By Penketh Group Insights Team
21st June 2018
Pets are a massive part of our daily lives, with more than 45% of the UK population owning some sort of animal. Statistics for 2018 from Statista also demonstrate that the country is currently home to around 51 million pets, the most popular being a dog (26%) so surely, it’s time to start merging our pets with our professional lives. Google, Amazon, Etsy and Ben & Jerry’s are among those already doing it.
Many of us at Penketh Group would get behind a pet-friendly workspace but for some people, it’s an absolute no-no. In this blog post we explore the pros and cons of having pets in the office…
The benefits of allowing pets in the workplace
Nestle Purina conducted a survey as part of their Health and Wellbeing agenda and found that nearly half (47%) of 18-24 year olds consider being able to bring their pet to work a perk. A considerable 34% of those who work in an office which permits pets were found to be happier and healthier – 10% even said pets help to break the ice with senior staff, forging more collaborative work relationships and removing the obstacle of professional hierarchy.
So, it seems there is scientific proof behind arguments which are pro pet-friendly workplaces but what are the other main arguments for bringing our animals into work?
A good way to attract and retain staff – With the evolution of more innovative and flexible workspaces, companies are having to put more effort into attracting and retaining staff – especially young talent and millennials. A survey run by Banfield Pet Hospital in 2016 found that 82% of employees feel a greater loyalty to pet-friendly companies, with 88% also agreeing that pets improve work morale and 86% saying they reduce stress.
Allowing pets in the workplace will help staff reduce day care costs and position the employer as somebody who is considerate out the personal lives and convenience of their staff.
Stimulate social interaction among employees – How many times have you reached for your phone to show your colleagues a photograph of your pet? Animals provide a talking point, there’s no doubt about. Having pets in the office will encourage social interaction between team members and forge relationships that might never have been sparked otherwise. These connections will only benefit productivity levels and workplace communication.
Reduce stress levels in the workplace – A well-cited study by the Virginia Commonwealth University found that Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels were lower throughout the day in those who brought their dog to work, compared to those who didn’t. Pets are known for having a positive impact on mood and it seems this translates into the workspace. Looks like we had better update our blog post on how to manage workplace stress…
Create a relaxed working environment – With stress levels reduced, the office atmosphere becomes a lot more relaxed which, in turn, fosters an atmosphere far more conducive to collaboration and communication. Allowing pets in the office will make the workspace feel more laidback and therefore enable staff to feel more comfortable and at home which will come across in their professional output.
The negative side of having pets in the office
While there seems to be many advantages that come with condoning a pet-friendly workplace, there are of course a few cons that will need to be considered before making any final decisions…
Legal requirements and liability – With animals often comes innocent destruction. Dogs love to chew things and cats will scratch anything they can get their claws on, which includes your expensive equipment, office furniture and employee belongings. Even if an animal has previously shown no tendencies of violence, there is always a risk that they could bite or harm a member of staff too.
If you are considering a pet-friendly workplace, explore your legal liability obligations first. You will also need to put a Pet Policy in place which employees will need to adhere to.
Distraction and lack of focus – While we hate to rain on the parade, it is true that having pets around the workplace can be a serious source of distraction and cause staff to lose focus on the task in hand and waste valuable working hours.
When do you say enough is enough? – While dogs, cats, tropical fish and even hamsters aren’t completely out of place in the workplace, it can be difficult for employers to know where to draw the line when they advocate a pet-friendly office. Tarantulas, rats and stick insects are amongst some of the most common household pets but not necessarily something you’d like to find sitting on your colleague’s desk.
Dealing with pet allergies in the office – According to research by Allergy UK, more than 20% of the UK population are affected by one or more allergic disorders, which means there’s a good chance that multiple members of any workforce will suffer with pet allergies. We hate to be the bearer of bad news but you will need to put the health and wellbeing of staff above your desire to cuddle your four-legged friend at your desk.
How clients perceive a pet-friendly workplace – Last but not least, it’s essential that you consider the impression a pet-friendly workplace might have on your clients and customers. If you regularly host meetings with external parties, the various risks outlined above that come with having animals in the office are something that you would need to take extremely seriously.