Compliance for HR, HR Management

Post COVID, should your workplace be pet friendly?

As many businesses reopen and employees start returning to work, it’s important to remember how big of a change this will be for many. After more than a year of working from home, most people have settled into new routines, especially with their pets, whether they’re long-time family members or one of the many companions adopted during quarantine. 

“The past year of quarantining and working from home has brought more pets into American families than ever before and significantly deepened the bonds we share with them,” according to Ron Coughlin, Petco’s chairman and chief executive officer. 

A recent Petco survey revealed that: 

  • 65 percent who cannot bring their pets to work worry about their pet’s separation anxiety. 
  • 62 percent said they have a more positive attitude toward companies that allow pets at work. 
  • 44 percent want their employers to adopt a pet-friendly workplace, and 41 percent would consider switching jobs if it meant they could bring their pet to work. 

“As employers think about their return-to-work plans, the time is ripe for them to consider how all the new pets in U.S. households fit within the ‘new normal,’ ” Coughlin added. 

Employers should be sensitive to these sudden changes for employees and pets alike, and look for ways to minimize the difficulty of the transition back to the office. 

Pets in the office? Pets in the office!

Many workplaces already allow pets to some extent. If yours doesn’t, it may be time to consider allowing your employees to bring their pets to work, if not permanently then at least temporarily. Of course, you’ll want to have some policies in place, as not all workplaces can accommodate pets. 

“There are a lot of factors to consider,” according to Jonathan A. Segal, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia and New York City. “Do any employees have pet allergies? What protocols will be put in place to keep the office clean? How will the employer handle potential distractions, damage, messes, and noises that pets may create?”

“The employer should set clear ground rules about when and where the animal will be during the workday and how it will be cared for by the employee, with as little disruption to the office as possible,” Adam Sencenbaugh, an attorney with Haynes and Boone in Austin and San Antonio, said. “The employer should consider ensuring that the animals are housebroken and that the employee who brings the animal be responsible for supervising the animal during the workday.”

“Don’t expect your co-workers to help you manage your pet,” Johnna Devereaux said. She’s the owner and director of nutrition and wellness at Bow Wow Labs in Novato, California. There, owners are responsible for feeding, walking, disciplining, and rewarding dogs. “Remember,” she added, “bringing your dog to work should not make it harder for other people—or you—to do your job, so keep this in mind during your workday and be considerate.” 

Bryan Stoddard of Homewares Insider website in Teterboro, New Jersey, understands that dogs, in particular, may disturb some clients or other employees. But if rules are followed and everyone is respectful, the benefits are numerous. Pet owners are less stressed about their companions being left at home alone, and other workers tend to be more relaxed — even more, willing to work overtime — when pets are part of the workplace. 

For more information on how to navigate the issue of pets in the workplace, get in touch today. We’re just a phone call away. 

 

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