Studies have shown that having a pet-friendly office reduces work-day stress. But it doesn’t stop at work. Employees don’t have to spend the extra money to have someone check on their pets during the day or send them to daycare. But how do you, as an employer, come up with a pet policy to make it work for everyone? Embrace Pet Insurance’s headquarters is a pet-friendly place, and our pet policy helps to keep it running smoothly.
“Communication is key,” said Ashley Qualls, Director of Human Resources at Embrace. “We want all of our Embracers to feel comfortable, and we love sharing our space with our pets. If someone is uncomfortable, that can create a hostile work environment which is the last thing that we want. It’s important for everyone to be comfortable coming to HR with concerns, or even going to the pet’s owner, without fearing it will be taken personally.”
The Red Tape
As with any changes to a company policy, there is a negative side to having pets in the office. Before we get into the good stuff, let’s get through potential obstacles.
Allergies: Allergy sufferers may have an opinion about a pet-friendly work environment. Some may choose to take medication and suffer through for the sake of the cuteness, but others may prefer a work from home day.
Opposition to pets: Not everyone considers him or herself a pet lover, and some even have a deep fear of dogs or cats. For these folks, you could give them a work from home day or, if your office space allows, provide a separate work space for those who don’t wish to participate.
Liability issues: Even the best-behaved pets can nip or snap when they’re afraid. Make sure that your office policy addresses potential liability for bites or scratches.
Mess: Accidents happen. It is not uncommon for a dog, especially males, to “mark” a new area no matter how potty trained they are. Keep cleaning supplies nearby and have an understanding that cleanup is the responsibility of the pet’s owner.
Planning the Pet Policy
Now it’s time to get down to business and come up with a policy that makes work enjoyable for pet owners, pet lovers, those with allergies, and everyone in between.
Who’s invited?: You must determine who is invited to the office and when. It’s not the best idea to allow each employee to bring their dogs at the same time. Set up a shared office calendar, or if your departments are separated enough, a departmental calendar.
Are the pets vaccinated and treated for fleas, ticks, and heartworm? Decide as a company how important these items are. Keep in mind that if one pup brings fleas, all dogs could leave with them and that’s no fun for anyone. At Embrace, we have “random flea tests” and all pets in the office that day are combed through. If a pet is found with fleas, they are sent home to get a flea treatment and they have to wait three days before they’re allowed back. If that pet is found with fleas two times, they’re no longer welcome in the office.
Bathroom breaks: Are you in a shared office park? Is there a space for you to walk your dog without being away from work too long? These are things to consider when thinking of a pet policy for work. Pet waste is unsanitary and must be picked up. The pet policy must be clear in reminding employees that they are responsible for cleaning up after their furry friends.
The other side of this is pets using the bathroom indoors. Embrace’s policy specifies that if a pet has three accidents indoors in a one-month period, that pet must be leashed to the Embracer’s work station so that they can be monitored more closely. If the issue persists, the pup may be banned from coming back to work. Ashley Q. also recommends providing poo bags near exits so employees are encouraged to pick up after their pets.
Playtime: Pets are not all work with no play – they love to take breaks to catch a ball, go for a walk, or play with a co-worker’s pooch. Playtime is something that we encourage at Embrace – with supervision, of course. You’ll want to address this in your office’s pet policy. Pets who play unsupervised can do damage to work and personal property and can create an unnecessary distraction. Playful growls and barks are cute at home, but are they distracting someone from another department?
In the pet policy at Embrace, these things are addressed. Our Customer Care Team spends most of their time on the phones and we don’t want our team or our callers to have to shout over growls and barks. If a pet is overly excited, they may be required to be leashed to their owner’s desk for monitoring. And, you guessed it, if a pet is consistently being distracting to others, they may not be welcome back.
Aggression: A pet with known aggression or a territorial personality is likely not a good fit for an office setting. It’s up to your employees to know their dog and use caution if needed. While it’s not a fun thing to deal with, having a policy in place for aggressive pets is necessary.
Embrace has a zero-tolerance policy for aggressive pets. If there are complaints about any of the office pets’ behavior, they are put under review. This behavior includes, but is not limited to, biting, growling, snarling, barking, and anything else that makes another Embracer uncomfortable. This review could mean that the pet is required to be confined to that Embracer’s department only, or that they are not allowed back in the office. We also require a doctor visit within 24 hours for any Embracer whose skin is broken by a pet.
Helping Pets Outside the Office
Being a pet-friendly office doesn’t only apply to the four walls of your space. Consider adding pet insurance as a voluntary benefit to show your team that you value their furry family too. With Embrace as a voluntary benefit, your employees get a 10% discount1 on their insurance policy, access to our 24/7 pet health line through PawSupport, Wellness Rewards2 for routine care, and so much more.
1 Discount not available in FL, HI, ND, & RI. Discount is 5% in TN. 2 Wellness Rewards is not available in RI. Wellness Rewards is not insurance.