A woman sitting at a table leans down and pets the dog lying at her feet. The woman has long reddish hair and wears glasses and a black-and-white striped shirt. The dog is a border collie with white and brown fur. The room in the background is a large open office space with exposed brick walls. Someone sits at a desk behind the woman and the dog; the upper half of their body is obscured by a computer monitor.
Having pets around can be calming and good for employee morale, but you have to take into consideration the legal liabilities and potential for disruption. — Getty Images/mixetto

Pet-friendly workplaces are becoming increasingly popular among employers and employees alike. In fact, a LiveCareer study found that 94% of respondents were supportive of having Fido or Fluffy in the office, with 52% reporting that “pet-friendly benefits and policies are important when considering an employer.”

If you’re considering opening up your office to your employees’ furry friends, here are some considerations to keep in mind.

The pros and cons of a pet-friendly work environment

A pet-friendly work environment offers employees and companies a host of potential benefits, including:

  • Reduced stress levels. Multiple studies have found that pets help lower stress. Employees with lower stress levels are less likely to experience burnout and stress-related health conditions.
  • Better work-life balance. Employees may feel guilt or experience logistical challenges around leaving their pets at home for extended periods. Allowing pets in the office can eliminate this problem altogether and bring more “life” balance into the workplace.
  • Increased employee morale. Having animals in the office can encourage employee bonding and break the ice among coworkers. Over time, this can improve relationships and facilitate collaboration.

[Read more: How Hospitality Brands Are Capitalizing on the Pet Craze to Woo Fido- and Fluffy-Loving Millennials]

However, there are some potential drawbacks to allowing pets in the workplace, too.

  • Allergies. For employees who are allergic to pet dander, the presence of animals could negatively impact their comfort and health. Before adopting a pet-friendly workplace policy, survey your employees regarding pet allergies. Designating a single room or specific space for pets can also help limit allergen spread.
  • Distractions. Young, noisy, or high-energy pets can require a lot of attention — and can distract both the pet owner and others around them. Setting aside space and time for food and bathroom breaks for pets, as well as limiting the number of animals in the office daily, can help reduce potential disruptions.
  • Potential liabilities. As an employer, you may be responsible for any pet-related injuries in the workplace, such as bites, slips, or falls. Consider retaining insurance or having employees sign a waiver to protect your company against legal liability.

Establishing a pet policy

Before bringing any pets into the office, create a pet policy that is fair and consistent and communicate it clearly to employees. Here are a few essential points to include in your corporate pet policy:

Requirements for office pets

Workplace safety must remain top of mind, so any pets on the premises must be clean, up-to-date on vaccinations, and well-trained. Delineate requirements for office pets, including behavior (i.e., potty-trained and with no history of aggression) and a minimum age (for health and socialization concerns). Consider providing resources for training and education around responsible pet ownership.

Having animals in the office can encourage employee bonding and break the ice among coworkers.

How conflicts will be addressed

Detail how you’ll handle pet allergies, noise disturbances, or aggression, including any legal ramifications or liability. This section can also highlight preventative measures, such as designated “no-pet zones” and limits on the number of pets in the office at one time.

Accommodations for those who cannot bring their pets to work

Not all employees will be able to bring their pets into the office. Providing accommodations for those individuals, such as flexible work arrangements or alternative pet care options, can help ensure everyone’s furry friends are receiving the same support.

[Read more: Small Businesses Leveraging the Pampered Pet Trend]

Legal considerations

Allowing pets in the workplace comes with multiple legal considerations. Here are a few tips for remaining compliant:

Review local regulations and ordinances

Contact your local board of health for information on what a company must do to comply with city or town requirements. These may also vary by industry — for example, food service companies may not allow pets due to potential health code violations.

Put everything in writing

If you lease your office, request an addendum to your contract so you have written permission for pets on the premises. When you write your pet policy, clearly delineate corporate policies and pet owners’ responsibilities, such as providing vaccination records.

Obtain the proper liability insurance

In the event of a bite or any other on-premise incidents, liability can fall on the employer in addition to the pet owner. Check your current general liability coverage, and consider having employees provide their own insurance covering pet-related damages or injuries.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Brought to you by
Simplify your startup’s finances
Not sure where to begin in getting your business’s finances in order? Navigating the complex finances of a growing start-up can be daunting. Learn about the key financial operations that will keep your startup running smoothly — from payroll to bookkeeping to taxes — in this guide.
Learn More
Published