As humans, we like categories. When we categorize people, we can quickly assume some basic knowledge about them solely based on what category they fit. Case in point? Dog people versus cat people. An age old contention, a rivalry that has existed for centuries. While these two categories of people battle it out over which animal is best, there’s one location where they work together in relative harmony: the office.
Offices are filled with humans whose animals are left at home. Yet, with the recent major changes in office culture, some lucky pets - and not just cats and dogs! - get to travel into the office with their owners. While it sounds like a dream for many, others feel strong resistance to the idea, whether it’s a cat, dog, rabbit, hamster, bird, or fish. We’ll unpack the pros and cons of pets in the office so you can set the right policy for your company.
The pros of pets in the office
Believe it or not, there are more reasons to have pets in the office than: “They’re so cute!” With several research studies on the topic concluding that there are benefits, it might be a great idea to offer pet perks to your company.
Here are a few of the most significant pros of inviting your animal friends into the office:
- Pets in the office can lower stress. Study after study shows that having pets in work environments can decrease stress by lowering the stress hormone called cortisol. Pets can also increase our oxytocin levels, which is the hormone related to bonding. Those fluffy little things give us something to smile about, some soft fur to pet, or a warm little body to have on your lap during meetings.
- They can lead to greater productivity. Taking care of a pet means taking many small breaks - taking the dog for a walk, feeding the cat, getting up to look in your rabbit’s cage. While it sounds backwards, taking small breaks from concentrating on your work can give your brain the break it needs to feel energized and refreshed throughout the day.
- Encourages people to come into the office. One of the major reasons why people want to stay WFH in hybrid working arrangements is because they don’t want to leave their animals alone throughout the day. By offering them the option to bring their pet into the office with them, they may be more interested in returning to the office.
- Keeps up with modern office perks. With more and more offices offering “Bring Your Pet into Work Day” or animal-friendly options, those looking for roles might be more interested in a company that offers the perk than one who doesn’t. Companies that have pet policies might have a competitive edge for the individuals that are looking for flexible, modern work.
- Can turn a regular day into a celeration. Want to make Mondays more exciting? Or want to make month-end less stressful? Consider allowing pets on those days to make them special. Having a pet policy for your office doesn’t mean that you have to let pets come in with their owners every day. Making one day per month or only special days pet-friendly can turn any regular day into a celebration.
- Brings people together. Lastly, having a pet friendly office can bring colleagues closer together. With ample opportunities for small talk and getting to know your teammates on a deeper level, it can boost company connectedness, which has many significant benefits down the track.
There are many ways to set up your pet policy, including the cadence and how many pets can come in each day. You might consider having one pet allowed per day, rotating who gets to bring in their little buddy each time. Or you could have a Dog Day, a Cat Day, and a Reptile Day. (We’re guessing that the last one might not be the most popular…)
The cons of pets in the office
For many, the pros of having pets in the office completely sells them on the idea - they’re already typing up the company policy to publish on the wiki or to glue to HR’s door to voice their demands. Others, however, find the idea upsetting - and reasonably so.
There are many arguments why pets in the office can be a bad thing for your company, including:
- Can trigger allergies. While some people can rub their faces in the fluffiest of Pomeranians without so much as a sneeze, some people’s allergies become triggered just by being in the same room as a dog. Their sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, or skin reactions can be distracting for them - not to mention extremely uncomfortable, which is easily avoided.
- Not everyone likes animals, which can become divisive. Where there are cat people and dog people, there are also animal lovers and those who prefer to stay away from animals. This could be from a previous bad experience or bad association, which is a legitimate reason not to become pals with your colleague’s Maine Coon. Having pets in the office can lead to low morale or even distress for these individuals, which might result in a decrease in their feelings of closeness with their colleagues - or even conflict, which is bad for team cohesion.
- They’re distracting. Cats love boxes. Dogs like to chew on things. Need we say more? For the owners and the nearby colleagues alike, having a pet nearby can be distracting. Pulling your dog away from the electrical cords every five minutes might not give you the focus you need to pull off your priority task of the day.
- Not all animals are suited to being around groups of people. Depending on the animal, it might be overwhelming for the pet to be in the building. Not all pets are socialized to the point where they would be comfortable being around so many humans - especially humans that no doubt want to reach over and give them a pat.
- Animals are messy. Humans are messy too, fair enough, but animals can’t exactly clean up after themselves. Whether it’s a bodily function or getting into the snack cupboard, having an animal in the office has potential for disorder.
If you’re interested in having a pet policy but aren’t keen on the above reasons against it, see if there’s a way to decrease the risks. This could include bringing an animal into the office only after the day is over for those who want to stick around or keeping the pet in a separate room from the whole team.
Make your pet policy fair
If you decide that your company needs animal friends in the office - whether that’s every day or only for special occasions - it’s important to make sure that the policy is fair. Everyone who wants to bring their pet into the office should have an equal chance as their colleagues. The chameleon should get just as much facetime with the company as the greyhound. Keep in mind that the goal of a pet policy is to boost your company’s morale, so setting a policy should take intentionality and fairness.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with deciding that you don’t want pets in the office. There are so many reasons why it might not be the best decision, while there are also so many reasons why it could be a great experience for everyone.
There’s nothing wrong, after all, with being a plant person. Bring Your Plant to Work Day might be just as popular!