Make Every Day "Bring Your Dog To Work" Day

Here's how to create a pet-friendly office environment that works for everyone.

With your morning routine behind you, the last thing you need to do before heading out to face another day at the office is to say goodbye to Lieutenant Whiskers and Burt the Wonderpup.

But what if you didn’t have to bid a sad farewell every morning? What if Lieutenant and Burt could accompany you into the office?

More companies are asking this question as study after study proves pets can have a positive effect on the productivity and stress levels of employees and as pet policies help attract great talent. For example, a 2010 study by Central Michigan University found the mere presence of a dog in the office helped employees collaborate more effectively.

Another study, this time by Randolph Barker, a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business, found animals in the workplace buffer stress for workers and make the job more satisfying for those who come into contact with furry friends.

There are plenty more studies to be found extolling the stress-busting and productivity benefits of carting your four-legged friends into the workplace. And adopting a pet policy might just be the best way to attract the kind of talent your company needs, and it may improve your current employees’ productivity as well.

But just how do you set up an inclusive pet policy that will work for everyone in your organization?

Here are some tips on how to work alongside Fido and attract top talent, all without ruffling any feathers:

1. Form An Exploratory Pup Committee

Just because you want to bring your dog or cat into the office doesn’t mean everyone in your organization will love the new pet policy.

Before starting a new initiative at your company, form an exploratory committee made up of pet owners and non-pet-owners. Talk about all the upsides and potential downsides of a pet inclusion policy before moving forward. Only when everyone is on the same page and all the options have been weighed should you move forward.

2. Create A Pet Policy

The key to successfully bringing pets into the office is to create a comprehensive set of guidelines employees can refer to and putting these rules down on paper. Your policy should be as specific and actionable as possible, so there’s no confusion over rules.

3. Get Landlord Approval

Before announcing your pet policy company-wide, make sure your landlord is on board with the new plan.

Be smart about how you approach your landlord and bring as much supporting documentation, including your formalized pet policy, as you can. Offer to clean up messes and repair any damages immediately. If your landlord seems unsure, you can offer to adopt the policy on a trial basis or even have your landlord meet the well-behaved pets who will be your new coworkers.

4. Distribute the Policy

Once you have landlord approval, you can distribute the pet policy to all employees. Be open to adapting your policy with feedback and the realities of your office environment. You can later use this pet policy on your career page and in your recruitment efforts as a top-notch perk to attract great candidates and their furry friends.

5. Make Sure Pets Are Healthy

Before pets stampede into the office, make sure owners fill out proper paperwork and perhaps even put in an application to bring their pup to work. All pets should be healthy, sociable, and up-to-date on all important shots.

6. Interview Some Pups

Just like you’d interview the great candidates attracted by your pet policy to ensure they fit in with the company culture, you should make sure any four-legged workers will fit into the office with ease. The pets you allow in your office should be sociable, friendly, quiet, and well behaved. You might want to consider skipping out on young pups without the training and experience necessary to be good office companions.

Once you’ve set up your pet policy in the office, make it clear new furry members will need a trial period to make sure they fit in with the company before they become full-time office mates.

7. Pet-Proof Your Office

Before bringing any pets into the office, you’ll need to make the physical environment fit for animals. Figure out where pets will take their bathroom breaks and get fresh air, invest in some baby gates to keep pets from certain sections of the office, and hide all electrical wires.

8. Have A Three-Strikes Rule

As a new pet policy goes into place, there are going to be some mistakes made. But more than three errors probably means the animal isn’t right for the office, or the employee isn’t responsible enough to oversee their animal. While a three-strikes policy is good for minor incidents, any serious aggression from an animal should result in automatic ejection from the workplace.

9. Know The Liability Issues

Unfortunately, having pets in the office can be a huge liability issue. Have employees sign waivers to be responsible for any damage their pet causes in the workplace. You might also want to consult with your company’s legal department to ensure all liability issues are squared away before Fido pads into the conference room.

10. Create A Pet-Free Zone

Not everyone likes animals and it’s possible some employees might even suffer from pet allergies. Even if your office seems to be on the same page about including pets, make sure there are several areas in the workplace where employees can escape.

11. Make Your Pet Policy A Lasting Part Of Your Company Culture

Being able to bring pets into the office can work as a huge perk to attract potential employees. It shows top-notch candidates your company isn’t stuffy and isn’t interested in the way things have always been done, but is interested in cultivating better work-life balance.

Your pet policy should become an important part of your company culture, one you can promote on your career page and social channels. Put your pet policy in a prominent position on your career page, share photos of your furry office mates on your company’s Facebook, and even include your four-legged friends in promotional company videos.

Make sure to mention your policy during interviews with talent, especially if the interview takes place outside the office through a video interview. While video interviews are a great way to connect with busy or out-of-town talent, they won’t have the same experience of seeing your pet policy in action. So make sure you can explain and address any issues candidates might have about your furry office companions.

Your pet policy could be just the thing to entice top-notch talent to consider your company, so embrace and promote office pets as an important aspect of your culture. While getting your four-legged friends into the office might not be simple, all the work will be worth it in the long run if employees are happier and healthier working alongside their furry friends.

What are some ways you implemented a pet policy? Share in the comments!

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. Learn more about using video interviewing for cultural hiring and connect with Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.

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[Image: Flickr user OakleyOriginals]

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