Generous maternity and paternity leave policies are a key way for businesses to keep employees happy and attract new talent. One company, though, has decided that benefits for parents of a new baby aren't enough. What about workers who bring home a new puppy?

This summer Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency Nina Hale rolled out a new benefit package for its employees that includes what it calls "fur-ternity leave." The policy allows new pet owners to work from home for one week while their cats or dogs get acclimated to their new space.

Nina Hale CEO Donna Robinson says the company was inspired by two employees who had asked to work from home after getting new pets. (The benefit applies to any pet that needs hands-on training or attention--so goldfish and hamster owners need not apply.) 

"We had other employees that were talking about getting a pet, so we just thought, why not make it an official policy?" Robinson says. "If it's important to the employee, it's important to us." Nina Hale was recognized on Inc.'s Best Workplaces list in 2017. The company is also a six-time Inc. 5000 honoree.

Robinson says that because Minneapolis is a competitive market for advertising and marketing talent, her company refines its benefits package every six months to a year. Earlier this year, for the first time, that included distributing a survey to the 80-person staff about what was important to them.

Fur-ternity leave was one of the suggestions the company implemented, along with commuter stipends and the choice to work remotely between Christmas and New Year's. There's also a wellness stipend that gives employees $100 per quarter to spend on "whatever makes [them] happy," Robinson says. 

Nontraditional benefits like these are especially appealing at Nina Hale, which has a young workforce. For example, pet ownership among Millennials and members of Gen Y has surpassed that among baby boomers, according to The American Pet Products Association's 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey. 

Business Insider reports that 5 percent of pet owners have been offered paid leave to take care of a pet, citing research from pet insurance firm Petplan. Robinson's advice to someone who might be considering adding the benefit to their company's package? Start by listening to your employees.

"We're focused on creating benefits that really help people with their work-life balance, not necessarily giving them candy in the break room," she says. "Do surveys and make sure that the benefits you're creating are the ones they want and need. Do what's right for your business and your employees."

Published on: Aug 24, 2018