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Rover at work: How to become a pet-friendly workplace

Sep 22, 2017 3:24:09 PM / by The HR Trove by Willis Towers Watson

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Organizations of all types and sizes use employee perks to promote well-being, increase employee engagement, and improve productivity. Perks also help foster a workplace culture that can differentiate your organization from local and industry peers to help with hiring and retention.

Many employers are capitalizing on the positive impact that pet-friendly workplace policies often have on hiring and retention, and are taking Rover into consideration when developing workplace policies and benefits.

A pet-friendly workplace is a human-friendly workplace

Pet owners know that their fur babies are a part of the family. Not only are they good for the soul, they are good for our health, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pets can decrease our cholesterol/triglyceride levels, blood pressure and feelings of loneliness, and increase our exercise habits and opportunities for socialization. (Who doesn’t want to stop to pet a cute little puppy?)

In today’s millennial-heavy workplace, organizations that are pet friendly are finding that it can be an effective recruitment and retention tool. With millennials delaying getting married and having children, they often turn to pets for companionship. A recent study by Banfield Pet Hospital found that more than 80% of respondents thought that pets in the workplace are a positive tool to boost morale, reduce the guilt of leaving pets at home, reduce stress for employees, offer a greater work-life balance, and improve loyalty to the company. A majority of respondents stated that they were more likely to stay with an employer offering pet-friendly policies.

Not only are pets a morale booster, they are a natural conversation starter — which helps to boost collaboration within the office. Pet-friendly employers also provide employees with better work-life balance — they no longer have to worry about rushing home after work or during lunch to walk their dog or pay for a dog walker to do it for them, which can lead to higher productivity.

Three easy steps to becoming a pet-friendly workplace

1. Assess your organization's readiness

The first step is assessing your organization’s readiness for allowing pets at work. We suggest getting input from stakeholders across the organization – employees, managers, and HR – to ensure that your workplace culture is ready for Rover. There may be large subsets of employees who do not like pets or are allergic to them.

There are a variety of survey tools out there that make capturing employee feedback quick and painless. Our favorite is, of course, Willis Towers Watson Pulse Software, but getting input is the most important step in assessing employee demand.

2. Develop and document a formal policy

It is also important to have a formal policy outlining what is, and what is not, permitted. However, half of all pet-friendly workplaces do not have a formal policy. Most organizations would prefer that the pet is housebroken, is well-mannered, gets along with others, is spayed/ neutered and has updated vaccinations. Some even go as far as putting a weight limit on the pets that can be brought to work. It is essential to remember that bringing a pet to work is a privilege, not a right, and policies should clearly state who is responsible for a pet in the office. No one wants an ill-mannered Great Dane running around, knocking over garbage cans and otherwise causing chaos. Manager approval is a must. This should be a privilege that can be revoked at any time if it is not working out.

Other items to consider are employee length of service requirements, nearby coworker approval and co-worker allergies. Perhaps consider segmenting a “pet-free” zone for employees who have allergies or are not “pet people” in general. Organizations also need to consider any modifications required for the office to become pet-friendly (dog gates, “potty” areas, electrical modifications, etc.). Additionally, if you do not own your office space, you would need to get your management company’s permission to implement such a policy.

3. Consider pet-friendly alternatives to bringing your pet to work

If a “bring your pet to work” policy is not feasible for your organization, you still have some options with employee holiday perk ideas or unique pet-themed perks throughout the year. Consider sponsoring local animal shelters either monetarily or with paid time off to volunteer, add pets to your sick and bereavement policies, or offer “new pet bonding time” — remembering that to many employees, pets are a member of the family.

Another possibility would be to offer pet insurance to support your employees’ finances in caring for their pet. The Willis Towers Watson Voluntary Benefits Survey showcased pet insurance as one of the top five fastest-growing voluntary benefits. As veterinary costs have dramatically increased over the last decade, pet insurance may help ease the financial burden of owning and caring for a pet, and can help round out an employer culture in becoming a pet-friendly environment.

Exceptions for service animals

Requests to bring service animals into the workplace should not be immediately dismissed. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed a lawsuit against an organization who denied employment to an applicant with a service animal. Emotional support animals may be a reasonable accommodation under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Even in non-pet-friendly workplaces, requests of this type should be evaluated the same as you would evaluate any other accommodation request, working in conjunction with legal counsel to ensure that you are going through the appropriate interactive process to determine any accommodations or undue hardships.

What perks are right for your organization?

If a pet-friendly workplace isn’t in the cards for your organization, there are a number of other perks you may want to consider.

Perks can range from the more conventional (meal allowances, casual dress, flexible hours) to the truly unique (electric vehicle charging stations and pet-friendly offices). Willis Towers Watson has studied perks offered by U.S. employers for the past several years and the following recent trends have emerged:

Focus on Family Perks
  • Expansion of paid leaves (maternity, paternity, and adoption)
  • Surrogacy and adoption assistance
  • Pet-friendly workplaces
Expansion of Wellness Perks
  • On-site and near-site medical
  • Telemedicine (including behavioral health)
  • Gym reimbursement to wellness stipend
Support for Financial Wellbeing
  • Financial counseling
  • Student loan repayment assistance
Commitment to Service
  • Volunteer time off
  • Support for community events
  • Employee resource groups
Getting Employees To and From Work
  • Bicycle parking
  • Outposts for on-site car sharing services
  • Flexible work schemes and work-from-home arrangements
Source: Willis Towers Watson 2015 U.S. High-Tech Perks Study

Our Employee Perks Matching Tool can help you design a custom perks strategy and select the perks that best fit your organization and workplace goals.



Blog Contributors

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Sara Ritter, M.A., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Senior HR Consultant, Willis Towers Watson

With more than 12 years of experience in a variety of human resources arenas, Sara guides clients in human resources strategy, total rewards, employee on boarding, performance management, employment law compliance, leaves of absence, training and development, market/best practice research and much more. In her free time, Sara enjoys spending time with her family, including her two cats, Toodles and Tikki.

Jason Lavender.png
Jason Lavender, Health Imagination Lead, North America, Willis Towers Watson

Jason and the Health Imagination team are responsible for client innovation within the firm's Health & Benefits practice. Innovation can mean a variety of things, including facilitating ideation sessions, assessing emerging technology, and improving the consumer experience. Outside of work, Jason performs improv comedy and plays in a baseball league with no gloves.


Topics: Trends, Tools

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