked to work together on an assigned task. Results showed that the groups who had a dog underfoot throughout the activity, “ranked their team-mates more highly on measures of trust, team cohesion and intimacy” than those who were poochless.

Less stress, higher job satisfaction, more collaboration and increased productivity and sales!—Where do we sign up?

If you are considering becoming a dog friendly workplace, here are some tips for getting started:

  1. Involve your employees in the decision and communicate your intent broadly.
  2. Start by setting up a committee of both dog-owners and non-owners to create policy.
  3. With your committee, first establish acceptable dog criteria that everyone agrees on, for example;

  4. Dogs must be well socialized and friendly with both people and other dogs.
  5. Dogs must be office-broken, trained and well-behaved.
  6. Dogs should be healthy, clean, and current with routine vaccinations.
  7. Dogs should bring their own blankets, food, and entertainment (e.g. chew toys).
  8. Second, establish an acceptable screening process, including;

  9. An initial “interview” where a new dog is introduced to staff and assessed for fit with the workplace.
  10. A similar introduction to other office dogs, but in a location that won’t disrupt co-workers while canines get acquainted.
  11. An agreement for participating employees to sign, taking responsibility for any damage their dogs might cause, and acknowledging the canine behaviors that might result in their dogs being “fired”.  
  12. Third, draft any additional rules you feel are necessary to ensure success, such as;

  13. Whether or not office dogs must be contained (e.g. leashed, crated, or in a gated area).
  14. Any defined areas dogs should be kept out of (e.g. where food is produced, the restrooms, designated dog-free zones for those with allergies, fear of dogs, or cultural reasons for not interacting with dogs, etc.).
  15. While deciding to become a dog-friendly workplace may seem extreme, for HR Professionals battling to find, keep and engage the best talent, it could provide some powerful ammunition. In the words of one job-seeker quoted on  “The dog policy was one of the big incentives for me to take this job; I count it higher than stock options.”  

    Whether you’re a dog-friendly employer or are simply focused on creating the most employee-friendly workplace possible, you can rely on TribeHR’s supportive, social interface to keep your people smiling. Start with a free trial today.

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