Employee wellbeing - something we’ve all had to manage closely as people have been forced to work from home in not just one, but two lockdowns in the UK. Working from home can be lonely and take a toll on people's mental health but one thing that is definitely benefitting employee wellbeing as people have been confined at home is being able to spend more time with their pets.
It begs the question, should companies allow employees to bring their pets to work and create animal friendly environments in an effort to improve employee wellbeing?
A recent study by Nationwide in partnership with the Human Animal Bond Research Institute showed that 90% of employees who worked in a pet friendly environment felt more connected to their company’s mission and more engaged with their work, compared to only 65% of employees in non-pet friendly work environments. Which is a quite compelling argument for bringing Fido to work!
Here are the Benefits
Having a pet in the workplace comes with a range of employee wellbeing benefits, including:
- Reducing stress - according to the Psychology Department of the University of Southern California, having a pet in the workplace lowers stress levels and creates a sense of camaraderie in the workplace, making for a more comfortable, welcoming work environment. Reducing stress also comes with the benefit of fewer stress-related sick days therefore increasing productivity.
- Improved work-life balance - the University of Southern California also stresses the effect on work-life balance: “Spending too much time too close to a project, problem, or other work can inhibit productivity and cause unnecessary stress.
- Increased employee satisfaction - HR Daily Advisor believes that having a pet in the workplace increases employee satisfaction and reduces illness and improves work relationships. Another benefit is that it not only saves money on pet sitters and the like, but it also allows employees to keep to a more regular schedule, not having to worry about their pets at home.
- Improved physical as well as mental health - dogs in particular need regular exercise and walks to relieve themselves. Having a dog in the workplace forces you to leave your desk and go outside every couple of hours, allowing for a mental break and the health benefits of a quick walk to the park. This also provides opportunities for social engagement, such as the opportunity for a quick coffee run with a colleague while walking the dog.
Pets remind people to pause and step back from whatever they are involved in.” They go on to say that pets offer short temporary distractions, such as playtimes, short walks and other mental breaks, including much needed comic relief!
Before instituting a pets-at-work policy there are however a potential problems that should be considered:
- Allergies - many people are allergic to animals so this needs to be taken into consideration. Offer a pet free space for anyone who may have concerns.
- Unpredictability - animals can be disruptive, no matter how well trained they are, which could cause liability issues should an accident occur. Make sure this is in your pet policy.
- Responsibility - pet owners need to take responsibility for their pets at all times. This includes cleaning up after them and ensuring that all their vaccinations are up to date. Should their pet cause any damage, the pet owner would need to sort it out.
- Lease restrictions - pets may not even be allowed in the building. Ensure that this is not a problem before considering a pet friendly policy.
- Cultural or other considerations - for religious or cultural reasons some people may not like animals around. This could even be as simple as being afraid of dogs. Make sure that you take everyone’s opinions into consideration before moving ahead.
Tips for Implementing a Pet Policy
Now that you understand the benefits to your employee wellbeing to having an office pet as well as any potential problems, you need to make sure that you have a pet policy in place. HR Daily Advisor recommends you consider the following:
- Make sure your policy includes any potential liability issues that may come up and that each pet owner takes responsibility for his or her pet and that they understand any expectations. This could include maintaining the health of their pet (for example immunisations and flea treatments) and what happens should the pet cause a problem.
- Speak to your insurance company and legal department to make sure you understand what will be covered should a pet cause damage to an employee or property. You may need to pay for extra cover to insure against any liability in the future.
- Make sure there is time and space in the workplace to allow employees to take their pets out to relieve themselves and eat and drink without being problematic for others.
- Consider putting a process in place to pre-approve any pets before they are allowed in the workplace. This could include veterinary records, health, temperament, size and facilities needed.
Having pets in the workplace can be a huge asset to your employee wellbeing, as pets are known to reduce stress, benefit mental wellbeing and improve our health in general. Make sure your pet policy is inclusive for all types of animals, not only the more traditional pets like dogs and cats, consider how small rodents, fish or reptiles can also be accommodated.