According to the 2017 American Pet Product Association’s (APPA) 2017 National Pet Owner’s Survey, 84.6 million households in the U.S. have pets. But what are all those pets doing while their owners are away working 40 hours—or more—each week? More and more employers are opting to allow employees to bring their pets to work; in fact, an estimated 7 to 11 percent of U.S. employees are allowed to bring their pet to work.

Both benefits and challenges come up when our team has talked with clients considering creating pet-friendly workplaces. If you’re considering creating a pet-friendly workplace, there are several things to consider before you do.

What are the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace?

Pet-friendly workplaces offer many benefits according to the Society for Human Resource Management:

  • Loyalty: 83% of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to companies with pet-friendly policies
  • Retention: More than half of workers at companies without pet-friendly policies said they would “be more likely to stay at their organization if it were to offer pet-related perks”
  • Morale: 91% of 200 HR decision-makers agreed that having pets at work improves morale

While these numbers in favor of allowing pets in the workplace are hard to ignore, it’s important to consider the challenges of bringing pets into the workplace.

  • If you’re a small organization now, will you allow the same benefit as you grow?
  • Will you allow all types of pets, or are you limiting it to select animals? How will you explain any exclusions to your staff?
  • How will you handle issues if they arise?
  • Are there areas where pets are welcome and areas where they are not allowed (e.g., kitchens, meeting rooms, etc.)?
  • Are there pet-friendly benefits you can offer aside from inviting employees to bring their pet to work?

What are the challenges of a pet-friendly workplace?

From the employee perspective, we’ve talked with people who aren’t in favor of a pet-friendly workplace. These employees bring up concerns including:

  • Allergies
  • Fear of certain animals, or of animals not getting along
  • Not fitting in if you aren’t into animals
  • Smells in the moment or that build up over time
  • Sounds (e.g., barking) that break concentration or phone communication

In addition to these concerns, not every workspace is conducive to pets (e.g., distribution centers or factories). If pets are allowed in some parts of the business but not others, there may be perceptions of unfair bias of people who work in different functional or physical areas.

Similarly, you want to be sure that establishing a pet-friendly culture doesn’t alienate employees or future employees. Our team heard of a situation in which a candidate was told they weren’t a “culture fit” because they didn’t have a dog.

From one dog lover to another, I recommend erring on the side of caution when planning the creation of a pet-friendly workplace. Before you allow pets in your workplace, check out these tips and examples of how organizations create and manage a successful pet-friendly workplace.

You don’t have to go it alone when considering whether or not Fido should be allowed to come to work. If you find you need support thinking through how your workplace programs fit together to positively impact your business, please reach out.