Pet-friendly poli­cies are an o ce morale booster

Em­ploy­ees re­port lower stress, bet­ter work-life bal­ance, higher com­pany loy­alty and more, re­search shows

Employee Benefit News - - CONTENTS - BY BRUCE SHUTAN

Em­ploy­ees ex­pe­ri­ence lower stress, bet­ter work-life bal­ance, higher com­pany loy­alty and more, re­search shows.

While an­i­mal-lov­ing em­ploy­ees ap­pre­ci­ate poli­cies that per­mit pets in the work­place, they ac­tu­ally pre­fer pet-re­lated paid time off and be­reave­ment leave, notes a sur­vey of 1,000 em­ploy­ees and 200 HR de­ci­sion-mak­ers con­ducted by Ban­field Pet Hos­pi­tal.

The Pet-Friendly Work­place PAWrom­e­ter find­ings also noted im­prove­ments re­ported in five key ar­eas as a re­sult of im­ple­ment­ing pet-friendly poli­cies. They in­cluded higher morale (93%), lower stress (93%), bet­ter work­life bal­ance (91%), in­creased com­pany loy­alty (91%) and re­duced guilt among pet own­ers about leav­ing their pets at home (91%).

The past two years of this an­nual re­search sug­gests that “em­ploy­ers are be­com­ing more re­cep­tive to the idea of im­ple­ment­ing pet-friendly poli­cies at work due to the in­creas­ing in­ter­est from em­ploy­ees and the pos­i­tive im­pacts as­so­ci­ated with these poli­cies,” says Stephanie Neu­virth, SVP of peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tion at Ban­field Pet Hos­pi­tal, the world’s largest gen­eral-vet­eri­nary prac­tice, which was bought ear­lier in the year by candy com­pany Mars.

“We be­lieve pet-re­lated ben­e­fits will con­tinue to rise in pop­u­lar­ity among de­sired work­place ben­e­fits.”

She says HR pro­fes­sion­als and their ad­vis­ers should be aware that pet-friendly poli­cies pos­i­tively im­pact ev­ery­thing from re­cruit­ing and hir­ing to well-be­ing, pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­ten­tion — par­tic­u­larly among mil­len­ni­als.

For ex­am­ple, Neu­virth says the data sug­gests those poli­cies are more likely to in­flu­ence a mil­len­nial’s job search (42%) than older adults (23%). In ad­di­tion, she notes that mil­len­ni­als are far more likely to con­tinue em­ploy­ment at a com­pany that im­ple­ments pet-friendly poli­cies (60%) than their el­ders (39%).

A pet-friendly work­place helps build a sense of con­nect­ed­ness with team­mates, but there are po­ten­tial down­sides to con­sider, ex­plains Paul White, a li­censed psy­chol­o­gist, con­sul­tant and author of “The Vi­brant Work­place.”

Since many peo­ple want co-work­ers to know about other parts of their life, in­clud­ing hob­bies, he be­lieves “it makes sense that they would like oth­ers to know about the pets they have. And I think it’s rea­son­able to have open­ness to bring­ing your pet in to in­tro­duce to your col­leagues.”

How­ever, White says em­ploy­ees who don’t have pets might feel pet own­ers have an un­fair ad­van­tage. An­other is­sue he raises is that al­low­ing pets at work presents “lo­gis­ti­cal has­sles” day in and day out that cre­ate a “di­min­ish­ing re­turn” on any in­vest­ment made in fos­ter­ing this en­vi­ron­ment. Still, re­searchers at the Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity Cen­ter for Hu­man-An­i­mal In­ter­ac­tion noted the ben­e­fits of hav­ing such a pol­icy. Em­ploy­ees of a man­u­fac­tur­ing ser­vices com­pany who were per­mit­ted to bring their dogs to work were less stressed, while many pet-free co-work­ers no­ticed a pos­i­tive im­pact on their pro­duc­tiv­ity as well.

White sees value in other pet-re­lated ben­e­fits. “My of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tor had got­ten a young dog that she loved, and it had a ma­jor med­i­cal is­sue,” he ex­plains. “We worked with her to be able to take time off to be with her pet dur­ing the pro­ce­dure and see the dog ei­ther early in the morn­ing or late in the af­ter­noon, and peo­ple would cover for her. That was mean­ing­ful be­cause it was an im­por­tant part of her life and she was deeply ap­pre­cia­tive of it.”

One way that em­ploy­ers can pro­mote this flex­i­bil­ity, he sug­gests, is if they con­sider as an al­ter­na­tive use of fam­ily and med­i­cal leave that ex­tends paid or un­paid leaves of ab­sence to car­ing for or be­ing with a pet in lieu of a per­son.

“We value choice and the op­por­tu­nity to choose,” White ex­plains, “and we re­sent it when we are es­sen­tially com­manded to do some­thing and don’t have a choice.”

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