pets at the workplace, pets, workplace, yay or nay

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While some may have pet peeves about it, we can't deny the many pawsitives, with studies showing that pets at the workplace can not only reduce stress, but also help build relationships.

Picture this — you're sitting at your desk in the office, feeling stressed about that article you're writing, or that business proposal you're drafting, and you just need something, anything to give your mind a quick break. Just then, you look over your computer and catch something looking at you with Puss in Boots's eyes — it's the kitty your colleague's brought to the office! You give it a quick pet and in that instant, you feel yourself relax.

Several studies have shown that having pets at work can not only reduce stress, but can also nurture and boost productivity in employees, and even help build relationships. In line with that, a 2021 survey by LiveCareer, involving 1,065 employees in the US found that of those who had worked with a pet (be it at home or in the office), nearly eight out of 10 respondents said working with a pet was positive. 

In particular:

  • 76% who had worked at a pet-friendly workplace said it was positive;
  • 79% of remote workers said working around a pet was positive; and
  • 77% who had brought a pet to work said the reaction was positive.

Interestingly, the survey added, breaking down the data by age, 6% of older respondents said that the experience of working with a pet was "negative", while just 1% of those younger than 39 said so.

Most popular four-legged, scaled, or feathered co-workers 

Of all types of pets you can keep at work, dogs (84%) and cats (50%) have been most popular, followed by fish (36%), birds (24%), rodents (7%), amphibians (5%), and reptiles (3%).

Remotely, however, more respondents worked with a dog (77%) than with a cat (55%), 

The 'pawsitives' and the pet peeves of keeping a pet at the workplace

On the upside, it was employees surveyed noted that having a pet at the workplace created a relaxed environment (33%), with this perk being the best cited. Additionally, it was said to reduce workplace stress (28%), an improvement in work-life balance (18%), less guilt about leaving a pet at home (16%), and even an improvement in the pet's mental health (4%).

However, having a pet at the workplace has no doubt brought its downsides, with allergic reactions being the biggest disadvantage (35%), and pets being considered as "too distracting" (31%).

At the same time, one in five respondents considered it unsanitary (20%), 8% considered it too smelly, and 6% considered it too dangerous.

The pandemic has driven more support for pet-friendly businesses

One of the many things the pandemic has brought is the increased adoption of pets, as more people worked from home and in isolation, and more embraced one-on-one time with their pets.

With this, more than half of the employees surveyed (52%) have expressed their support for pet-friendly businesses (34% more supportive, 18% much more supportive). That said, 43% showed "about the same" level of support, while 5% were less supportive and 1% were much less supportive. 

Thus, more job seekers are looking at pet-friendly benefits and policies in evaluating a potential employer:

  • 49% agreed a pet-friendly environment could convince them to take up a job offer;
  • 41% agreed pets in the office could contribute to their sense of job satisfaction; 
  • 51% agreed pets in the office could boost socialisation with co-workers who are not usually social; and
  • 46% agreed pets in the office could make them more likely to recommend their employer to a friend.

One special pet benefit stood out - having what was called 'pawternity' leave, which rangers from a few hours to a few days. When asked if they would like this implemented at their workplace, 77% of respondents said yes, comprising 82% millennials and 73% of Gen X-ers and above.

Last, when 69% also had a positive outlook on pet healthcare insurance, with 77% believing it should be instituted at the workplace. 

Planning to implement a pet-friendly workplace? Here's what HR should consider

As HR or if you are running a company and considering putting pet policies in place, the study recommends first distributing a "pet-itude" questionnaire to assess your employees' attitudes towards dogs and other animals.

If the attitude is pet-positive and the workplace can be made pet-friendly, it would be best to follow some guidelines:

  • HRO recommends: Do take into consideration religious sensitivities around pets in the environment, ensuring that all employees are comfortable with the idea.
  • Create a detailed policy for bringing pets to work, including requirements for pet vaccinations and an action plan for pet-related incidents.
  • Decide on requirements for pet gates, small animal habitats, and aquariums.
  • Ensure there are accessible outdoor areas for pet breaks.
  • Invest in pet gates.
  • Designate pet-free zones for those with allergies.
  • Clear pet-zone areas of potentially dangerous items such as wires/cables, human food, or furniture that could be knocked over.
  • Provide pet clean-up stations with items like stain and odor eliminator sprays plus deodorising wipes for "accidents" around the office.

 So — all things considered, are you for pets at the workplace, or are you still not too keen?

What do you think about having pets at the workplace?

*Note: While this survey was conducted in the US, HRO believes the data would still be relevant and relatable to our readers in Asia.

Lead image / Provided by LiveCareer

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