Is An Office Pet A Good Idea or A Great Distraction?

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There’s a growing trend in UK offices with 1 in 5 now allowing a pet in the workplace.

It’s becoming more and more common for business owners to bring their pet into the office on a regular basis or allow their employees to bring their pet to work for the day.

You may even be considering jumping on board the trend yourself.

Though there are many issues that can arise with this kind of new addition to the workplace, a decent policy and careful consideration could potentially make this a great business decision. But how do you know if it will work for you and your business?

Benefits of an office pet

There are a few proven benefits to having an animal in the workplace with the main one being that they can improve employee morale.

Dogs have even been known to be used as emotional support and social anxiety relief for people who struggle with mental health, which could be a great asset to a stressful work environment.

A survey of 200 office workers conducted by Animal Friends Insurance found that 48% of workers reported a more positive outlook on their work with a pet in the office.

This is probably since animals have the ability to lighten the atmosphere and promote a more relaxed environment that many, especially animal lovers, will appreciate and enjoy.

An office pet can also be classed as a company perk that could make your workplace look more attractive when it comes to recruitment.

Policy for office pets

As the saying goes, never work with children or animals, and there is good reason for this.

There are many things you will need to consider before introducing a pet into the workplace, and not just what animal it’s going to be or what you’re going to name them; there is a whole policy that will need to be written up, implemented and communicated with your team.

1 in 3 UK businesses now have a pet policy in place which goes to show just how popular it is to have an office pet as well as the responsibility that comes with it.

There are many things to consider and establish to ensure that the pet will be taken care of without causing any major distractions to the workplace, the pet will not cause any danger or harm to employees or visitors, and the business can continue to run smoothly on a day to day basis.

If you require professional support in putting together a policy like this for the workplace, then our HR consultants can create one tailored to suit the needs of your business. Call us on 0845 2626 260 to learn more.

Which pets are allowed?

First, you will need to determine the rules and guidelines for exactly what pets are allowed in the workplace, when and why.

It may be as simple as stating that the only pet allowed in the office is the managing directors’/most senior member of staffs’ unless there is an agreed arrangement made between an employee and their line manager.

However, you may be more lenient and allow employees to take turns in bringing their pet into the workplace as long as they meet certain requirements e.g.:

There may also be certain days where animals are completely prohibited from being in the workplace such as when there are visitors scheduled or important meetings taking place.

You will also need to put a rota in place if there are going to be multiple pets allowed in and out of the office to avoid your workplace turning into a dog hotel.

Who will be responsible for the animal?

Typically, the office pet will belong to a senior member of staff; hence, their pet is solely their responsibility both inside and outside of the workplace.

However, they may assign members of their staff to help care for the pet when at work which would need to be agreed between the pet owner and those employees by updating contracts of employment to list any additional responsibilities that would now fall within their job description.

This may include feeding the pet, taking the pet for a walk, cleaning up after them etc. but it will need to be made clear that no liability falls with the employee should there be an accident involving the pet.

There are also added expenses that will need to be paid for such as food, amenities, toys, cage/bed etc. for the animal so that they can be taken care of when in the workplace. This will need to come out of the pet owners’ pocket unless it has been agreed that this can be put down as a business expense.

Health and Safety issues of an office pet

Most importantly, there are health and safety issues that need to be addressed before you can even move forward with a policy.

Are there any employees who are allergic to any animals?

This is a question that will need to be asked to all current employees and anyone who joins the workplace later because an office pet could put some employees’ health in danger.

If an issue is raised, then you need to be considerate of those employees and their health by prohibiting pets/certain types of animals from the workplace.

Are there employees who have phobias?

It is also just as important to establish whether any of your employees may have a serious phobia of dogs, cats or any other animal you may be considering bringing into the workplace.

It wouldn’t be fair to have an animal roaming around the office that may cause an employee to feel anxious and could lead to increased absence or even resignation.

Even if you get the all clear from all your employees, you need to consider visitors to the office and any allergies or fears that they may have. The only way around this would be to forewarn visitors about an animal in the office and, if necessary, have an assigned safe space that the animal can be kept or do not allow the animal to be in the office at all on that occasion.

As mentioned previously, you need to ensure that all animals are vaccinated before entering the workplace and that they are fully trained and capable of being in an environment around a lot of new people.

Some animals can get overexcited, or even anxious, which may lead them to act out of character and scratch or bite, injuring an employee in the process.

You will also need to consider emergency evacuations and how an office pet may create an issue in carrying this out effectively as well as the hygiene of your pet and other safety implications should there be a toilet accident (or any other accident i.e. gnawing at a wire) in the workplace.

Additional health and safety concerns will apply to different industries. For example, a food premises will have to carefully consider the hygiene risks associated with having an animal in the same environment as food that is being prepared, stored or served.

It might be necessary to create an animal-free area in the workplace where employees can take their breaks, eat their lunch or take meetings/calls without the potential interruption of an office pet.

Alternatively, you can restrict your office pet to certain areas of the workplace or for a certain number of hours a day because everyone needs a break and deserves the opportunity to get their head down and stuck into their work with no distraction.

Complaint process regarding office pets

Even once a policy has been created and employees have all agreed to it, people can change their mind and circumstances can change too.

The idea of an office pet can seem exciting and harmless to many after first but, unsurprisingly, after a couple of weeks the novelty may wear off and reality hits.

The distraction may be too much, or the pet may be causing more mess and work than previously considered; hence, you must put a complaint process in place so that employees can voice their concerns or change of heart further down the line.

An anonymous ‘complaint’ box left somewhere in the office often works well for voicing opinions on more difficult subjects, as does regular 1-2-1 meetings with your employees. Make it clear to all your employees how they must go about filing a complaint and the process that will follow.

If you have any further questions about this HR issue, or you require support in putting together an office pet policy for your workplace, then call us today on 0845 2626 260

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