Pet column: Pets in the workplace
June 19, 2013
Cats may be celebrating on Friday. Created in the United Kingdom and picked up by Pet Sitters International in 1998, it’s the 15th annual Take Your Dog to Work Day. Thousands of felines will get the house to themselves. On the other hand, the one-day event has become so popular, felines and other pets are being included during an entire Take Your Pet to Work Week, June 17-21. During the extra days, some businesses are designating a dog-free, feline-friendly day when cats can lie on the office computer keyboard from 9-5, just like at home. Well, not exactly. However, a growing number of lists like the Top 100 Corporations and 100 Best Places to Work include enterprises which allow pets on the job all year.
Websites have popped up for those seeking the benefit of non-human animal support at the office as well as for those who want to avoid it. As a sought-after employee benefit, it’s been documented that workplace productivity, teamwork and a boost in positive attitude result when employees bring pets to work. Allowing pets in the workplace reduces stress, absenteeism and turnover, and improves morale. Jerry Osteryoung, professor emeritus of entrepreneurship at Florida State University says “I would argue that the costs are negligible, and it adds so much.”
The purpose behind Take Your Dog to Work Day is to promote adoptions as well as pets at work as a positive extension of the human-animal bond. A 2011 study published by the American Psychological Association and reported in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology titled “Critters in the cube farm: Perceived psychological and organizational effects of pets in the workplace” by Wells, Meredith, Perrine and Rose concluded that allowing pets in the workplace reduces stress and increases loyalty. A survey in England indicated that more than 90 percent of employers who allow dogs noticed a positive change in the working environment. Half found there was a decrease in absenteeism while two-thirds said it improved staff morale. The American Humane Association surveyed store owners and compiled these employer benefits: staff morale and worker productivity increased along with increased camaraderie among employees, happier employees resulted in enhanced job performance and increased retail sales, and dogs can serve as a crime deterrent. A Virginia Commonwealth University research project reported in several journals, including Science Daily and International Journal of Workplace Health Management, found that dogs in the workplace may buffer the impact of stress during the workday for their owners and make the job more satisfying for those with whom they come into contact.
Google, one of the largest and better known best places to work, is pet friendly world wide. “It’s always been a part of our culture, that work-life balance, since we started as a company,” spokesman Jordan Newman stated in an interview. Participants report that they feel less stress, are prompted to take breaks, including lunch, as part of attending to their furry cubicle mates, and generally find that the diversion can clear mind clutter and promote creativity on the job. One of the reasons the pet-friendly practice has spread is the sharing of experience on how to make a pets allowed program work while being fair and friendly to those who do not like pets, fear them or suffer from allergic reactions.
Established guidelines can include what pets are allowed — some companies allows well-behaved dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets and even iguanas. Other issues to be addressed include pet-restricted pet areas if coworkers are allergic or do not like animals; regular breaks for pet elimination and cleanup; damage from chewing or soiling; distractions caused by barking or attention seeking. For the single-day event, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers provides tips to ensure a successful office visit: prepare your pet with grooming and up-to-date vaccinations; avoid forcing coworkers to interact with your dog; be mindful of fellow employees’ time and space; if your pet does not enjoy the experience or becomes overly boisterous, agitated or withdrawn, take him or her home. Never, under any circumstance, leave your pet alone in a vehicle while you work.
For information on creating pets at work policy for one day or all year, call the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 530-542-2857.
— Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.
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