Running Your Business

Pet-Friendly Offices: A Guide to Letting Furry Friends Into Your Workplace

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Posted by June 22, 2017
For many employees, pet-friendly offices have a special way of lifting morale and making work a lot more fun in general. Since many pet owners consider themselves to be “pet parents,” making your office pet friendly can be a great decision. But is it the right choice for your business? Many people love being around dogs and enjoy the comfort, fun and love that they provide. But you should examine the pros and cons first to ensure it’s a feasible choice for your company. There are considerations you should take into account before becoming pet friendly.

Understand the Law

Depending on what type of business you’re running, certain laws might regulate whether or not you can have pets at work. For example, you’ve probably heard about cat cafes, a new trend that lets customers pet cats while drinking coffee. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. In New York City, for example, you can have animals at restaurants but only in certain defined outdoor dining areas. Other cities may require a wall, hallways or rooms separating cats or other pets from places where food is served. And even if you’re not a food establishment, other rules may affect you. Genentech, a biotech company, can’t have pets in the office because of federal regulations.
There are other legal implications to consider, too. You might have to buy extra liability insurance if you start allowing pets, in case there’s an accident. FindLaw suggests that employees should have their own liability insurance for any pets they bring to the office. So consult with your attorney to make sure your business can legally have pets at work before you start.

Be Careful About Allergies

Some people are allergic to dogs or cats. If you decide to have a pet-friendly office, make sure you have “pet-free” spaces for employees with allergies. Give them a separate office away from dander and fur. Or you might take Salesforce’s approach and let employees book space in a special room for their dogs, rather than letting the dogs roam free. Keep in mind that if you know an employee is severely allergic and you still allow pets, you might have a negligence case on your hands, FindLaw reported. So check with your employees before starting a new policy, and then make your policy very clear to anyone you’re hiring. And once you’ve started welcoming pets: clean, clean, clean! When you have in-house pets, you’ll need to clean more frequently and use products that are designed for pet allergens.

Pet Policies and Etiquette

Set up a pet-friendly policy that’s clearly spelled out. Let your employees know what kind of pets they’re allowed to bring, how often, whether the pets should stay on a leash and who’s responsible if there’s an accident or animal bite. At VMWare, employees sign an etiquette agreement before bringing their dog to work. Because some pets don’t get along, you might want to designate days for specific pets. That’s why PetPlan has a calendar that shows what days employees can bring pets and which pets are signed up to visit, CIO reported. It ensures that only pets who get along show up on the same day.

Ideas for Pet-Friendly Perks

To make things easier, you might just have one dog or cat who is the designated “office pet,” rather than letting employees bring their own pets to work. Some Kimpton hotels, for example, have a dog who is the designated Director of Pet Relations and sits at the front desk, greeting guests. And MakeSpace, a storage company, has one official office pup who everyone loves.
If your employees do bring pets to work, go all out for them! If you have a fenced backyard, make sure there aren’t any holes where a dog can escape. Provide onsite water bowls, beds, toys, and treats. Make sure the office is pet-proofed, so there aren’t any cords or toxic plants a pet could get into.

Show Your Support Even Without Having Pets in the Office

If you ultimately decide that allowing furry friends in the office isn’t right for your business, you can still support the pet parents who work for you. Consider providing pet insurance or offer discounts for doggie daycare. You can even sponsor clubs for employees who own cats or dogs. Google has a Dooglers group for employees who own dogs, where they can visit a dog-themed cafe on the Google campus. If an employee with a pet is going on a business trip, consider funding a pet-boarding program or a pet-friendly hotel stay. There are many things you can do to show your support.
Furry animals can boost morale, make work more fun and lower stress levels. Just check with your employees and attorney before starting a new pet-friendly policy, and then make sure that policy is very clear. Although there’s a lot of planning you’ll need to do before pets start visiting the office, many companies find that having pet-friendly offices can be worthwhile in the end.

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