June 24th is Take Your Dog to Work Day. The unofficial dog-friendly holiday was established by Pet Sitters International in 1999 to promote pet adoptions. Since then there’s been a lot of research surrounding the potential benefits and drawbacks of bringing pets to the workplace.
The 2015 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 8 percent of companies let employees bring their pets to work. While that isn’t huge, it’s a big jump from just 5 percent two years earlier. It’s also worth noting that among the 8 percent there are many highly successful companies, including Google and Amazon.
It’s easy to make pet concessions one day out of the year, but should your company start allowing it all year long?
The Pros of Having Pets at Work
If you’re a pet owner you probably already know having your furry friend around is beneficial, but all employees could actually benefit from having animals at the office.
Share a workstation with your best friend:
Studies have shown having friends at the office can boost happiness, productivity and engagement. It sounds like man’s best friend is a really good business partner.
Pets can ease workday stress:
The CDC and others have noted that dogs can reduce our stress levels. They’re so good at relaxing us our blood pressure lowers and our brain releases more feel-good serotonin. This decrease in stress can help increase productivity. As an added bonus, they’re also found to improve employees overall well-being and happiness.
Promotes a comforting work environment:
It comes as no surprise that employees report feeling more comfortable at work when their pets are there. Given their relaxation capabilities, animals can make a regular day feel a little more like a vacation.
Dogs encourage conversations and interaction:
Want a way to get every meeting off to a good start? Add a seat at the table for a dog. Numerous studies have shown dogs help humans communicate better and build relationships.
Shows that employers care about their employees’ personal lives:
Work is a large part of a person’s life, but it isn’t their entire life. Companies like Clif Bar that let people bring their dogs to work say employees appreciate that the company is investing in their personal lives. Surveys have shown that when employees feel like their employer cares about their well being they are more engaged and satisfied.
Employees need to take breaks:
Some people may think this is a con, but in actuality taking a break to walk a pet outside can boost productivity, creativity and mood.
Dogs can improve collaboration and team building:
Central Michigan University conducted a study in 2010 that discovered groups that had a dog present as they worked together trusted their team members more. Another study found that employees in pet-friendly offices felt friendlier towards one another.
Employee focus can also improve:
Having to take care of a pet is a full time responsibility. When pets are by their side, owners aren’t wondering what they’re doing and can focus on their work. This is especially trueduring crunch time when they have to work late.
Pets make people healthier:
Supporting pet ownership is the equivalent to supporting employee health. Decades of studies have shown pet owners are physically and mentally healthier than people without pets.
The Cons of Having Pets at Work
Now for the drawbacks of having furry friends at the office. There are a few obvious issues with having animals in an office, but they may not outweigh the positives for some companies.
Pets can be a distraction:
If having your smartphone sitting on your desk wasn’t a big enough distraction a pet could tip the scales. If it likes to bark, meow or get into things it can be a distraction for everyone in the office.
Animals may not get along:
When numerous animals are in the office it can lead to scuffles that don’t end well. All it takes is one dog chasing a cat for things to go horribly wrong.
Employees could be allergic (or scared):
Pet owners often forget that some people don’t have animals because they simply can’t. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that 10 percent of the population is allergic to pets. Thousands of others have cynophobia, the clinical term for fear of dogs. For people that have allergies or fears working with animals in the office could be near impossible.
There could be an issue with cleanliness:
No matter how much they groom themselves, some animals will still leave their mark on the office after they’re gone. From having to use the bathroom to shedding fur, the cleaning team may not be happy with the extra work.
It could be a violation of the lease or building bylaws:
One big issue with having pets at desks is that many office spaces and buildings have “no pets” policies.
If you’re still on the fence, here’s a little food for thought. Almost every U.S. president has had a pet at the White House and even in the Oval Office at some point. When something works for the leader of the free world, it’s worth considering for your office.