Office Pets and Your Company Policy

Woman, smiling, holding her dog. Office pets can be a good idea for your workplace, but not always.

As a business owner or manager, you’re used to making what feels like a hundred and one decisions a day. One decision that you may not have considered before is whether you should allow office pets.

There are pros and cons to having pets in the office and your employees are likely to have strong opinions on whether there should be a cat in the cubicle next to them. Here are some of the potential advantages and disadvantages to consider and how to create a pet policy that works for your team.

The Pros of Office Pets

It’s no secret that pets bring joy to people’s personal lives, so it should be no surprise that this can extend to the workplace as well. These are the main advantages of allowing pets in your place of business.

Improves Employee Morale and Engagement

Research has shown that pets can improve mental and physical health. Having pets in the office is likely to boost employee morale and engagement for the pet owner and the rest of the team, which can make your company more successful.

In fact, companies with high employee engagement and morale financially outperform their competitors because of improved work quality, employee retention, and increased sales.

Helps Recruit and Retain Talent

You may have an easier time attracting and retaining pet owners if you allow them to bring their pets to work. It can be expensive for dog owners to have a dog walker come or to send their dog to doggy daycare, so it’s likely that a pet policy could be a deciding factor for joining a company or staying at a job.

Having a pet policy could help you recruit and keep employees who don’t have pets but enjoy spending time with them without the responsibility of actually owning a pet themselves. Plus, the increased employee morale and engagement increases retention.

The Cons of Allowing Pets

No matter how much you love your “fur baby,” it’s important to address the reasons why it may not work for your company. The following potential downsides of allowing pets should be weighed alongside the benefits.

Diminishes Productivity

Office pets can be a distraction for the pet owner and your team. Dogs need to be walked multiple times a day, may want to play fetch when people are working, and could bark whenever someone comes into the office or when they hear a noise. Cats might walk on people’s desks, hop off bookshelves, and prance around. If the pets don’t get along or want to play all day, there could be fights, incessant barking, and other distractions.

Decreases Job Satisfaction

If some of your employees don’t like dogs or cats, are allergic to them, or the pets are disruptive, it can decrease job satisfaction. It’s likely that these employees would be unhappy at work and may look for work elsewhere while desperately trying to steer clear of Fido.

How to Institute a Pet Policy

There are a few steps you should take to decide whether you should allow office pets. If you choose to let people bring their furry friends to work, these steps can help you institute a policy that will work well for your team.

1. Make Sure It’s Legal

Start by checking national, state, and city animal laws and regulations. It might not be legal, or could be unsafe, for non-service animals to be in certain workplaces like restaurant kitchens, factories, hospitals, or construction sites. You should also ask the building owner if non-service animals are allowed.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog or miniature horse that is trained to do work or tasks that help an individual with a physical or mental disability. Dogs or miniature horses are the only allowed service animals and they must be able to do specific work and tasks associated with the person’s disability, such as helping someone who is blind or vision impaired walk safely.

If someone requests an accommodation, you can check this ADA factsheet for more information. Emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals under the ADA, but your state or city may have rules regarding emotional support animals.

2. Ask Your Team

If it is legal for you to allow pets, your next step is to see what your employees want. It’s helpful to send a survey so they can answer privately. Consider asking:

  • Would you like to have pets in the office?
  • How many days a week or month would you be comfortable having pets in the office?
  • What types of pets should be allowed in the office?
  • What areas should be off limit to pets?
  • Are you afraid of or allergic to any pets? What types?

3. Use the Feedback to Set Your Policy

Set a no pet policy if most of your employees do not want pets in the office. (Of course, there will be an exception for service animals.)

If most of your employees want office pets, use their feedback to steer your policy for non-service animals. For example, you may want to:

  • Only allow dogs and cats to come to work.
  • Only allow pets a set number of days per week or month.
  • Exclude pets from certain spaces, such as cafeterias, break rooms, or conference rooms.
  • Reduce the number of pets in the office at any given time by having an alternating schedule.

4. Write Detailed Guidelines

Your last step is to create guidelines for people who want to bring their pets to work. This is a crucial step because it can help mitigate some of the cons of having pets in the office. Here are some sample guidelines for non-service animals:

  • Employees must meet with HR for approval. HR will ask if the pet is vaccinated, housebroken, trained, and is unlikely to harm people, other animals, or property.
  • Employees must sign a waiver saying they are personally responsible for any harm caused by their pet.
  • Employees must stay with their pet throughout the workday and must make sure they aren’t a distraction.
  • If a pet causes harm or is a distraction, HR can require the pet to stay home.

Keep Improving Your HR Policies

Now you know how to set your policy on office pets but there are dozens of other HR policies you can implement or tweak to improve recruitment, retention, and employee morale. Save time on your research by signing up to receive free expert HR advice, news, and data from Monster.