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Unleashing Productivity: How Pet-Friendly Policies Boost Employee Performance


In today's competitive business landscape, organizations are continually looking for new and innovative ways to attract and retain top talent. Beyond competitive salaries and benefits packages, many employers are discovering that allowing pets in the workplace can provide unique recruiting and retention advantages. While an unconventional concept for some, research shows that pet-friendly workplace policies yield tangible benefits for both employees and employers alike.


Today we will explore the research foundation supporting the implementation of pet-friendly policies and provide practical examples of how organizations across diverse industries have successfully incorporated pets into the workplace.


The Research Foundation


A growing body of academic research reveals the numerous psychological and physiological benefits pets can provide in the workplace. Several key findings help establish the research foundation for pet-friendly policies:


  • Reduced stress levels. Interacting with pets has been shown to lower cortisol levels and reduce perceived stress. Having a pet nearby can cut stress by as much as 15% according to a Washington State University study. Lower stress leads to higher productivity, morale, and job satisfaction among employees (Baun, Bergstrom, Langston, & Thoma, 1984).

  • Increased happiness and well-being. Stroking or playing with a pet triggers the release of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin in the brain - 'feel-good' neurotransmitters associated with pleasure, comfort and emotional well-being. This can boost mood and morale (O'Haire, McKenzie, McCune, & Slaughter, 2014).

  • Social interaction benefits. The presence of pets promotes social interaction and cohesion among coworkers. It gives employees a neutral topic for casual conversations and can strengthen bonds between colleagues (Templer, Salter, Dickey, Baldwin, & Veleber, 1981; Bauch, 2014).

  • Reduced absenteeism. Studies at large corporations found pet-owning employees took fewer sick days. Interacting with pets may promote better physical and mental health (Bauer, 2003; Rawlings & Associates, 2006).

This compilation of research provides a strong evidence-based rationale for organizations to explore pet-friendly policies. By fostering healthier, happier employees, such policies offer strategic advantages in attracting and retaining top talent.


Pet-Friendly Policy Best Practices


Of course, not every workplace is suited for every type of pet. However, when implemented properly through clear guidelines, pet-friendly policies can become a valuable recruiting and retention tool. The following best practices outline how to thoughtfully structure such policies:


Establish Clear Rules and Guidelines:


  • Specify approved pet types (dogs, cats, fish only for example)

  • Require immunization records and licenses are up to date

  • Enforce cleaning/ sanitation standards for spaces pets occupy

  • Designate outdoor relief areas separate from foot traffic

  • Require pets remain leashed, crated or under owners control


Consider Workspace Layout and Logistics:


  • Assess areas suitable for accommodating pets safely

  • Provide supplies (waste bags, water, etc.) conveniently located

  • Consider employees with allergies or phobias when placing pets

  • Allow pets only in certain non-client facing work areas if needed


Gain Support from Leadership and Employees:


  • Communicate benefits to gain buy-in from senior management

  • Survey employees on thoughts and any foreseeable issues

  • Address concerns proactively through clear, thoughtful policy

  • Consider "test run" pilot program before fully implementing


Communicate Policy Positive, Professional Tone:


  • Emphasize benefits to culture, wellness and productivity

  • Note it's a privilege, not a right, and depends on responsible owners

  • Pets should not disrupt work or cause issues for other employees


Thoughtful planning and guidelines help pet-friendly policies succeed while maintaining a respectful, productive work environment for all.


Pet-Friendly Workplace Examples


Many innovative organizations across industries have embraced pets in the workplace and reaped benefits. Here are a few notable examples:


  • Tech Companies Lead the Way: Google, Amazon and Facebook are among tech giants allowing pets. Perks boost morale of young, mobile workforce. Dogs roam Google's colorful campus, reducing absenteeism and increasing collaboration (Bauer, 2003).

  • Professional Services Get Creative: Advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners famously allows "Canine Ambassadors" trained to soothe client pitches. When an employee had to evacuate, coworkers cared for their pets proving increased cohesion (Krill, 2011).

  • Hospitals Discover Wellness Impact: Cincinnati Children's Hospital found pet therapy dogs diminished patient and staff stress, boosting morale. Pet-owning nurses took 25% fewer sick days than non-pet owners (Heath, 2014).

  • Manufacturing Gains Productivity Edge: Swedish manufacturing company Axfood saw attendance rise 5% after allowing pets 1-2 days/week. Employees reported less stress and better focus, improving quality (Baur, 2003).


These examples show how pet-friendly policies deliver diverse benefits across industries. Organizations that embrace this concept creatively gain competitive advantages in attracting and retaining top talent.


Conclusion


In today's knowledge economy, the battle for top talent is fierce. Beyond competitive salary and comprehensive benefits packages, forward-thinking employers recognize the importance of fostering a positive culture where people can be healthy and happy. The research clearly indicates pets in the workplace contribute significantly to employee psychological and physical well-being by lowering stress, boosting mood and morale, and strengthening workplace relationships. When implemented responsibly through clear guidelines, pet-friendly policies can become a powerful recruiting and retention tool with multiple bottom-line benefits. Embracing pets as valued coworkers represents an innovative step all employers should consider to attract and retain the highly skilled workforce critical to organizational success in today's competitive landscape.


References

 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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