Organisations which have implemented pets at work schemes have reported benefits to productivity writes SCOTT McCRORY-IRVING
Encouraging pets into the workplace has often been a way of helping out employees with no one at home to look after them. Some just like to have their animals around them while they work.
Now employers are going a step further by encouraging their employees to own a pet to help reduce stress. One colleague was recently asked to create a “pawternity policy” whereby employees are given paid leave to introduce a new cat or dog to their new home environment.
Brainstorming and establishing creative ideas such as this are exactly what makes the organisation special for your employees, showing them that they are highly valued.
Whether you are introducing a pets at work policy, offering pawternity leave, or simply encouraging suggestions on how to improve the workplace, making an effort to enhance the wellbeing of your employees will be greatly appreciated and reciprocated.
The workplace can be an isolating and stressful environment. Organisations which have implemented pets at work schemes have reported benefits to productivity, team cohesion, and an elevation of the collective mood in general. Even prison guards at Rye Hill in Northamptonshire have reported the calming effect taking their dogs for “walkies on the wings” can have on prisoners. Sean McCormack, Head Vet at Tails.com, claimed that a pets in the office policy is a “no brainer” as long as it is well-managed.
During our successful Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference a month ago, speakers and delegates discussed a number measures that can be taken in the workplace to enhance wellbeing. These included: mental health first aid training, creating agile workspaces, financial education, managing cancer in the workplace; and biophilia (bringing our innate love of nature into the office).
The power of pets in the workplace may well be the next big trend, although the idea itself is not new. Nestle trialled allowing staff to bring dogs into the office at the end of 2014. One of its brands, Purina, encouraged organisations to hold a pets at work day, with a survey of participants finding a 22% increase in satisfaction with the working environment.
Mars Petcare has been allowing pets at work since 2008. And the interest is becoming more widespread, to the extent that 24 June is now National “Bring Your Pet to Work Day” in the UK. A survey by Reed.co.uk estimates that 8% of people in the UK can bring their dogs into the office.
Your organisation may not yet be at the stage of allowing pets in the office, but an interesting alternative may be to recognise their importance in the lives of your employees. If you do allow them in the office you should ensure a scheme is properly managed by following these guidelines:
- Ensure that no one is scared of, allergic to, or uncomfortable around cats and dogs
- Check that insurance covers pets in the office
- Encourage staff to fill out application forms before bringing their pets in (focusing on their comfort around other dogs and new people)
- Start with only a couple of dogs, assessing the impact before expanding
- Have dedicated “pet-free zones”
- Refrain from hyping dogs up too much, the aim being to have them quietly sitting around their owners’ desks rather than running riot
Scott McCrory-Irving is a HR consultant at Navigator Law
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