Most people love dogs, and the thought of being surrounded by friendly furbabies all day fills them with joy. Some people will be appalled that we’re even asking this question, but seriously; should they really be allowed in an office environment?
Below are the arguments for yes, the arguments for no, and what you can do to try and keep everyone at work happy.
The yes argument
Fortunately for those in the ‘yes’ camp, there are plenty of studies that support the argument that having pups in the workplace is a plus.
Dogs have been proven to boost employee wellness, reduce stress levels at work, encourage exercise, and have even been referred to as a ‘social lubricant’; easing people’s social interactions and facilitating conversation in the office.
From an employer branding perspective, having a dog-friendly work policy is a great way to attract new talent and can give businesses a competitive edge.
Allowing dogs in the office makes the lives of pet-owners much easier, as they can avoid paying hefty doggy daycare fees and don’t need to rush home as soon as the clock strikes five. Employees with pups are also likely to stay with a company for longer if their dog is happy hanging out there.
Other benefits for employers include lower rates of absenteeism and increased levels of productivity.
The no argument
Unfortunately for the ‘no’ camp, there haven’t been many studies into the negative impacts of having dogs in the office and most counterarguments are based on anecdotal personal experiences.
However, Inc. published an interesting article a couple of years ago highlighting the risks of opening up your office doors to four-legged friends.
Chiefly, the issue of allergies can be extremely troublesome, and horror stories of new joiners being utterly dismayed by unexpected ubiquitous fuzz have been well documented online.
This may come as a shock, but people who don’t like dogs also exist. They can make some employees feel uncomfortable, anxious or simply frustrated. However, some people feel peer-pressured when it comes to being pro-dogs, keeping their reservations quiet for fear of being viewed as a heartless animal-hating tyrant. But if their feelings go ignored, it can have a seriously negative impact on an office culture.
Finally, unfortunately some dogs can be disruptive. If a dog is barking, being too rough with other dogs, or requires constant attention it can be really stressful for both the owner and their colleagues.
How productive can people really be at work if they’re constantly worried about their dog?
The middle ground
Here’s how you can make sure that no one feels alienated during a ‘should we have dogs in our office’ debate, and how you can manage a dog-friendly office with minimum disruption to your team.
– Establish clear, open communication channels. Have confidential conversations with everyone in the office about their thoughts on having dogs at work before any decisions are made.
– Introduce a pets at work policy. A pet policy can outline processes for how dogs should be looked after and behave in the workplace and establish boundaries. For example, if a dog causes distress to any other dogs or people, or causes any damage to work property, they may need to be banned from the office. If you need to, involve people who have reservations in the policy development process.
– Communicate your company’s pet policy to new staff. Communicate the company’s stance on animals clearly during your recruitment process. You don’t want anyone to be disappointed or made uncomfortable by unexpected dog-in-office – or out of office – surprises.
– Introduce rotas. If your staff are happy to have dogs around but only up to a certain extent, introducing a rota to limit the number of dogs in the office each day (or week or month) is a great way to manage this and can be a happy middle ground.
Allocate a day for dogs. Another potential solution could be to allocate particular days when the office is open for dogs and give people who aren’t so keen on pups the freedom to work from home and dial in to any meetings.
– Dedicate an area for dogs to hang out in. Find an area where dogs can hang out away from people’s desks to minimize disruption to the office and allow people to avoid them if they wish. Not all companies will have this space, but sometimes meeting rooms can make a great ad-hoc puppy crèche.