When we surveyed our employees last month, we asked them what we could do to make them happier about returning to our company’s worksite. Many of their answers surprised us. The biggest surprise—many employees want to bring their pets to work with them.
We’ve discussed this among the management team and have decided to allow pets but want to understand the problems we might get into before moving forward. What precautions do we need to take?
Letting employees bring their pets to work has enormous benefits. It boosts morale; provides opportunities for employees to connect with each other over their pets and helps employers recruit for and retain employees.
Unintended Negative Consequences
Start by sending a quick one-question follow-up email asking employees to let you know if they support allowing pets in the workplace and whether they have any concerns. Some of your employees may have allergies, phobias, or other issues. You need to learn these ahead of time so you can resolve any unintended negative consequences. You’ll also want to check with your landlord and secure permission to bring pets into the building. Your insurance agent may require you to add a rider to your office policy.
Dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, birds, fish, lizards
Next, decide which pets you’ll allow—dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, birds, fish, lizards…? As soon as you allow dog owners to bring their pets on site, your cat-loving employees and those who adore other critters may expect equal access. Most employers exclude snakes, as they make too many employees nervous. Many employers exclude bunnies, as they have a distressing habit of chewing computer cords.
Who’s responsible and for what?
Next, set standards and define the pet owner’s responsibilities. You’ll want to ask employees who bring their pets to sign a waiver agreeing to take full responsibility for any damage caused by their pets. For the sake of other pets, you’ll want owners to prove their pets are current with their vaccinations, in good health, and without communicable infections or parasites such as fleas. For the sake of everyone, ask that all pets be clean, well-socialized to humans and other pets, house-trained, obedient and without a history of biting, chasing, aggressive behavior or excessive barking.
Who cleans up
Ask owners to agree to supervise and clean up after their pets and to leave them at home when they’re sick. You can define pet-free zones such as the kitchen, areas occupied by employees with allergies, and areas housing sensitive materials or equipment. Do large breeds need to remain on leash or restricted to their owner’s work space?
And if a dog goes after a cat
You need to plan for problems. What’s your plan if a dog goes after a cat or another dog or a cat tries to make a meal out of a bird? If you allow cats, you need to figure out where to place litter boxes. What can cause a pet to lose its on-site privileges? Do you want to institute a three-strikes and you’re out guideline? How many pets will you allow? If too many owners want their pets on site, will you rotate on-site privileges or grant access on a first-come, first-served basis?
You may want a policy, such as “Pets may not disrupt operations, damage property or create medical issues for other employees.” You might establish a trial period during which you test each pet’s ability to handle the work site atmosphere. You may ask that pet owners secure insurance coverage to handle any injuries their pets cause or to sign an indemnification agreement spelling out their responsibility to pay the cost of defending any lawsuit resulting from their pet. You may decide that large breeds need to remain on leashes, with their movements restricted to their owner’s work space.
Additionally, your policy needs to separately address employees who need service animals as a form of reasonable accommodation under the American’s with Disabilities act and state disability laws.
Way to go
Finally, you’ve accomplished a lot already. You asked your employees what you can do to make them happier. You plan to act on what they asked for, and you’re about to make some dogs and other pets very happy.
If you’re curious about the survey, here’s what an employee wrote, https://workplacecoachblog.com/2023/02/partner-with-your-employees-on-issues-that-matter-to-make-a-workplace-one-your-employees-will-celebrate/
(c) 2023 Lynne Curry
One thought on “Must Love Dogs, Cats, Ferrets, Hamsters…”
There are many key comments here, such as this one: “Next, set standards and define the pet owner’s responsibilities. You’ll want to ask employees who bring their pets to sign a waiver agreeing to take full responsibility for any damage caused by their pets. For the sake of other pets, you’ll want owners to prove their pets are current with their vaccinations, in good health, and without communicable infections or parasites such as fleas. For the sake of everyone, ask that all pets be clean, well-socialized to humans and other pets, house-trained, obedient and without a history of biting, chasing, aggressive behavior or excessive barking.” Also have a policy, check with your landlord, make employees sign a waiver and agree to be responsible for any damage caused by their pets. The potential for conflicting pets seems quite possible too–snakes, rabbits, dogs, cats, ferrets, etc. Prey, predators, resulting attack-avoidance behavior, etc. Still with some planning, discussion and agreement not to let pets run all over the place, this could work. It also depends on the size of the office. This could work well in a small office or in a place where most employees would not bring in their pets. Also, a low “airhead” quantity would help–having common sense, taking responsibility, being able to admit your pet probably is not a great office pet–and would minimize difficulties.