Returning to the office is going to be a big challenge for people who became accustomed to working from home for well over a year. And while not every employer is reopening the office, many are. A lot of employees will be expected to be back in the office at least part of the week.
As business owners, we obviously want to do the best we can to accommodate employees as they return to the office. For me, I’m able to offer my team flexibility to continue working from home much of the week. But it’s not feasible for every business.
One thing that has proven a genuine concern for some people returning to the office is leaving behind pets.
A recent study showed a surge in demand for dogs over lockdown. Add to that the fact that pooches who were once accustomed to owners leaving to go work have now become very accustomed to them being at home, and what we have is more owners who are more worried than ever about leaving their furry friends home alone.
One potential answer is, of course, to allow employees to bring well behaved dogs to the office with them. But what are the pros and cons of doing so?
Benefits of Having Dogs in the Office
I’m a dog lover so I’m starting with the benefits.
A very obvious one is that by allowing employees to bring their pooch to the office, you eliminate them worrying about the dog home alone all day. You set their mind at ease, make it easier for them to be in the office which, in turn, will reduce stress and worry.
But the benefits go beyond that. In fact, studies prove that pets in the workplace can have a calming and stress reducing effect for all employees – not just the owner.
Pets also encourage physical activity. By having to get up and take them for a little walk, get them some water or just play with them for a few minutes, you’re forced to get away from your desk. If you’re anything like me, hours can pass by in a day without you even realising you haven’t got up off your chair. So this could help employees to take regular screen breaks, get moving a little more and improve their overall health.
The Purina study we cited before also shows that 50% of employees who work for companies that do not have a dogs-at-work policy, would consider it very much a benefit if their employer did have one.
In other words, this might be something that could help to attract and retain staff.
But what about the negatives?
I’ve made it clear which side of the fence I sit on. But of course, nothing is without its disadvantages. And dogs in the office does have potential negatives to consider.
Firstly, allergies. If anyone in your workplace has an allergy to dogs, then you’re essentially asking them to come into an environment which will make them feel unwell.
There’s also the different temperaments of dogs to consider. While most dogs I encounter are friendly, loving and playful, the chance of one dog with a slightly different temperament is a real consideration.
Just what would happen if one of your employees was nipped or bitten by another employee’s dog in the office? It’s a real potential issue.
There are also people with genuine fear of dogs. The crippling fear of dog (cynophobia) is thought to affect 1 in every 20 people.
1 in 7 adults in the UK and up to a third of children have a fear of dogs. So if there are 7 people in your business, it’s likely at least one will be afraid of dogs.
It makes their working environment very unpleasant for them then, if people have their dogs at work.
And while a loveable labrador might well reduce stress and help your employees in many ways, that’s very much from the perspective of dog lovers.
Let’s not also forget that the benefit of getting up and out of your seat more to tend to a dog could soon tip into a distraction if it happens soon after.
So, should you have dogs in the office?
I’m very much in the resounding “yes” camp here. But it has to be considered and potentially conditional on the needs of other non pet owning employees as well.
As ever, if you’re unsure, speak at an HR professional!