Q: Some of my employees have requested that we allow them to bring their dogs to work, citing Google and Ben & Jerry’s as examples of companies with a pet-friendly policy. Although I’m a dog lover myself and I like the idea, I’ve resisted because I worry about the liability. What else should I consider?
A: According to the Society for Human Resource Management, about 7% of employers now allow pets in the workplace, this is 2% higher than five years ago.
There are some good reasons to consider joining them. Lots of studies point to benefits such as improved employee morale, reduced stress, increased co-worker interaction and cooperation as well as tangible health benefits. Plus a pet-friendly policy is a coveted perk with employees and costs the company virtually nothing.
But there are also many reasons why that 7% number will probably remain in the single digits.
First (as you alluded) are the legal considerations. Even the best-behaved dog can feel threatened by something unexpected and bite or injure someone creating a huge liability. Additionally, the majority of office rental leases have a “no animals on the premises” clause, so unless you own the space, you might face a hurdle.
Then, there’s the reality that it’s just not practical to bring your dog to work everyday.
Pets don’t just lay down quietly for 8 hours. They need attention, and need to be fed, watered and walked throughout the workday creating a lot of distractions, often making employees less productive.
And if there are co-workers or clients who suffer allergies or have an animal phobia, it would be impractical to try to separate or confine the pet.
But what if you still want to try it? Here’s what I’d do:
Go slow. *Start out with one “Bring your dog to work day”. If successful try a few “Furry-Friend Fridays”.
Set limits. Start out with dogs only (sorry cat, ferret, parrot, lizard and snake lovers) they are easiest to try out.
Identify deal breakers. You can require only house-trained and well-mannered dogs. Or require up-to-date shots.Some companies have a “one strike you’re out policy” for pets who show aggression or misbehave.
Those are some ideas from someone who is lucky to work from home and happy to have my dog with me all day, and wishes everyone could have the same.
*National Bring your dog to work day is the 4th Friday in June (mark your calendar for 6/23/17)