Why does it matter?
Having a dog-friendly workplace is an increasingly valued employee benefit, particularly among Millennials. Purina PetCare research found that 42% of that demographic would enjoy having dogs in the office. While not everyone agrees it is a good idea, with some employees suffering from pet allergies or phobias, implementing a dog-friendly office policy can be a sign of a flexible and progressive workplace.
Your research. The best way to understand the benefits and to set up a dog-friendly office policy properly is to speak to companies that are already dog-friendly.
Get the right people on board from the start. Make sure you engage with and have the support of key decision-makers, including the CEO and facilities.
Consult with your employees. While you’ll find that many employees will be in favour of bringing dogs into your office, not everyone will welcome the idea. Understand what the concerns are and take steps to address them.
Set and agree limitations. Define the limits – how many dogs will you allow in at a time? Will you have dog-free and dog-friendly areas, and if so where will they be?
Think of the benefits. Think about the positive effects on employee physical and mental wellbeing. Research has shown that dogs can create much happier and more productive working environments.
Join the Pets at Work Alliance. It’s completely free and you can access a broad range of ready-to-use materials from the dedicated Pets at Work toolkit, including how to deal with issues like allergies and phobias and help to draft a policy that works for you.
Be put off by barriers that don’t exist. For example noise, ‘little accidents’ and general disruption. This is the opposite experience to that which most companies have; most dogs will spend the day sleeping under their owner’s desk!
Think your company is too big or too small. A pets at work policy can work for any size of company. Nestlé’s Gatwick HQ has been dog-friendly since 2015.
Think if someone has an allergy or phobia you can’t have dogs in the office. Work with individual employees to see what will make them comfortable – it could be as simple as keeping dogs on leads so they can’t wander freely around the office or into certain areas. Also seek advice from an allergy specialist when creating a scheme.
Think it has to cost money. Having dogs in the workplace is a benefit you can introduce with little or no cost to the business. All you need are some willing dog owners and adequate signage.
Assume all dogs are suitable for the office. It might be too noisy for them, they might not like other dogs, they may not like attention from strangers or they could struggle with the commute. Before allowing employees to bring their dogs to work make sure you are satisfied that the dog and owner will be able to cope. Encourage employees to have a trial run.
Laura Vallance is corporate affairs manager at Nestlé Purina UK & Ireland