May 27, 2021

Who let the dogs in?! Considering office-based pets.

It’s increasingly common for organisations to allow pets, namely dogs, in the office. Household names such as Nestle, Amazon, Etsy and Google are among the growing numbers of pooch friendly firms.

All of this was in pre-Covid times. But there’s evidence to suggest that as we continue out of lockdown, the trend is likely to continue. A staggering 3.2 million households in Britain have become 1st time dog owners since March 2020. Of course, huge numbers of employees have found a way to work from home. And having a dog there is unlikely to get in the way of that working model. Unless it’s a particularly yappy one!

However, as offices reopen their doors, many employees are asking whether they can bring their dogs into work with them. Some of these new dog owners may never have been away from their pet for any significant period of time. Plus, they might have concerns about leaving them at home for the entirety of the working week.

This is on top of the general anxiety that many people will feel about returning to an office at all. A recent study shows 40% of homeworkers have concerns over catching Coronavirus from colleagues if they return to a central office location.

Why might a company consider allowing dogs in the workplace?

Most of the available evidence suggests that allowing dogs in the office provides a number of benefits to employee wellbeing. A scientific study carried out in 2019 by the University of Lincoln disclosed that staff who took their dog to work reported:

  • 22% higher satisfaction with working conditions
  • An increased absorption in their work, 33.4% in fact
  • Increased dedication to work by 16.5%

Team this with the results of PowWowNow’s recent study which showed 45% of current homeworkers would prefer to work in dog friendly offices. The evidence mounts, showing that it might not be such a barking mad idea to let the dogs in.

Perhaps it could alleviate some of the anxieties faced by those fearing a return to the office after a year or more of working from home.

Top challenges to consider

Of course, it wouldn’t be wise to simply open the doors without considering carefully the potential implications from a health and safety point of view, and it wouldn’t work in all industries. Challenges to be considered include:

  • Staff allergies or fears of dogs
  • Practicalities posed by the numbers of dogs
  • Behaviour of dogs around employees and other dogs
  • Any cultural issues given that attitudes towards dogs can vary considerably across different cultures

That said, if these challenges can be overcome, employers may wish to allow dogs in the office.

Overcoming the challenges

First, you’d need to find out from your workforce how they’d feel about the prospect of dogs in the office. So, send a survey out. If significant numbers are against, you may choose not to proceed given the potential disruption, but you would at least have that evidence.

If after surveying staff there’s a positive response, you may wish to put in place a sensible and transparent policy for dogs in the office. Perhaps include a list of requirements to be fulfilled before a dog could be brought into the office. These might include evidence of the dog having successfully completed behavioural training. You may also wish to consider restricting particular breeds, or dogs of a certain size.

It would be wise to consider dogs in the context of the physical workplace – will they sit under the desk for example? Will dogs have to be restricted to certain parts of the premises and not allowed in others?

And whilst this may seem a huge and perhaps unnecessary change in the fabric of the office, remember that allowing dogs into the office could be introduced on a trial basis to see exactly how it goes and in order to gauge feedback from staff with or without pooches.

We are – for the most part – a nation of dog lovers. And with growing evidence suggesting that staff (and therefore employers) can benefit from a dog friendly office, this might be something you wish to consider trialling. Especially if your employees are positive about the prospect.

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About the author

Stuart Morley

About the author

Stuart Morley

Having completed degrees In Law, Criminal Justice and Federal Politics, Stuart finished his training at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2003. He was then awarded a scholar's bursary from the Honorable Society of the Inner Temple in October 2003 and called to the Bar of England and Wales. Stuart's experience handling hundreds of cases enables him to identify risk efficiently, working closely with Moorepay's advice service to place our clients in strong positions should they ever be sued. At Moorepay, Stuart has practiced exclusively in Employment Law, representing employers regularly in Tribunals across the UK in cases covering Wages, Breach of Contract, Unfair Dismissal, Discrimination, Transfer of Undertakings, Whistleblowing, Working Time and many others.

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