Inhuman resources

As with many other workplace changes, millennials are driving companies to consider allowing pets in the office. We look at some of the benefits and considerations businesses should weigh before making the leap.

It’s no surprise that people love their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Americans are expected to spend more than $60 billion on their pets in 2016 alone. Imagine if people poured as much energy into their work as they do their furry — or feathered, or scaly, or slimy — companions?

Now more businesses are starting to see the value of allowing employees to bring their pets to work, and some workplaces are even going so far as to adopt true “office pets” that live at the office. Talk about dedication to the job!

As with the adoption of newer office policies like flexible schedules and revamped benefits packages, millennials are leading the way with this latest trend by diving even deeper into the work-life balance.

According to Stifel Equity Research, millennials should surpass baby boomers as the largest pet-owning generation in just a couple years. By 2020, millennials will also make up nearly half the workforce. Now forward-thinking companies are attracting those younger employees by letting pets into the office.

A 2015 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found 8% of American workplaces allow employees to bring their furry friends to work, up from just 5% in 2013. According to the same survey, 9% of companies — including Google — even offered pet health insurance to employees in 2015.

“Employers are starting to realize that having a millennial bring … a pet to work, you wind up getting a more focused employee, you get someone more comfortable at the office, and a person willing to work longer hours,” Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, said in an earlier interview.

Pet perks

Notions about the benefits of having Fido or Fluffy at the office aren’t, well, just fluff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes pets can decrease:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Triglyceride levels
  • Feelings of loneliness

Pets also increase people’s opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, as well as opportunities for socialization, the CDC says.

An oft-cited study from Virginia Commonwealth University looked at the physiological and psychological effects of pets at the workplace on employees. Researchers determined that employees who left their pets at home experienced significantly higher stress levels than those whose pets accompanied them to the workplace. Employees who brought their pets to work showed an 11% decrease in their stress levels by the end of the workday, compared to a 70% percent leap in stress levels for employees who left their pets at home.

Decreasing stress levels typically results in lower blood pressure and fewer heart problems. For the workplace that equates to healthier employees who take fewer sick days, need lower health insurance premiums, and contribute greater around the office than employees who are frequently out sick or suffering from chronic health conditions.



Making the office into a home

There are numerous issues companies should consider before enacting a pets-in-the-office policy, including whether or not the pets are well-behaved, employees potentially having pet allergies or a fear of animals, and the organizational culture of the company.

At the Dane County Humane Society, employees with offices are allowed to bring their own dogs to work. DCHS also currently has six classroom animals that are permanent residents at the shelter. These animals — a bearded dragon, corn snake, three rats, and a guinea pig — live at the shelter and help during adult and kid education programs.

Those considerations are magnified if a company is considering becoming a full-time home to a pet, notes Marissa DeGroot, public relations coordinator for the Dane County Humane Society.

“I believe the benefits would stay relatively the same [as bringing a pet from home],” DeGroot says. “What would change is the level of responsibility each individual in the work place feels for the pet. This increased responsibility could be an added benefit or it could not. Some might feel a deeper connection to the pet knowing they are partly responsible for its wellbeing and happiness, while others might feel some stress due to that responsibility.”

Whatever system a business establishes for having a true “office pet,” DeGroot says the company should at a minimum establish:

  • Who is responsible for daily care;
  • Who is responsible for making sure the pet receives medical care;
  • Who is financially responsible;
  • How it will be determined if the pet is the right fit for the office; and
  • What to do if the animal isn’t a good fit.

The safety and wellbeing of the pet should always be the priority whether they are spending weekends or nights at a different location, or initially introducing them to an office and employees, DeGroot explains.

DeGroot says a lot of the same advice the Dane County Humane Society gives to families adopting a pet applies to any company looking to adopt.

“We want to make sure any animal adopted will be the right fit for your lifestyle,” DeGroot says. “For instance, large energetic dogs generally do better with an active family or individual with plenty of space. Shy and timid pets would do best with a quieter home. The same would apply in an office setting. Knowing what your office environment is like and what type of people the pet would be interacting with will help in finding the right fit.”

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