Off(ice) the Leash

Share this post

Having pets at the office is becoming a more and more common employee perk. Studies show that the practice can increase morale and even promote good health. Plus, everyone loves having a fuzzy little mascot to play with during the day. In many ways, office pets are a great idea, but you definitely need to carefully consider a few things before allowing them. If you create a clear, well-considered office pet policy at the outset, you’re much more likely to reap the benefits of four-legged pals and keep the potential problems to a minimum. Here are some things to consider before inviting Fido and Fluffy to the office.

Ensure that everyone is on board. While most people love—or at least like—pets, they may not be everyone’s cup of catnip. Check with affected employees to make sure they’re OK with having an animal or two around, and to make sure no one is allergic to pet dander. You might consider taking an anonymous poll so that everyone feels comfortable answering honestly and won’t feel like the office killjoy if they’re not into it. If you work for a larger company, double-check to make sure that having pets in your particular office doesn’t contradict an overarching policy.

Check your legal boxes. If you get the go-ahead, consult with your insurance company to see what you can do to protect your company from any legal responsibilities should a pet cause damages. You may need to have employees sign paperwork to accept certain liabilities. If you rent your office space, make sure you have approval from your landlord before instituting a pet-friendly policy.

Pet-proof your space. Trash bins, cords, stray pencils—almost anything in an office can be an irresistible temptation for curious or hungry pets. Use trash cans with lids, and secure all cords. Small pet gates can corral pets in their human companion’s cubicle. And speaking of office furniture, be mindful of roller chairs—it’s easy to roll right over Fido’s paw.

Provide structure. Having a large number of animals in the office five days a week can be a recipe for chaos. Try designating a particular day of the week as Pet Day, and limit the number of animals allowed at any one time. Work out a schedule so that everyone can have a chance to bring their pet in. If that’s working, you can always increase the number of days and pets. Start slow; it’s harder to decrease this kind of benefit without hurt feelings.

It’s also beneficial to set up pet-free areas around the office.These may be spaces that pose danger to pets, or they may be places for employees who want to take a break from the animals (as adorable as they may be), or who are allergic to them.

Get proof. Have employees provide documentation that their pets are up to date on all vaccines and are free of parasites that might spread to other pets.

Create strong guidelines. When crafting the rules for your workplace pet policy, be clear that each pet owner is responsible for supervising and cleaning up after their (well-behaved) pet. If that person attends a meeting, is visiting a client, or can’t be around for some other reason, they should make sure that someone else is willing and able to take over those duties for them. Remind employees to keep an extra eye on especially rambunctious or adventuresome pets. It should be clear that pets that have aggression or socialization issues with people or other pets should be left at home. Decide whether your policy will allow additional breaks for pet-hosting employees to accommodate bathroom and exercise outings during the workday.

Have fun! Pets are great for mood, morale, and human-to-human bonding. As long as everyone buys into the office policy, it’s one perk that can make the workplace a more enjoyable and cohesive environment.

Jonanna Widner lives in Portland, OR, where she writes about sports, music, travel, and fitness.


Subscribe to the WEEKLY BITE

* indicates required


Recent WorkLife articles:

Four techniques to increase productivity during your workday
December 11, 2018
Tips on maintaining productivity with an open floor plan
December 4, 2018
How to cultivate inclusion in your diverse workplace
November 27, 2018
How to have fun while respecting professional boundaries
November 6, 2018
Five tips for tackling common new-manager challenges
October 25, 2018
How to support colleagues and talk about this difficult subject
October 23, 2018
Six tips to get your message across
October 18, 2018
The benefits of open-office floor plans may be more myth than reality
October 16, 2018
How to navigate political talk at work
October 11, 2018
Tips on Reducing Stigma and Providing Support for Your Staff
October 2, 2018

More recent articles:

How to make latkes and applesauce
December 6, 2018
Seasonal sunchoke recipe
November 29, 2018
The food history of Thanksgiving
November 22, 2018
A 30-day plank challenge can build core strength and camaraderie at the office
November 20, 2018
Simple persimmon salad recipe
November 15, 2018
How to practice healthy holiday eating at the office
November 13, 2018
Easy ratatouille recipe
November 8, 2018
Sowing the seeds of entrepreneurship
October 31, 2018
Holiday fruit donations for those in need
October 29, 2018
Give the delicious gift of farm-fresh fruit and healthy snacks
October 4, 2018

About Us

Our online magazine offers a taste of workplace culture, trends, and healthy living. It features recipes for easy, delicious work meals and tips on quick office workouts. It's also an opportunity to learn about our GoodWorks program, which helps those in need in our communities and supports small, sustainable farms.