Focus
August 16, 2019

Learn how to create a safe, pet-friendly workplace

In Colorado, which recently came in second for the most pet-friendly state in the country, every day is National Dog Day. But every dog does indeed have its own day — and with the official National Dog Day just around the corner, employers may wish to embrace their teams furry friends.

Why employers are considering a pet-friendly workplace

With the unemployment rate in Colorado at a record low, employers are competing to retain employees — and unique benefits can help organizations stand out. Furthermore, research shows that bringing dogs to work offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Stress relief: Having dogs in the workplace provides employees with extra social support, which helps protect them from the negative effects of stress, according to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
  • Improved morale: An overwhelming 93 percent of HR decision-makers cited improved morale as the top benefit of pet-friendly workplace policies, according to a survey from Banfield Pet Hospital. For 91 percent of respondents, the policies also contributed to better work-life balance and increased loyalty to the company.
  • Closer interpersonal ties: Anecdotal evidence points to an enhanced social atmosphere when dogs come to work, finds the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Closer relationships between your staff mean youll benefit from a more unified, productive team.
  • Better overall health: Pets promote decreased blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels, according to the CDC. In other words, pets can reduce the chances that your employees will experience a heart attack or a stroke.

You might be particularly interested to know that pet-friendly policies can help attract younger employees — like millennials and Gen Z, 80 percent of whom own dogs according to the National Pet Owners Survey from the American Pet Products Association. One survey even found that 70 percent of millennials would take a pay cut if they could bring their fur babies to work with them every day.

How to implement safe pet-friendly policies

Regardless of your enthusiasm for infusing your workplace with the benefits Fido or Rover can offer, you need to first ensure that your workplace is equipped to handle both dogs and people safely. Celebrating National Dog Day can be the ideal catalyst for giving it a try.

Here's what you need to know to create a pup-suitable environment:

1.    Survey your employees
To ensure youre making a decision that works for everyone, find out how your team feels about pets. One person might have severe allergies, for example, or simply be frightened of dogs. Surveying your employees before implementing the policy will prevent unforeseen negative consequences. And if there is a special situation at play — for example, that employee who is allergic to pet dander — perhaps you allow pets only when they are working remotely. Being flexible can be the key to avoiding issues.

2.    Talk to your team about their pets to make sure theyre good candidates
Consider safety first, as not all dog breeds play nicely with humans or other pets. For example, some dogs may be overly skittish, and others may be aggressive. According to Pinnacol claims, bites and scratches are the most common animal-related injuries, accounting for about 800 worker injuries per year. Ask each pet owner to think about how their pet might react in a variety of situations, and let them know theyre responsible for their pets antics. You could even consider requiring vaccination reports. Remember the liability factor; not only will the pet be interacting with your own team, but also potentially with clients, vendors and others who visit you on-site.

3.    Create behavior guidelines
Employees don’t want to listen to a dog bark while theyre on a call, or to have a pooch that needs to potty interrupt an important meeting. Make sure that pet owners are clear about where dogs can relieve themselves and how they can adhere to a schedule that will prevent accidents. Its also a good idea to institute a policy that makes it easy for employees to report any antisocial or disruptive behavior in a nonconfrontational way as animals in the workplace can prove to be disruptive to the team, customers or suppliers.

4.    Consider whether to make every day bring your dog to work day
A trial period illuminates the positives and pitfalls of pups in the office. After your initial foray, evaluate whether your workplace is conducive to pets and whether your employees pets are a good fit. You also want to contact your lease manager to make sure that the practice is permitted, and you should get the ins and outs concerning liability if an animal causes damage or injury. 

Interestingly, animal bites in the workplace occur most often during July and August, according to Pinnacol claims data. Whether thats because of failed experiments or other reasons is unclear, but its important to note that not every work environment can successfully accommodate pets.

To implement a pet-friendly workplace, stay open-minded, commit to finding out what works best for you and your team, and be clear on the liability issues you might encounter. Just remember that worker safety should be your top concern.

Want to know more about implementing a pet-friendly workplace or protecting your workers from animal-related injuries? Contact your safety consultant or email safetyoncall@pinnacol.com.

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