Your IndustryAug 2 2017

Q&A: Opening the office doors to animals

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Q&A: Opening the office doors to animals
ByPeter Done

Q: I am considering making my workplace dog-friendly. What issues do I need to consider before creating a policy on it?  

A: Workplace perks are a straightforward way of setting a business apart from their competitors and more companies are welcoming the opportunity to create a more friendly workspace. Companies within the pet sector have been allowing staff to bring dogs to work for many years and the success of Bring Your Dog to Work Day has led to a wider range of companies doing this. 

Surveying the enthusiasm of the workforce towards introducing a dog-friendly policy is important in order to avoid any later complaints or grumbles from staff who will not want to share their office with pets.

Such a survey is likely to bring up any issues such as allergies to fur or fears of dogs. Where every member of staff supports the idea, it will be a lot easier to implement a scheme. If there are a few employees objecting to the policy then consider how these issues can be addressed or accommodated; do not just ignore them. 

Planning ahead is essential to ensure the policy is a success. Employers need to consider whether the policy will be wide open or if there will be restrictions, such as allowing staff to bring pets in on one day of the week or only allowing one dog in the office at a time. Also, consider where dogs will be located. If possible, it might be a good idea to have dog-friendly and non-dog-friendly meeting rooms to allow those who have allergies or other aversions to meet elsewhere. The rules for dog owners should also be laid out in a policy. Issues such as time spent playing with pets, cleaning rules and responsibility for training and behaviour should be set out in advance of introducing this initiative. 

Employers should also carry out a risk assessment and ensure their office is made dog-proof. This will include looking at areas such as exposed wiring, rubbish containers and access to outdoor areas. The cover of pets and damage caused by them under current insurance policies will also need to be checked. 

While dogs are shown to improve the workplace, not everyone will be happy with having them at work. Employers who wish to introduce pets in a working environment to get the benefits, such as improved communication and reducing workplace stress, can consider other animals that are quieter than dogs, less boisterous and easier to leave to their own devices.

Peter Done is managing director of law firm Peninsula