Pets In The Workplace: Benefits And Safety Tips

Studies show that taking your pet to work with you can be excellent for employee morale, which in turn, is great for business.

But not every workplace is practical or safe for pets. For example, a gardener might need to consider chainsaw safety for dogs! And how do you keep Fido from helping himself to lunch in a restaurant?

Read this guide to learn the benefits of taking your dog to work, as well as some important safety tips for pet-friendly workplaces.

What Pets Are Allowed?

Most pet owners would love to take their furry or feathered friend to work with them rather than leaving Fido or Tibbles home alone. But what pets are permitted in the workplace, and are you legally entitled to bring your pet to work with you?

Legalities

Generally, you’re not legally allowed to bring your pet to work with you. However, under the Equality Act, disabled employees can argue that they need to bring service animals to work for personal safety reasons.

So, a well-trained hearing dog might be essential for deaf workers, a guide dog for visually impaired staff, or a seizure alert dog for someone who has epilepsy. Therefore, if someone with a disability needed to have their pet at work with them, that would generally be permitted. 

However, unless your employer offers a monthly “bring your pet to work day,” animals are usually not legally entitled to be in the workplace. That said, many employers acknowledge that there are benefits to be had by allowing pets to accompany their owners to work. 

For example, Amazon, Google, Etsy, and Ben & Jerry’s all allow their employees to bring their pets to work. In fact, Amazon “employs” an incredible 7,000 dogs!

What Are Good Workplace Pets?

Some pets make better workplace companions than others. Here are the most popular office pets.

Dogs

pet dog walking

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs are the most popular pets in the country. So, it’s no surprise that a man’s best friend is welcome in pet-friendly offices across the US.

Friendly dogs with calm temperaments make wonderful therapy animals, helping to relieve stress and bringing workers together. In fact, dogs are known to enhance team bonding in an office environment, as well as raising workers’ spirits. Dogs also encourage employees to get more exercise and fresh air. After all, the office mutt is always ready for a stroll or a game outside.

Cats

In second place on the workplace, pet popularity poll are cats. 

Petting or playing with the office feline is a great way of relieving stress, and the sound of purring can have health benefits for employees, including reducing the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Cats can be better for small offices with fewer staff members since Tibbles doesn’t require walking, takes up less space, and is generally calmer and less disruptive than a boisterous hound.

Fish

Fish make excellent office pets. An aquarium teeming with beautiful, colorful fishes makes an impressive feature in a waiting room or reception area, and a small tank containing a betta fish is perfect as a desk pet for a cubicle.

Watching fish is calming and has proven to have health benefits for employees and visitors alike. Also, aside from remembering to feed the fish each day and maintain the aquarium filters properly, fish are much less time-consuming than a dog or cat. And that’s important in a busy office.

Rabbits

Rabbit on top of a wooden log

Rabbits make excellent office pets. Bunnies are silent, non-disruptive, clean, and easy to care for. 

Although rabbits need fresh air, exercise, and fresh grass to nibble on, they are just as happy bouncing around the office.

Hamsters

Hamsters make ideal cubicle pets. A cage doesn’t take up much space on a desktop, and the little creatures are very easy to transport, too. These little guys are easy to care for, cheap to feed, and pretty non-disruptive. Just remember to oil that squeaky exercise wheel once in a while!

Birds

Birds can make entertaining office pets, adding color and life to a drab office environment. A small cage for finches, budgerigars, or cockatiels doesn’t take up much space and can easily fit in a hallway, break room, or reception area.

Some species of pet birds can be taught simple tricks or even learn to repeat a few words or phrases. Just be mindful of what you say about your boss when the office parrot is within earshot!

Hermit Crabs

If you want a cheap, low-maintenance desk pet, hermit crabs could be the answer.

A well-aquascaped tank containing a few of these fascinating little creatures looks great on a desktop or in a reception area and is sure to create a talking point. Artistic employees might enjoy customizing a few shells for the crabs, too.

Geckos

A gecko on a large leaf

If you have employees with pet allergies, something with scales rather than fur is the way to go.

Geckos and other small lizards can make interesting, relatively low-maintenance office pets. They don’t take up much space, are totally quiet, and don’t need to be taken for walkies during the day. 

Workplace Pets To Avoid!

Of course, there are some pets that are not welcome in the workplace.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pig on hand of a person

Now, you might think that guinea pigs are cute, furry, and cuddly, most of which is true. But Guinea pigs don’t make the best office pets.

How so?

Well, Guineas need to live in groups rather than alone. These rodents can also be quite noisy, squealing loudly and scrapping amongst themselves. Also, if you put male and female Guinea Pigs together, you get babies. Lots and lots of babies!

Tarantulas

Although these hairy arachnids might seem like a low-maintenance, edgy kind of office pet, many people are terrified of spiders. So, just imagine the carnage that would ensue if one of these eight-legged beasties got loose in your office!

Snakes

A snake on the floor

Snakes are another no-no for office pets. 

Again, lots of people are frightened of these slithering, cold-blooded animals, so an escapee is never a good thing in a confined office environment. Snakes are also quite smelly, and they eat live insects or frozen rodents, neither of which you want to store in your office kitchen.

The Pros And Cons Of Having Pets In The Workplace

Now we’ve narrowed down what creatures make good workplace pets, let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of keeping one.

What Are The Benefits Of Pets In The Workplace?

Keeping a pet in your workplace has lots of positives, including:

  • One of the big benefits of pets in the workplace is stress reduction in employees and can even lower blood pressure and help to prevent stroke.
  • There is a direct correlation between employee morale and a pet-friendly office environment. In fact, the presence of animals or fish in the office can boost employee satisfaction and increase production.
  • Pets help to encourage team bonding and social interaction through a common interest.
  • Employees can save money on doggie daycare costs or dog walking services. These additional costs can be quite high, so being allowed to bring a dog to work can be seen as a big perk for many employees.
  • Allowing pets in the office can improve customer perception of the business ethic. Many customers are animal-lovers who have their own pets at home, so the opportunity to interact with the office pet helps to make the visit more enjoyable and productive.
  • A pet-friendly environment also helps to make the business appear more forward-thinking and progressive, as well as softening the company’s image.
  • Businesses that permit their employees to bring their pets to work typically enjoy higher staff attendance levels and fewer sick days. Also, employees in pet-friendly offices tend to be more willing to work longer hours since they don’t need to rush home to tend to their pets.
  • Allowing pets in the workplace can also work as an excellent recruiting tool. Many people have pets, and the idea that you can bring your beloved furry friend to work with you is very appealing. In fact, employee retention is often improved for businesses that “employ” pets!

What’s Not So Good About Keeping Office Pets?

Like most things in life, there are a few downsides to having pets in the office environment.

Distraction

Having a dog or cat in the office can be a big distraction for the animal’s owner and for their coworkers.

Dogs need walking, and there can be issues around whining or barking. People are naturally drawn to a pet, leading to employees spending too much time away from their desks.

Pet Allergies

A woman having Pet Allergies

Perhaps the biggest drawback to having animals at work is that many people are allergic to pet dander.

If someone has an allergy issue, suffering from streaming eyes, sneezing fits, and a bunged-up nose is not pleasant at the best of times, and certainly not at work. So, unless the pet concerned is not furry or the office dog is a very light shedding breed, such as a Goldendoodle, keeping an office pet is a no-no for some employees.

Phobias

Some people are frightened of certain species of animals. For example, ornithophobia or the fear of birds is pretty common, and many folks are very nervous around dogs.

That means the employer must create a pet-free zone in the office for people who would rather stay well away from Fido or Tweety Pie.

Risk Of Damage

Even the most well-behaved dog or cat can inflict damage to the office premises and to people’s personal possessions.

A frustrated dog might go on a chewing rampage, or a feisty feline could shred the carpets with her claws, causing expensive damage.

Health And Safety

Health And Safety text on a post it note

If there’s a cat, dog, or rabbit running around the office, there’s the potential for someone to trip over it. That could lead to expensive legal action being taken against the company by staff, visitors, or third-party service providers, and a subsequent hike in public and employers’ liability insurance premiums.

Hygiene And Cleanliness Issues

Although dogs must be completely potty trained before being permitted to come into the office and cats should have a clean litter box available at all times, accidents can happen.

Let’s face it, no one wants to get dog mess on their shoes when they’re at work or discover that Tibbles has relieved herself on the photocopier paper. Also, some species can carry parasites or diseases that are communicable to humans, and you definitely don’t want that kind of risk in the workplace. 

Create A Pet Policy

If the company is to allow pets in the workplace, a comprehensive pet policy must be drawn up and put in place before the animals arrive, and that pet-friendly policy must be strictly adhered to.

The pet policy is there for the protection of all parties involved, including the employer, the employee, and the pets.

What Should Be Included In A Pet Policy?

The pet policy should include:

  • Consequences for misbehavior, such as banning the animal or placing it on probation.
  • Clear guidelines and specifications on what species of pets are permitted in the workplace.
  • Clarifying the frequency of pet visits, e.g., daily or weekly visits.
  • Details on how the pets must be contained during their visit, for example, leashed or tethered to the owner’s desk, kept in a crate or cage, or allowed full freedom to roam.
  • Owners must have pet insurance for their animals that covers damage to property, injury, and recovery costs should the pet go missing. 

Guidelines For Owners

The company pet policy should also include a section that contains clear guidelines for pet owners, such as: 

  • The owner is fully responsible for the pet.
  • Proof of ownership must be provided to the employer.
  • Vaccinations (if required) must be up to date.
  • The pet must be insured, depending on the species.
  • Dogs must have third party liability insurance cover.
  • The owner must clean up any mess made by their pet.
  • If anyone in the workplace suffers from a pet allergy, is afraid of the animal, or objects to its behavior, the animal must be removed.
  • Warning signs must be shown, informing visitors that the office contains animals.
  • Pet toys must be kept in the animal’s cage so as not to cause a trip hazard.
  • Dogs, cats, and other small furries must be checked and treated for worms, fleas, and ticks at least every six months.

Safety Tips For Pets In The Workplace

As well as employee safety, the well-being of workplace pets must be taken into consideration. Animals are curious and get into all mischief, so it’s essential that consideration is given to how to keep workplace pets safe and secure.

How pets are kept safe at work will depend on the nature of the pet and the business. For example, safety provisions will be different for a dog on a building site, a cat in a restaurant, and a rabbit in an office building.

Animals can be injured by accidentally falling off desks, counters, and even chairs. So, your employer might want to keep pets in crates, tethered to desks, or kept out of certain areas by using baby gates.

A few basic rules for keeping pets safe at work include:

  • All vaccinations must be kept up to date, including:
    • DDHP, Bordetella, rabies for dogs
    • Rabies, FVRCP for cats
  • Where species-appropriate, all pets must have current flea, tick, and worm prevention treatment.
  • Pets that are sick or recovering from an illness must remain at home until fully recovered.
  • All pets must be well-behaved and friendly. The last thing you want is for a dog fight to break out in reception!

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed our guide to the benefits of keeping pets in the workplace. If you loved it, don’t forget to share!

These days, many forward-thinking companies are permitting workers to bring their pets to work, recognizing that employee well-being can be directly influenced by the presence of a pet in the office. That can help to reduce stress levels, encourage team cohesion, reduce absenteeism, and present a friendly, happy company image to customers.

Do you take your pet to work? In the comments box below, why not tell us how you keep your pet safe and happy while you’re working.

Meet our writer

Alison Page was brought up with dogs and various other pets! For a few years, Alison worked as a Practice Manager in a small animal veterinary clinic. Alison is now a full-time writer, specializing in creating articles on the care and training of dogs, cats, and fish.

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