Banfield Pet Hospital, a division of Mars, Inc. had pet-friendly offices before they were popular, allowing employees to bring their dogs to work for roughly a quarter century. In addition to the anecdotal evidence shared by pet owners about the benefits of pet-friendly offices, they knew first-hand about the positive impact of allowing employees to bring their pets to work. But, since there was little formal study of those benefits, they were difficult to quantify.

Now, that has changed. In spring 2016, Banfield Pet Hospital released employees' and human resources managers' perspectives on pet-friendly workplaces. The PAWrometer™ (pets at work barometer) survey, found that allowing pets in the workplace positively affected everything from recruiting and hiring to morale, productivity, and retention.

"Having pets in the office breaks down barriers. When a new pet comes into the office, everyone gathers around to meet the new pet. When senior leaders bring their pets into the office, it gives employees an opportunity to have real conversations with those leaders," says Tami Majer, senior vice president of People & Organization, Banfield Pet Hospital.

The pets-at-work advantage

The PAWrometer report's data on the impact of pet-friendly workplaces exceeded expectations about the benefits of pets in the office. The report found:

  • 53 percent of employees who currently work at a company that is not pet-friendly were "more likely" to stay with their company if it allowed them to bring their pets to the office. Sixty-three percent of HR decision makers at companies without pet-friendly policies would be more likely to stay if the policy changed to be pet friendly.
  • 82 percent of employees and 91 percent of HR decision makers said that allowing pets in the workplace would make employees more loyal to the company.
  • Employee reports of improved morale (88 percent), reduced stress (86 percent), and increased productivity (67 percent) are a result of pet-friendly policies.

Majer says the survey findings also revealed that the effects extended to employees who either don't have pets or do not bring them to work. In addition, workplaces that welcome pets enjoy recruitment advantages, she says.

"Prospective employees are amazed at the positive feeling they get when they walk in and see all these pets throughout the workplace," she says.

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Getting pet-friendly right

According to the PAWrometer survey, while more than one in five employees and HR decision makers report that their employers allow them to bring pets into the office, less than nine percent of employees and 13 percent of HR decision makers indicate that their company has implemented a formal pet-friendly workplace policy. If your company is considering allowing pets at work, Majer says there are a few important considerations. Getting support from senior leadership and employees is essential to ensure a successful program. She says that Banfield recommends ensuring a "pet-responsible" workplace to ensure that the environment is safe and inviting for both pets and employees.

"We are our pets' best advocates-;it is up to each owner to determine what environment is best for their pet," she says. The Banfield team created a formal policy for its pet-responsible workplace program and took several steps to protect the health and safety of both pets and employees.

  1. Vaccination policy. Like 95 percent of pet-friendly workplaces, Banfield allows dogs at the office. (Forty-six percent of PAWrometer employee respondents say cats are allowed in their workplaces.) However, Banfield requires proof of current vaccinations before a pet can be brought to work.
  2. Evaluation. The company hired a professional trainer to assess the dogs and evaluate their temperaments. Some dogs that are timid or aggressive, especially around people who are new to them, may not be the best candidates for a pets-at-work program. After the evaluation, color-coded leashes are used to let employees know how to interact with the dog. For instance, green leashes are for outgoing dogs that appreciate all human and dog interactions, and yellow leashes are for those dogs that are a little more reserved and may appreciate slower introductions to other dogs and humans.
  3. Employee training. All employees were trained to learn what the leash colors mean as well as the best way to interact with pets. They learned about how to interact with dogs that may appear under stress, as well as general best practices, such as only giving someone else's pet a treat after asking the "pet parent" for permission.

Majer says that other simple measures, such as ensuring that pets have fresh water and are regularly taken out for walks, are also important considerations. However, the overall effort of instituting pet-responsible workplace policies is minimal, compared to the positive impact it has on so many aspects of employee engagement, she says. In addition, the PAWrometer survey showed that pet-friendly policies may even have an unintended benefit: increasing the number of pets adopted, as more people are able to take care of them during work hours.