Going to the Dogs

Seven percent of employers allow pets in the workplace, according to the Society of Human Resource Management – up from 5 percent five years ago. There are compelling reasons to let the dogs in, recruiting and retention chief among them.

Indeed, Entrepreneur reported that a majority of workers under age 30 valued the “cool” factor of canine colleagues. Professors at Virginia Commonwealth University conducted a study of one dog-friendly workplace, monitoring employees’ stress hormones through saliva samples; they concluded the presence of dogs benefited not only the dogs’ owners, but also the humans around them. They observed brighter moods, stronger morale and better communication when dogs were in the office.

“Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support,” said the aptly named Randolph Barker, professor of management at the VCU School of Business. “Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace.”

On the policy point, we agree. Doggedly.

We’ve helped a variety of employers draft pooch-related protocols. A few frequently asked questions about four-legged friends:

Can we designate which dog breeds are allowed?

Not really. But your policy should address aggression, biting and hostility.

How do we account for the extra time employees have to spend taking their dogs outside to potty?

Generally this is on the honor system. If you’re spending 30 minutes taking a creature outside, we’d like to see that made up somehow.

I’m a manager. I want to bring my dog, who is super and well-behaved, but I don’t want to let all of my employees bring their dogs. Can it just be mine?

It sure can, but consider what kind of precedent you’re setting. Remember that dogs in the workplace should bolster morale, not foster jealousy.

We have been letting our folks bring in their dogs, and it’s been very popular. We have a new employee who is allergic. Do we have to stop?

Most likely yes; a good policy will put employees first. You can’t expect a person who is allergic to put up with a place where their allergies are triggered daily, and you don’t want one of your colleagues to suffer. Policy around this will really help.


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