My objective has been clear for many years now: Convince my bosses to let us have an office pet. Why? Pets provide opportunities for connection, calm, and collaboration in the workplace. Plus, they are really cute. The case for an office pet is not an easy one to win, but with some careful planning, you can successfully advocate for an office pet.
Step #1: Lay the Groundwork:
Company leaders can be uncomfortable with the idea of an office pet. Therefore, it is imperative that you lay the groundwork over time.
In 2016, I started with a Christmas wish list. “Office Puppy” was written at the top of the list. That got me a few chuckles and some sympathetic overtures, but no cute furball. In 2017, I mentioned the idea of an office pet to the head of our Wellness Committee. She pitched the idea of a work puppy party to our then COO, but no dice. By 2019, the Wellness Committee, of which I was a part, successfully hosted our first corporate pet event: Whiskers at Work. We welcomed bunnies, puppies, and a very rambunctious kitten to our office for a day. It was a temporary fix, but we had an absolute blast.
The case actually got a boost this year when most of my co-workers moved to working from home. Some of the highlights of our video conferences have been meeting everyone’s pets. I have also shamelessly advocated for an office pet at virtual happy hours, work meetings, and basically any chance I have had to plug for one (like, say, on our company’s blog…). We even had a guest appearance at MBA’s Trunk or Treat this year by Kylo, a sweet dog who made a great “lion” for our team’s Tiger King group costume. He was the star of the show and really helped show the positivity animals can bring to the workplace. Plus, he was very well behaved.
#2: Appreciate, but do not fret about, the risks.
Many company leaders are concerned about potential allergies, phobias, and injuries. While these risks do exist, leaders can take the following steps to address these concerns:
- For allergies and phobias: You can survey your employees to find out if anyone has prohibitive allergies or phobias to specific types of pets. You can also ask if there are things the company could do to eliminate or reduce any potential issues. For example, if a team member is afraid of dogs, you could limit the dog’s presence to specific areas of your workplace.
- For potential injuries: While you cannot anticipate every situation, you can choose a pet that is good around strangers or does not spook easily. Introduce the pet to the workplace slowly, giving it time to adjust. And have employees sign a waiver if they choose to interact with the pet.
- For concerns about pet care after hours: You can start with a pet that does not require after hour care, like a fish.
With some planning and input from my co-workers, I have been able to address these concerns so that they are not a barrier to our success.
#3: Consider the possibilities…. Or is it paw-sibilities?
Employers often focus on employee health, but the reality is many workplaces are stressful, unhealthy, and unhappy. Studies have consistently shown that having an office pet lowers stress and increases collaboration and productivity. An office pet is good for employees’ overall health. One study even confirmed that people who brought their dogs to work were healthier than those who left their dogs at home.
Plus, what company doesn’t want to be the “cool” company to work for? Companies that offer unique benefits, like office pets, can easily increase their appeal to job seekers. And, after the difficulties of 2020, adding an office pet is an easy way increase your employee retention and boost morale in ways other than raises or financial incentives.
The case for an office pet is a strong one, with so many great benefits. It may take some time to make your case, but the result will be well worth the effort.