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The Pros and Cons of a Pet-Friendly Workplace

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Published On: May 18, 2022

With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic–hopefully–in the nation’s rearview mirror, employers across the country are slowly but surely beginning the trek back into the office. Although studies have shown that a growing number of working Americans are interested in hybrid or remote work, employers wishing to win workers back into the office are deploying new tactics.  

Chief among these office-friendly perks is the ability to bring in your four-legged friends. Although it is certainly easy to see the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace, there are cons to weigh before rolling out this workplace change. 

Consider also that around 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. What’s more, a recent survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital showed that 57% of the 1,500 pet owners polled said they would be happiest returning to a pet-friendly workplace. 

In this piece, we’ll walk through the pros and cons of a pet-friendly workplace. 

The Pros 

Pets help relieve stress and improve morale. 

For anyone who has ever wished for some relief after a long meeting or difficult day, having a furry face around could provide the perfect balm. Not only have studies shown that pets can relieve stress and anxiety, but also pets can work wonders for employees who feel isolated or are going through a particularly challenging time professionally or personally.  

Dogs promote healthy breaks and exercise.  

Healthy breaks drive creativity and dogs will need short walks, bathroom breaks, or more depending on your pet and their needs. Instead of setting a reminder to get up and take a walk during your lunch break, just bring Fido instead!  

Having pets with owners embeds flexibility into employees’ schedules.  

In a 2021 study done by Petco, the company found that employees are eager to return to a “new normal”, but many are anxious about leaving their pets or affording the high price of pet sitters or doggy daycares. 

Specifically, the study’s researchers found that: 

  • 69% of pet owners are stressed about what returning to work means for their pets. 

  • Nearly half want their employers to adopt a pet-friendly workplace. 

  • 41% say they would consider switching jobs if it meant they could bring their pet to work. 

"After two years of remote work, employers returning to an in-office culture are looking for ways to make it a more positive experience for employees," said Petco SVP of Omnichannel Experience Jenny Wolski. "Pet-friendly programs can not only offer employers a competitive edge, they can also provide many health and wellness benefits for both people and pets.” 

The Cons 

Pets can be distracting.  

It may be hard for the parents of four-legged children to admit, but sometimes our furry friends can be distracting. If you’re unsure if a dog-friendly workspace is right for your company, do a trial week or month to see how it goes.  

HR leaders will likely have to survey employees after the fact to gauge the efficacy of dogs in the workplace. What’s more, depending on the number of employees in and out of the office, HR or department managers may also have to create some rules around the new workplace perk.  

Pets can be destructive and messy. 

It is not difficult to imagine pet-related messes. HR leaders must be prepared to deal with some mess, whether through chewing or accidents. For those weighing the pros and cons of office pets, some leaders may find it helpful to set ground rules and limit what parts of the office furry friends can access.  

Allergies, allergies, allergies.  

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, anywhere from 15% to 30% of people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. Imagine trying to work while sniffling or dealing with constantly itchy eyes–it’s not hard to see how these symptoms can make for an unproductive environment for anyone suffering from pet-related allergies.  

Looking for more exclusive content? Check out what’s trending on the Mployer Advisor blog, and be sure to check out the latest episode of our new podcast, This Week in Benefits.  

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Abbey Dean

Director of Content, Mployer Advisor

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