Friday, January 11, 2013

Pets in the Office

Will your office allow pets to roam?
Welcome to another next installment of "Casual Friday," my lighter look at something in Human Resources, Management, or Business. Do you love the idea of fur on your keyboard?  Have you heard barks coming from your neighbor’s cubicle?  If so, you may have pets at your workplace.  Let the fur fly?  Please take a moment at the end of my post to comment on any of your own experiences with animals in the office.  

Pets in the Office

Allowing pets in the office can be a great non-monetary benefit that you could offer your employees as part of a Total Rewards package.  It can also help foster creativity and encourage worker socialization.  So, what is your company’s policy about having animals at work?  How will you handle an employee that brings their cute Tabby into work?  Will your policy be any different for the employee that brings in a Doberman, a Bunny, or even a Boa Constrictor?  These are a few things to consider.  Should your company ban pets outright?  There are a number of things that should be weighed when developing a pet policy for an office workplace.

Service Animals

For any number of reasons, some individuals require the assistance of an animal to overcome a handicap or medical situation.  These working animals are considered “Service Animals” and not pets.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”  Interestingly enough, the ADA also says “In addition to the provisions about service dogs, the Department’s revised ADA regulations have a new, separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”  Under the ADA, unless the service animal creates undue hardship in the workplace, reasonable accommodation should be made to allow for the worker using a service animal.

Pet Policy

Having lovable creatures at work can lower stress and possibly lead to higher productivity.  However, some workers might not appreciate pets in the office or they may be allergic.  If your company decides to allow, or even encourage, people bringing their pets to work, what should your policy look like?  Here are a few ideas to include:

Pet size - Consider limiting the pet based on weight or height.  This will help ensure that none of your workers bring in a giant bear.

Pet type - Consider limiting the pets to a specific type such as cats or dogs.  This will help to avoid rodent situations should a worker want to bring in an army of pet gerbils.  The last thing that an employer wants to deal with is rodents loose in the office.

Pet Zones - Consider creating pet-free zones so those that do not appreciate the animals have a place to retreat to.  This should include areas where there might be food, such as the cafeteria.

Cleanliness - Consider a requirement that pets be housebroken and any messes they make must be cleaned up immediately by the owner.

Space - Consider a requirement that pets remain in a crate or within the confines of the owner’s cubicle.  A leash requirement could also assist with keeping pets from entering pets from entering neighboring cubicles.

Safety and Noise - Consider a notice that employees with unruly pets may be sent home without pay.

Pets in the office can be a great non-monetary incentive to bring talent into the workplace.  It can increase happiness and cheer among the workers.  If the work environment is appropriate, employers may want to consider adopting a pet friendly policy.

And remember all of you Human Resources professionals:  Be Human... Be a Resource...  Be a Resource for Humans.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are by the author Trevor Stasik, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any employer or any other organization. Please note, this information is based on my understanding and is only to be used for informational and educational purposes. Do not take what I am writing as advice. Seek your own legal counsel and/or see a tax accountant before making business or personal decisions. The author of this post makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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