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Pets in the workplace – welcome or unwelcome?

27 July 2021

More UK households are welcoming pets into their families. With around 3.2 million estimated to have bought a pet since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the welfare of our nation’s dogs, cats and other pet friends has never been more important.

Although some pet owners will be permanently working from home, others will soon be returning to the office as restrictions lift. So how can we ensure our pet’s welfare as we return to work, and what does it mean for businesses?

What are the rules around taking pets to work?

The rules on taking pets into work vary depending on the specific health and safety policies of each business. Certain workplaces, such as warehouses, factories and public spaces (e.g. schools or hospitals) will have strict policies on pets. In these spaces, assistance animals are often the only pets that are welcome due to tight hygiene and safety controls.

Some office environments may also restrict bringing pets into the workplace. This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as the rules in the lease of the building or a cultural policy that is concerned with putting across a professional image to clients e.g. within corporate law firms.

There might also be different rules for each type of pet, with office dogs being welcomed over fish or reptiles, for example. If you’re thinking about taking your dog to work or bringing your cat along to the office for a day trip, it’s important that you talk with your human resources department to check the business’ rules on pets in the office.

Are businesses becoming more pet-friendly?

Currently, just 15% of workplaces are considered to be pet friendly in the UK. However, organisations such as the RSPCA are encouraging more businesses to make their offices pet-friendly to support the welfare of pets bought during the lockdown.

Bigger companies such as Google, Ticketmaster and Monzo are encouraging more employees to bring pets into the workplace, with large animal brands such as Pets at Home and Purina also introducing Pets at Work schemes. However, 64% of offices don’t have pet-friendly work policies, suggesting that there are still very few cat, or dog-friendly jobs in the UK.

What are the benefits of having pets at work?

As well as encouraging a better work-life balance, pet-friendly workplaces face both challenges and benefits when it comes to balancing the needs of both pets and people. Having cats and dogs at work presents unique challenges for human resources departments, including balancing the needs of pet owners with the cultural, health and social concerns of other employees.

Allergic reactions, animal phobias and certain cultural attitudes towards pets can prevent businesses from welcoming cats and dogs into the workplace, especially in open-plan or customer-facing office environments. On the flip side, studies have shown that bringing pets into the workplace reduced stress and increased the productivity of team members who owned pets (and those that love animals).

How can you get your pet ready for work?

If you’re thinking about taking your pet to work, then you need to chat with your human resources team to see what policies they have in place. Communicating your plans with the rest of the team is also important to ensure you address any of their concerns before your pet is introduced into the office.

As a starting point, consider running a ‘bring your dog to work’ day so both your pet (whether they’re a dog or not) and the rest of the team can start to get used to each other in the office environment. This will help both to become more relaxed in each other’s presence and get you and your pet used to the commute, workday routine and the sights and sounds of the workplace.

If your employer’s policies mean you can take your pet into the workplace, it’s important that you get your pet used to being left at home during the workday, particularly if they’re young or used to you being around all the time.

Start by leaving your pet alone for just half an hour to an hour at a time and ensure they have access to lots of water and a toy to keep them entertained. Keeping them in a safe space in your house is also key to ensure your pet (and your furniture) doesn’t come to any harm, so consider using a cage or putting them in a kitchen or utility room if possible.

Turn your pet into a star employee!

Whether you’re taking your pet into the office or not, making sure they’re well-trained will mean they’re on their best behaviour, whatever environment they’re in. Teaching your pet how to perform basic commands such as sit, stay, lie down and regularly exposing them to different environments will help them to stay comfortable and under control both in the office and at home.

As well as helping them to become a star employee, training your pet is the first step to turning them into a Pet Star too. So, whether your pet is a natural actor or model, getting them on the books of Urban Paws will ensure they have a fantastic career all of their own.

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