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Updated Mar 23, 2023

Pets Go to Work: How to Create a Pet Policy for Your Office

Accommodate pet owners' needs and other employees' concerns to create a positive workplace culture.

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Julie Thompson, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Workplace stress and employee burnout affect nearly every office at some point and in some capacity. Some businesses have implemented policies to boost workplace happiness, including creative perks like paid time off, flexible work arrangements and workplace wellness initiatives

Allowing pets in the office is one of the more creative perks that can instantly improve office morale, promote a healthy work-life balance and connect your team. An office pet policy can also help you attract and retain top talent in a competitive labor market. 

graphic of two businesspeople working at a desk on computers

However, office pets have pros and cons. Not everyone is a pet lover, and some employees may have allergy worries and other concerns. Creating a policy that balances the perks of office pets with the legitimate concerns of others is crucial. We’ll share tips for creating an office pet policy that strikes a happy balance. 

Did You Know?Did you know
Other creative perks that boost employee retention and reduce turnover include extended parental leave, generous PTO policies, family meals and group activities.

What should you include in an office pet policy?

According to digital marketing and brand strategy pro David Everett Strickler, business owners should include employees in the pet policy-making process. Gathering everyone’s input can help create an environment that works for the entire team. 

Here are five essential points to include in your office pet policy. 

1. Your pet policy should state that pets must be vaccinated.

graphic of a dog standing next to a syringe

Vaccinations protect pets from potentially life-threatening diseases and infections – some of which might even be transmitted to humans. For the safety of your pets and employees, you should require proof of vaccination before allowing any animal in the office.

“A current (renewed annually) veterinary record proving wellness, heartworm prevention, parasite control and vaccine compliance must be provided to HR prior to visitation,” advised Beth Stultz-Hairston, president of Pet Sitters International. 

A comprehensive vaccination policy will reduce dangers, worries and liabilities.

2. Your pet policy should state that pets must be trained and well-behaved.

Workplace safety must remain your priority. Some tips related to pet behavior include: 

  • Ensure only well-trained pets are allowed. According to Stultz-Hairston, office pets should have no history of aggression and be potty-trained, controllable, and socialized to people and other animals. “This should not be a three-strikes situation; even one incident of a pet behaving badly can have huge implications in a workplace,” added Kim Stiens, founder and CEO of Ranavain. “If a dog bites anyone for any reason, they should be out. If a cat destroys someone’s property, that’s it. You don’t need to be zero-tolerance … but you do have a primary responsibility to provide a safe workplace, and you can’t allow pets to compromise that.”
  • Consider requiring pet insurance. Consider making all pet owners get insurance coverage to account for any injuries caused by an animal. You may even want to have employees who bring their pets to work sign an indemnification agreement that spells out the requirement for an employee to pay the cost of defending any lawsuits resulting from their animal.
  • Include a trial period to test pet behavior. Consider enforcing a trial period for all new pets in the office. Start with having the pet come to the office a few hours a week and gradually increase the time spent. You can minimize workplace incidents and allow employees who are not fully comfortable with pets in the office to form healthier relationships with each other.
TipBottom line
Whether you're onboarding a new hire or dealing with a senior team member, every employee's pet should be subject to the same trial period, insurance requirements and behavior standards.

3. Include designated pet-free zones in your pet policy.

graphic of businessperson sitting at a desk near a sign that says "pet-free zone"

There’s a time and place for everything, including pets. If you’re going to allow them in your office, you must create a strict space for them and a separate space for workers who aren’t as fond of the idea. That way, no one feels forced into the situation.

“Pets, like humans in the workplace, should have defined areas,” advised Strickler. “If the owner is responsible for the pet, [then] the pet should be confined to that specific employee’s workstation or office. If the pet will be in an open work area (think collaborative spaces, hotdesking, etc.), then you might want to consider [a] touchdown spot.”

Additionally, some people have severe allergies to animals. An allergy might even qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and require business accommodations. In these situations, accommodating your employees’ needs is paramount. 

FYIDid you know
If you have an open office plan, getting everyone's buy-in on pets in the office is crucial, as is abiding by strict pet behavior requirements.  

4. Your pet policy should mandate sanitary office practices.

A clean and organized office is a necessity. No one wants to work in a dirty office. Germs, bugs and bathroom messes pose health hazards for your workers, clients and anyone who visits the office.

Delegate cleanup and maintenance responsibilities to pet owners. They should promptly handle bathroom duty, vacuuming, sanitizing desks and cleaning up accidents.

Ada Chen Rekhi, co-founder of Notejoy, recommends designating an area for pets to do their business. For instance, if you have an office cat, litter boxes should be in only one part of the office, away from workspaces.

5. Your pet policy should outline an anonymous complaint process.

graphic of a person with a question mark for a head inserting a complaint into a box

Some employees might not be on the same page with your office pet arrangement. However, they may be reluctant to speak up and risk judgment from their co-workers. Rekhi advises employers to make it easy for workers to report their concerns to HR. Also, consider allowing anonymous employee feedback to preserve their privacy.

“Keep in mind that some employees may have allergies or phobias to pets that can make your workplace unfriendly if you don’t establish a great pet policy,” Rekhi noted.

Why should you consider a pet policy?

Employers and team members can potentially enjoy numerous benefits by welcoming pets to the workplace. 

  • Pets create a healthy work-life balance. Employees may work long hours. However, pets remind them to take necessary short breaks. Working for too long on a project creates stress and lowers productivity. Short walks, a little playtime and temporary distractions support employee mental health and reduce stress levels. Pets can act as comic relief and keep employee spirits high.
  • Pets in the workplace nurture productivity. Happier and less-stressed employees are more motivated, flexible and can achieve more in the workplace. Pets help foster an environment that lowers workplace absenteeism and reduces stress-related ailments, ultimately saving the organization money. Pets also create camaraderie within the workplace, enhancing teamwork.
  • Pets in the workplace boost customer perceptions. Pets in the office can strengthen your business’s reputation with clients. Customers likely will react positively when they interact with office pets. Clients can relax and enjoy their visit while viewing your company as forward-thinking and progressive.
  • Pets in the office can lower employee turnover. Business growth requires retaining excellent employees. Motivated and happy employees are less likely to leave an organization. Employees in pet-friendly organizations are likely appreciative of the perk and are less likely to leave. Pet-friendly policies can also help you attract new talent. According to Rover, 77 percent of pet owners prefer working for dog-friendly companies after being home with their furry friends during the pandemic.

Pets at work can improve your workplace culture 

graphic of a person petting a dog

Attracting and retaining top talent is always a priority for businesses. While not every company can afford high-tier salaries, they can consider creative perks that improve their employees’ lives. 

Allowing pets in the office isn’t the only way to support your pet-owning employees. Additional perks can include paid time off for pet bereavement or adoption, pet-based insurance stipends, and additional in-office amenities like treats, gates and dog beds.

If you decide to become a pet-friendly workplace, consider everyone’s needs, set clear expectations and enjoy the benefits it brings to your employee-centric company culture

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Julie Thompson, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
With nearly two decades of experience under her belt, Julie Thompson is a seasoned B2B professional dedicated to enhancing business performance through strategic sales, marketing and operational initiatives. Her extensive portfolio boasts achievements in crafting brand standards, devising innovative marketing strategies, driving successful email campaigns and orchestrating impactful media outreach. Thompson's proficiency extends to Salesforce administration, database management and lead generation, reflecting her versatile skill set and hands-on approach to business enhancement. Through easily digestible guides, she demystifies complex topics such as SaaS technology, finance trends, HR practices and effective marketing and branding strategies. Moreover, Thompson's commitment to fostering global entrepreneurship is evident through her contributions to Kiva, an organization dedicated to supporting small businesses in underserved communities worldwide.
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