In today’s hectic and stressful work environment, employers are actively exploring creative ways to boost their employees’ well-being as well as productivity. A trending initiative embraced by some workplaces is having pet-friendly policies. The pet ownership rate in Ireland had increased during COVID-19 (1). This is because people were now able to balance working from home and caring for their furry friends. Additionally, having pets around provides significant physical and emotional advantages.
In a study by ISPCA (The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)and Mars Petcare, 56% of people believe pet-friendly companies are great places to work (2). This blog highlights the advantages of such policies for employers and their companies.
The benefits of having a pet-friendly policy
Reduced stress levels among employees
Work can often become quite stressful, and anxiety-ridden. This can really affect the mental health of the employers. Pets mitigate tension by their mere presence.
Distilled, a company that has been in the programme for 6 years, and also ranked 1 in Ireland’s Best Workplaces™ 2023, has taken the lead in incorporating pet-friendly policies into the workplace, stated: "At Distilled, we have flexible working, a lot of our employees got pets over lockdown and our flexible working policy and hybrid working allows them to care for their pets."
Employees who have their pets around, tend to enjoy their jobs more and have better professional satisfaction. If the employees are happier in their jobs, they are likely to put in greater effort, and less likely to seek employment elsewhere. This positive impact on employee happiness also has significant advantages for the company, as it results in reduced absenteeism and overall improvements in productivity.
Paw-sitive Workplace Culture
In a professional environment, conversations and interactions are usually very formal or rigid. However, having pets around creates an unbiased atmosphere for employees to have relaxed interactions with each other, which fosters an open and genuine discussion. Distilled shows its inclusive side by organizing monthly hikes where employees can bring their pets. This not only helps co-workers' bond better but also shows how much the company values an open and welcoming work atmosphere.
The presence of a pet-friendly workplace improves the company’s reputation and branding. This not only attracts top young talent during recruitment but also clients who appreciate this inclusive practice. Distilled sets an example with "Pets Of Distilled" on social media and the"Pets Gone Wild"Slack channel. According to Linda Farrell, “A lot of our employees are passionate about animal welfare and foster and adopt rescue dogs and cats and we have given charitable donations to animal charities as part of our CSR initiative. We are currently looking into getting branded merchandise for our pets of Distilled.”
Having a pet-friendly workplace has a lot of benefits for the employees as well as the company. However, there are certain challenges which need to be addressed. To make sure the company has an inclusive environment for all employees, pet-related allergies and health concerns must be considered.
How to foster a welcoming environment for pets and employees
Gain consent from management and staff
Involve and engage the management to get their full support. Take into consideration the employees’ and the management’s allergies and phobias. The management and the staff can collectively decide that which types of pets can come into work, and how many.
One of the most important factors to consider is whether your workplace building allows pets or not. Check with the landlord or property management company to make sure the company can start Pets at Work scheme.
Implement clear pet policies. Like vaccination requirements, behavioural guidelines, and toilet training.
With the help of your legal department, draft an authorization and release form that benefits both the company and the employees and have it signed by them.
Embracing such a practice requires the willingness to accommodate the diverse needs of your employees. If your company is considering starting a pet-friendly workplace, consider a trial period or having specific ‘Get Your Pet to Work’ days. You can then get feedback from your employees and track their stress levels and work satisfaction.
Pets in the concrete jungle of an office can bring solace, smiles, warmth, and compassion to co-workers, who work tirelessly to meet deadlines. Pets are compassionate and undoubtedly a paradigm shift towards alleviating the tension in the competitive world of the workplace.
They also hold a special place in our hearts and become part of our families. Guidewire, one of the Best Workplaces for Women and Best Workplaces in Tech in 2023 recognises this relationship and implemented a policy of pet bereavement leave. While we have just shown the benefits of having our special friends in our work environment, having a pet bereavement leave policy acknowledges the emotional importance of pets in our lives in general, not only at work. It showcases commitment to supporting employees during difficult times and promotes a healthy work-life balance by recognising that grieving for a pet is a legitimate and often deeply emotional process. It fosters a compassionate workplace culture, showing empathy for employees during times of loss.
For a happy and thriving workplace, a little bit of paw-sitivity can go a long way!
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(1) DSPCA Pets At Work Scheme
(2) Sunday World (2022) Majority of people in Ireland would like to see pets in the workplace, survey finds