Paws for thought: The pros and cons of a pet-friendly office - petsitterbank

Paws for thought: The pros and cons of a pet-friendly office

For you and your pooch a pet-friendly workplace may seem a no-brainer.

More of us are facing pet separation anxiety than ever before. Dog ownership surged with pandemic lockdowns and working from home. Now, with the boundaries between work and home already so blurred, shouldn’t every inclusive, caring employer embrace an open-doggy-door policy?

What’s the harm? After all, isn’t there a growing body of research showing the benefits of pets in the workplaces?

Perhaps. Yes, pets certainly can bring benefits to the workplace. These include reducing stress and improving social interaction and job satisfaction.

But the same studies showing benefits, and that most people support a pet-friendly workplace, also highlight the risks, hazards and concerns that must be considered for a pet-friendly workplace to be inclusive, equitable and sustainable.

Dogs aren’t for everyone

Not everyone loves dogs. Some people just don’t like them, and a small percentage fear them — a condition called cynophobia.

A commonly reported number of how many this affects is 5 per cent of the population, but this is likely US-specific, with rates differing by country and culture. Global studies suggest about 3.8 per cent have a lifetime animal phobia (2 per cent of men, 5.4 per cent of women), including dogs and cats.

Not everyone loves dogs.(Pexels: Apunto Group Publicity agency)

About 10–20 per cent of the global population are allergic to dogs or cats. This rate is increasing.

But 100 per cent of workers have a right to feel safe and not have their health compromised at work.

This doesn’t automatically rule out a pet-friendly policy, but it does require exploring and addressing all these issues adequately.

Equity matters

Does everyone get to bring their pet to work?

If the boss can because they have a separate office but those sharing an open-plan space can’t, it’s likely to cause resentment.

The time spent petting, feeding or taking a dog for toilet breaks may also stoke negative feelings among some colleagues.

What about those with other types of pets? Some cats also suffer separation anxiety. Parrots (budgerigars, cockatiels, conures and others) also form strong attachments to humans and can become highly stressed when left alone.

Getting to work is also an equity issue. In many countries a pet-friendly workplace will require driving to work, because only registered assistance animals are allowed on public transport and in public spaces. It’s unfair if the only workers able to take advantage of a pet-friendly workplaces are those who can drive.

What’s in it for the dog?

Even though most dog owners want to take their dog to work, it’s very important to ask if that really is in your pet’s best interest.

Yes, dogs are a highly social species; and yes, your dog likes to be around you. But, like humans, not every dog ​​is a people person. For some dogs, home is their safe space. Even with their “human” they may be stressed away from it.

A cute white dog looks through a glass door
A pet-friendly workplace requires a pet-friendly policy.(Pexels: Damian Barczak)

Dogs, being sensitive to human emotions, may well feel stressed by your workplace if it also stresses you.

Other animal issues to consider include the presence of other dogs.

Organizational factors

A workplace therefore needs to consider multiple factors to make a pet-friendly policy work.

It needs to ensure the feelings of all workers have been considered, and whether the policy favors some at the expense of others.


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