Dog-friendly offices have become a big part of many new workspaces, but not everyone has made the switch to allowing dogs in the office entirely. Often employers allow service and support animals, but allowing everyone to incorporate their furry friends into the work day (reasonably) frightens many employers.
Today’s post will break down the benefits of a dog-friendly office, potential issues with having a pet-friendly office, statements that need to go in your dog policy, and changes you will need to make to accommodate dogs.
The Benefits Of A Dog-Friendly Office
Dog-friendly offices have been touted as helpful for your employees and companies in multiple reputable newspapers and business outlets (Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, New York Magazine, to name a few.)
The case for dogs in the office has a few components:
Increased Morale in the workplace: Dogs make people happy. This increased morale can help your employees get more done throughout the day and for many improve how their see the company culture.
- Increased Cooperation: A study from Central Michigan University stated the presence of companion dogs in group meetings helped improve the group’s verbal cohesion, physical intimacy, and cooperation.
- Helps Retain Employees: The truth is, most companies don’t have dog-friendly offices outside service and support dogs. A dog-friendly office can be an incredible perk for your office to have for dog lovers.
- Creates Connections With Coworkers: Dogs can often help your employees form intense bonds with each other and other dogs in the office. Dogs have a way of creating connections which can be great if your workers don’t often hang out with each other.
- Makes It Easier For Your Employees To Stay Late: Your employees will no longer need pet sitting help or to rush home after work to let their dogs out and feed them. With their dogs by their side, they can work a few late nights every once in a while.
- Exercise & Moving: Office work can be extremely sedentary. Dogs force your employees to get out of their chairs, walk around the room or the office, and take a break from sitting down all the time.
- Reduces Stress: According to a study out of Virginia Commonwealth University, dogs in the office affected stress levels throughout the day. The group with dogs had a decrease in their stress levels throughout the day, while the group with no dogs had an increase in stress by the end of the day.
The list for why dogs could benefit your company could go on for a while. Dogs, in general, create a positive working environment for your office.
Understanding Your Potential Issues With Dogs
All those benefits are great, but you might have to dig a bit deeper to understand if creating a dog-friendly office is great for your company.
Our suggestion? Send out a survey or bring it up in a group meeting. If you have a group meeting, follow it up with the fact that your employees can feel comfortable to email you or set up a meeting with you later about it. It can be difficult for some employees to mention their hesitations if your entire office is pro dog-friendly office. The best companies tend to take their employees needs and feedback into consideration. You may believe that because you would like a dog-friendly company the rest of the employees will want to work for one too. This may not strictly be the case.
You have to consider various things to make the dog friendly office is also people friendly too though:
- Pet Allergies: Some of your employees or clients may be severely allergic to dogs. You don’t want to upset their allergies or put them at risk by having a dog-friendly office.
- Fears: Some of your employees may have intense fears of dogs. You don’t want to cause them emotional distress.
- Building status: Moving away from your employees, if you lease or rent your office space, your landlord might not appreciate dogs in your office. This is something you must consider before creating a dog-friendly work environment.
- Cleanliness: Dogs are messy. You want your office to look professional, even when Fido is present.
Ultimately, no matter the benefits, you may have to put being a dog-friendly office on hold if it will upset your team. Get to know your employees and those who often visit your workplace, host focus groups, and take the decision to become dog-friendly seriously. However, for offices where it is not possible to have dogs there every day, perhaps a take your dog to work day once a month, may be a possible compromise.
Creating A Dog Friendly Policy That Is Helpful & Enforceable
Once you have the clearance to make your office dog-friendly, you must create a dog policy that is enforceable.
Here are some things you may want to include in your dog policy or pet policy:
- Aggressive Behavior: You should set up a zero-tolerance policy for aggressive behavior. If a dog bites a human or another animal, that could come back to bite you with a lawsuit.
- Barking: Barking can’t be helped 100% of the time, it’s just something that most dogs do. However, you can set up policies to make sure that it’s something owners discourage. Whilst service dogs are normally well trained to not bark unnecessarily, the same can’t be said for all dogs. You’ll need to ensure that only well trained dogs are allowed to come to the office.
- Accidents: When an accident happens, people need to know exactly what the protocol is. You especially need to consider this policy if there is property damage. Just like at home pet parents need to be responsible.
- Feeding: What policies will you have for making sure dogs get fed, when/where they eat, and cleaning up after they eat? Consider having a pet spot, dedicated to the dogs.
- Shedding: Dogs tend to shed a lot, and this can cause issues all over your office. Who cleans this up to make sure your office looks presentable daily?
- Dog Walking: How often can your employees go for walks with their dogs and how long can those walks be? If a dog goes to the bathroom during that walk, what is the cleaning policy? Are there outdoor areas for the dog?
- Distractions: Your employees should still be doing their job and not spending their entire day with their best friend. So, you should create a policy around cutting distractions and making sure your employees still do their jobs.
- Pet insurance and liability insurance may be required by pet owner so is something to investigate if considering adopting a dog-friendly workplace.
Draft up this written dog policy document that everyone who brings in a dog must read and sign. This sets expectations for the dog owners as well as creates a standardized set of guidelines that everyone (human and canine) must abide by.
Make sure that this policy is always available for people to read and review once they have signed. You want to make sure that your employees know the rules around bringing their dog to work.
Changing Your Space For Man’s Best Friend
Ultimately, your company will need to make some significant changes to accommodate dogs in your office. Here are some things you may need to do:
- Sound-proofing: As much as it would be nice to eliminate barking completely, sometimes that’s not possible. You may need to add some sound-proofing materials to specific spaces in your office that need it such as boardrooms and filming spaces.
- Dog-Free Zones: You may have to designate one or two areas in your office where dogs cannot roam free. Use gates or other blocks to keep dogs out of these areas.
- Trash Pickup: Dogs get into things. You will have to rotate where you keep trash and how often it gets picked up.
- Cleaning Crew: Ultimately, you may need to hire some professional help to give your office a deep clean more often with a dog-friendly office than you might without one.
These tiny changes will help make the dog-friendly experience better for your employees without dogs and anyone who happens to visit your office space.
Creating a dog-friendly work environment can significantly boost morale in your office, but you need to make sure that it’s right for your office. Consult with people on both sides of the dog debate in your office so you can make a decision that’s right for as many people in the company as possible.