It is October 4 and on this day, many companies annually hang up the garlands in the office. It is, after all, 'Animal Day'. These companies have recognized the benefits of pet-friendly policies. They have taken steps to welcome pets in the workplace in particular, and from a scientific point of view, this is not such a crazy idea at all. While there can certainly be drawbacks to pets in the workplace in some circumstances, the benefits speak volumes.
The 7 benefits of pets in the office
Stress reduction: The presence of pets, especially dogs, can help reduce stress in the workplace. Petting or playing with an animal can be relaxing and help employees calm down in stressful situations.
Increased satisfaction and morale: Pets can create a happier and more positive atmosphere in the office. This can increase employees' satisfaction with their workplace.
Breaks and physical activity: When employees bring their dogs to work, they should take regular breaks to walk the dog. This can encourage employees to get up and exercise regularly, which is good for their health.
Promoting social interactions: Pets can be a topic of conversation and encourage people to talk to each other. This can promote cooperation and team spirit.
Increased productivity: For some people, the presence of their pet can reassure them and help them concentrate better, which can lead to increased productivity.
Reduced absenteeism: If employees are allowed to bring their pets, they may not have to worry about things like walking the dog during the working day. This can lead to fewer absences.
Attract and retain talent: Pet-friendly policies can be an attractive condition of employment for potential employees and can help companies attract and retain talent.
The science behind pets in the office
All 7 arguments may sound nice, but what does the science say about pets in the office? Well, it's quite clear about that, because the right handling of pets creates quite a few positive chemicals in your body.
Starting with cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Interacting with pets, such as petting a dog or cat, can help lower cortisol levels in the blood, indicating a reduction in stress.
Oxytocin, also called the cuddle, or love hormone, increases. Physical contact with both humans and animals releases oxytocin and that hormone promotes feelings of connection, trust, and social bonding. The increase in oxytocin can also help reduce anxiety and stress.
Then when you play with a pet, more serotonin and endorphins, also known as the happiness hormone, are released and these give you an overall feeling of well-being.
Finally, your adrenaline levels can drop when you take a moment to distract yourself with a pet and this can make you feel calmer and relaxed.
What can you do if some employees don't want pets in the office?
Some people are simply against everything, but most have valid arguments if they don't want pets in the office. The main reasons are fear, allergy attacks, hygiene, and too many distractions.
Fear of pets: Some people, who can be employees but also customers, have a particular fear of animals. They just don't feel comfortable with them, which can seriously affect their well-being.
Allergy attacks: Very annoying for people themselves is if you are allergic to animals. This can lead to mild health complaints such as sneezing, as well as itchy eyes and even asthma attacks.
Hygiene: Not all pets are equally clean and if you suffer from a fear of germs, you definitely want to stay away from pets in the workplace. Pets can simply bring dirt or germs into the working environment.
Too many distractions: Are you just enjoying your work, suddenly a dog or cat comes running between your legs. People who find it hard to stay focused are often bothered by pets in the workplace, and understandably so.
What to look out for when allowing pets in the office
Within one of my companies, a designer always had two albino rats running around in his jumper, and at a friend's company, there is a (very scary) reptile in a glass cage on the shop floor. You can't think of anything possible if you allow all pets. For most entrepreneurs, it is therefore wise to make some arrangements to bring pets to work.
Analyze the impact on existing employees
It would be very directive to simply decide, without considering certain employees, that pets are suddenly always - or no longer - welcome in the office. Even if there are opponents, it should be possible to discuss this, and there is usually a solution for everything.
Decide which animals are and are not welcome
If one employee walks around with a boa constrictor around his neck while another brings a cage with 30 parakeets to work, it can quickly become an animal mess. It is therefore wise to make clear agreements about which pets are and are not welcome.
But this is not just about the type of animals, it is also about rules of behavior. If a pet cannot behave in the workplace, this can lead to very undesirable and even dangerous situations.
Make agreements about hygiene
Just as you would rather not sit next to an unshowered colleague who smells of sweat, you don't want a cat or dog spreading hair, drool or worse everywhere. Pets can be hygienic, but that is something the owner has to take care of.
Provide a separate pet area
Because sometimes you cannot avoid situations where the dog is not welcome for a while, you can make a separate animal room. The pet should feel comfortable there, but this can avoid many awkward situations.
Which well-known businesses have pet-friendly policies?
If you decide to adopt a pet-friendly policy, don't feel alone. Many businesses have gone before you, and they really don't do it just to be allowed to hang the garlands once a year. Consider, for example:
Google: Google's campus in Mountain View, California, is known for its pet-friendly policies. Although they mainly allow dogs, they are known for their relaxed attitude towards pets.
Amazon: Amazon's headquarters in Seattle often has hundreds of dogs walking into the building on any given day. They even offer special facilities for dogs, such as a dog park.
Etsy: The online trading platform Etsy is known for its dog-friendly offices, which contributes to the company's relaxed and creative atmosphere.
Ben & Jerry's: The Vermont headquarters of this ice cream company has long been dog-friendly. They believe that bringing pets along contributes to a happy and productive work environment.
Zynga: This tech company, known for games like FarmVille, not only has a dog-friendly office but also special facilities like a rooftop dog park.
Bissell: This manufacturer of cleaning products has pet-friendly policies and even offers a "Pet Spot", which is a special area where employees can groom and let their pets play.
Eventbrite: This ticketing and event technology platform has an open-door policy for dogs, which benefits its work culture.
The growth of a pet-friendly work culture is more than just a trend. It is a movement that improves employee well-being and productivity and helps companies attract and retain talent.
As we hang the streamers today in honor of Animal Day, we should remember that the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace can be felt all year round.
Of course, as with any innovation, there are challenges and nuances to consider. But with the right approach and policies, both humans and animals can thrive in a shared working environment.
On this Animal Day and every day that follows, we encourage companies to embrace footprints in the workplace and recognize the power of a pet-friendly culture.
Happy Animal Day to all four-legged friends and their loving owners!
What are the main benefits of allowing pets in the office?
Some key benefits include stress reduction, increased satisfaction and morale among employees, promotion of social interactions, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and attracting and retaining talent.
Are there scientific studies that support the benefits of pets in the workplace?
Yes, various studies indicate that interaction with pets can lead to a decrease in cortisol levels (stress hormone) and an increase in oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, indicating a reduction in stress and an increased feeling of well-being.
How do you deal with employees who are allergic to animals or have a fear of pets?
It's important to maintain an open dialogue and provide suitable accommodations, such as separate spaces for pets or specific days when pets are allowed. This ensures everyone feels comfortable and safe in the workplace.
Are there specific pets that are better suited for the office environment than others?
Answer: Although this can depend on the specific office and its employees, dogs are often the most common pets allowed due to their sociable nature. However, it's essential to consider the temperament and behavior of individual animals.
How do you ensure that a pet-friendly policy doesn't distract from work?
Clear guidelines and rules are crucial. This can include specific zones where pets are allowed, times when they can roam, and the owner's responsibility to ensure their pet exhibits good behavior and doesn't distract others from their tasks.