We’ve been welcoming dogs into our office since 2003 and have seen first-hand the benefits a pet-friendly policy can have on a workforce. Over the years we've learnt a lot about having a pet-friendly office. Office pets are steadily on the increase – a quarter of companies nationwide have a policy to allow workers to bring their dogs into the office, with a further 28% wanting to introduce one. Purina is on a mission to increase the number of companies opening their doors to pets through our Pets At Work toolkit.
Almost all (96%) organisations with a pet-friendly policy have seen the benefits of having dogs around the office; including a friendlier and calmer atmosphere with higher staff morale. Having dogs around our office has certainly encouraged more social interactions between people from different teams at Purina. Rather than sending an email we have staff going to see each other in person because it has the bonus of being able to say hello to their dogs. Experience has also shown the positive effect having dogs in the office can have on a workforce’s mental health. It helps to promote a work/life balance, encourages productivity, and reduces stress levels, giving employees an excuse to take a much-needed short break to say hello to or play with a colleague's dog.
The benefits don’t just stop at current staff either. If we want to attract the best young talent a pet-friendly policy could also work in our favour. According to new research working Millennials are looking for companies with dog-friendly policies. A quarter of 18- to 34-year-olds said a dog-friendly policy would be attractive to them, with 42% saying they would like or enjoy an office with a dog-friendly policy (some 11% more than the national average).
So what’s stopping employers from adopting a pet-friendly policy? Our research found that half of UK employers are concerned about the potential source of distraction a dog could create in the office and 41% had concerns over safety. That’s why we’ve created the Pets At Work toolkit to make it easier and more achievable for companies of any size overcome these barriers and introduce dogs into their work environments.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to adopting a pets at work policy. Employers should start by getting their leadership team on board and, if possible, facilitating a bring your dog to work day to test out how it might work and be received in your office. It’s important to bear in mind that not all employees will be comfortable around dogs so having dog-free areas, lifts and meeting rooms can ensure all members of staff feel happy and comfortable.
We wanted to support other UK businesses to adopt pet-friendly policies and reap the benefits by providing a toolkit that helps to simplify the process. The toolkit is based on our own experience creating schemes across Europe and research with multiple businesses about the simplest strategy to bring in a dog-friendly policy. All of this makes a dog-friendly policy easier to adopt and cost-effective, with the goal being for Purina to help 200 organisations across Europe open their doors to pets by 2020.
Paul Steadman is head of HR at Purina PetCare