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Companies reevaluating pet policies at work in wake of pandemic

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Posted at 10:41 AM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 13:47:55-04

The pandemic forced us into the future of remote work. Now, companies are considering bringing workers back into the office, which may take some enticement.

“The benefits and the mindset are going to be huge because people will want to, they’re going to first feel guilty about leaving their pets at home that they had and they're going to want to figure out a way to kind of manage that,” said John Dooney, HR Knowledge Advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Right now, Dooney says many employers are still trying to navigate larger issues, like returning to work. But he believes they will eventually want to make the office more comfortable.

More than half of executives surveyed by Banfield Pet Hospital say they are planning on allowing pets in the workplace or more flexibility to stay remote because of animals.

“So, I don't think it is this outlandish thing. I think we're getting more comfortable with kind of blending what we did at work and home and being more flexible around that, so I think that sense of agility is going to be there,” said Dooney.

SHRM offers guidance on office pet policies. Dooney says employers will likely want to know the pet has some training, insurance to cover any possible incidents like biting, and proof of vaccination. They will also want to get a general feel of acceptance from the workplace. There could be size restrictions and a system for warnings if the pet is too disruptive.

“Does the pet owner get the warning about, you know, there are three incidents that occur, then the pet can't come back. I think this can be some structure around that too,” said Dooney.

Meanwhile, executives recognize the benefits of pet friendly policies. Those that already had one say they saw increased socializing between employees that might not normally mix, as well as increased retention, productivity and happier workers.

“You know the idea of having pets at work, to be more mainstream, to create that positive environment, to lower stress, to improve morale, I think it's just something we probably thought would be good, but now we're sort of ready to do that and that's kind of exciting,” said Dooney.

More employers are also offering other pet incentives like pet insurance, pet bereavement leave, leave for new pet owners or paid time off to take a pet to the vet.