One of the best things about my job is that I get to spend the whole day with loads of animals. Ok, I know that kinda goes without saying for a vet, but I honestly feel like it’s a privilege to have all these lovely furry characters at work. Even when they’re poorly, animals have the ability to brighten your day with their expressions, kind nature and quirky ways.
It seems I’m not the only one who’s noticed how lovely it is to have animals in the workplace. Obviously, without the animals in mine I’d be sitting twiddling my thumbs all day – caring for them is, after all, my job – but even in roles where animals aren’t involved in any way, taking animals to work is becoming increasingly popular.
No longer do you have to ‘work with animals’ to, well, work with animals! More and more employers – and some big names – are allowing their employees to bring pets (usually dogs) into the office. Google, Ticketmaster and Salesforce are amongst the larger UK companies to have a ‘pets at work’ policy, allowing people to take their furry friends into the office. Viewed as ‘progressive’ move for companies, allowing employees to bring their dogs to work can improve loyalty and staff retention, and is said to boost performance and morale whilst lowering stress and improving absenteeism.
Having dogs around encourages staff to take more regular breaks from their desks, getting out and about at lunchtimes for a walk in the fresh air, which is good for both physical and mental health. Even just stroking a dog is shown to lower blood pressure. Animals are also good ice breakers, and can improve interactions and relationships between staff or with clients – I mean, we all love a good chat about our dogs, don’t we! The Blue Cross commissioned a survey on dogs in the workplace, with some astonishing results – over 90% of businesses asked said they’d seen a positive change in the working environment since allowing dogs at work!
It can be great for the dogs, too – they get to be with their human all day, rather than being left at home waiting patiently for the sound of that door key. After all, dogs are sociable animals and being left alone can cause anxiety which then often leads to behavioural issues.
However, there can be some pitfalls with having canine companions in the workplace. For a start, not everyone likes dogs (I know, but there you have it!). Some people may have had a bad experience in the past and developed a phobia, or others may be allergic – so, if you’re thinking of operating a ‘pets at work’ policy, you need to be considerate of the needs and wishes of all employees. Also, not all dogs are equally sociable – you can’t have one rule for one and another for someone else, it has to be a blanket policy – so you’ll have to let Jim bring in his bouncy, high energy lab pup and Emma should also be allowed to bring in her elderly and somewhat irritable terrier… and they may not see eye to eye. Of course, there can also be health and hygiene issues. Obviously it’s just not practical to have animals in all workplaces, so environments like kitchens or factories can’t be pet friendly. But even in offices, there are certain stipulations – your dog needs to be house (or office) trained, for example.
• Keep your dog under proper control at all times.
• Check insurance and health and safety implications and make sure that any requirements are followed.
• Carry out a simple risk assessment to decide what could go wrong and ensure you’ve taken sufficient precautions to prevent or minimise any risks (if your workplace employs five or more people, the risk assessment must be in writing).
• Check your own insurance and/or pet insurance policies and ensure it provides adequate cover for damage to third party property or injury to third parties (including fellow employees).
• Make sure your dog is housetrained, but be prepared for little accidents.
• Your dog should be in good health and not suffering from any sickness.
• Watch out for signs of stress – is your dog panting a lot or licking his lips?
• Make sure there’s a quiet and comfy place for your dog to relax.
• Ensure they have access to fresh water.
• Don’t forget walkies!
While taking your dog to work may be a happy experience for you and your colleagues, make sure you’ve also got your furry friend’s best interests at heart. You know your pet best – is Fido a sociable character who’ll relish the attention of workmates and enjoy spending the day curled up by your feet, interspersed with opportunities for a play and a stretch of the legs? Or, is he a nervy chap who’ll be scared of the noise the printer makes and jump every time the office door opens? Will some time in the office be beneficial to his socialisation, or cause anxiety?
I think the ‘trend’ for dogs in the workplace is generally a very positive one and can help to improve life for both pets and owners – but, it’s not wholly without its difficulties and you do need to be considerate of your pet’s needs and well as those of your colleagues before clocking Fido in for his shift in the office!