UHA Worksite Wellness

Pet Friendly Workplace: The Workplace of the Future?

Written by Linda Kalahiki on March 13, 2015. Posted in Well-Being, Featured2, Post

As pet owners know, animal companions are great for relieving stress and improving mood and energy levels – and what workplace couldn’t benefit from a boost in those areas? While offering this resource may prove challenging for organizations with many staff and diverse needs to consider, or landlord rules prohibiting this practice, allowing pets at work can be a great way for businesses to promote healthy habits, support their staff, and foster stronger teamwork.

If you’re curious about making the switch, read on to discover why – and how – to encourage your workplace to become more pet-friendly.

Pets Keep Workplaces Healthy – Both Mentally and Physically

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institute of Health (NIH) both report that interaction with pets has been linked to a number of great health benefits – including decreases in stress, anxiety, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Having animals around the office also promotes healthy activity levels. They remind employees to take regular breaks to stretch their legs, clear their minds and get some fresh air.

Bringing Pets to Work Can Increase Focus and Productivity

For many pet owners, their pet is part of their ‘ohana. Having one means maintaining a personal schedule that allows for regular walks and feeding. For some employees, this means rushing home on a lunch break or after work to let the dog out or feed the cat. Encouraging your staff to bring their companions to the office allows them to focus on their work, and frees them up to stay a little later to work on a project, if they want to, knowing that their pet is right there with them rather than anxiously awaiting their return.

Pets Promote a Pawsitive Work Environment

Having pets around has been shown to increase employee satisfaction, happiness, and retention – and not just for pet owners, but for the whole team. Pets act as social catalysts, making it easier to approach people and to get to know them better. The result? According to a study at Central Michigan University, the mere presence of a dog fostered stronger teamwork and collaboration among co-workers.

How to Get Started

If you’re interested in making your workplace more pet-friendly, here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Understand Relevant Regulation

    The “Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA) protects individuals with disabilities who need the assistance of trained service animals. This regulation does not necessarily extend to companion animals, however, and different workplaces may be subject to regulations that could impact your ability to bring companion animals to work. Food establishments, for example, may face more stringent regulations related to food safety, and are likely unable to allow companion pets in many work areas. State and local considerations (eg. Board of Health Regulations) that impact businesses such as food establishments need to be considered. Do your research and consult Hawaii-specific resources to find out if companion animals are permitted in your workplace.

  2. Get Everyone on Board

    Discuss the many benefits of a pet friendly workplace with key decision-makers, and then with other coworkers. Consider your team, and be sensitive to concerns about allergies and/or anxieties about pets – many of these concerns can be resolved with the right guidelines (requirements that pets be kept on-leash or only within certain areas, etc.).

  3. Get Approval From Your Landlord

    Ensure that your building’s policies allow pets. You may also want to raise the issue with the cleaning team to ensure that they’re prepared to deal with potential issues.

  4. Develop a Comprehensive Pet Policy & Application Form for Employees

    With input from team members, build a workplace policy that outlines – with no gray areas – any and all possible issues and concerns. Include things like required vaccinations, training and behavioral expectations, rules and etiquette (on-leash vs. off-leash, etc.), maximum pet allowances, requirements for employees (baby gates, litter boxes, etc.). Develop an application form for employees to complete if they’d like to participate.

  5. Notify Staff

    The best part: inform staff that they can bring their companion to work! Depending on your workplace, it may be ideal to do this as part of an orientation session (to review guidelines and the new pet policy), rather than individually.

Given the numerous benefits for employees’ well-being, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of businesses are allowing pets in the workplace. Will yours be next?

References

Linda Kalahiki

Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

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