‘Once a pet is in the office there are rules and expectations’

HRD talks to an HR leader about the practicalities of animals at work

‘Once a pet is in the office there are rules and expectations’
HRD talks to Nestlé Purina PetCare HR Manager Carol Dietrich about why HR professionals should consider the practicalities of having pets at work.

Firstly, what are the benefits of having a pet-friendly office?
The benefits of pets in the workplace speak for themselves; having pets around reduces signs of stress, brings employees together and even promotes a healthier working environment by encouraging regular breaks and exercise.

Purina surveyed 1,019 Australians and found that when pets are present in the workplace:
  • 52 per cent of employees reported that they smiled more
  • 48 per cent of employees were friendlier
  • 44 per cent of employees were more relaxed
  • 39 per cent of employees laughed more

What should HR managers be particularly careful of when implementing a pet-friendly office?
For those HR managers who are considering a pet-friendly policy in their organisation, engaging in consultation and collaboration with all employees is essential from the outset.

Ensuring all employees have the opportunity to ask questions, or share their concerns, about how a pet-friendly workplace will affect them has the potential to secure greater buy-in from management and staff.

In addition, securing the seal of approval from the top down is critical too. By understanding the benefits of bringing pets to work, HR has the opportunity to demonstrate to senior management new and effective ways to improve the workplace culture and boost morale.

HR managers should also consider the practicalities of having pets at work and ensure an induction process is in place for all staff members, not just the pet owners.

The key to the successful integration of people and pets in the workplace is having a well thought through ‘Pets at Work’ policy. Considerations such as how many pets will be allowed in the office at one time, what areas will be pet free zones, allergy-friendly considerations, all play a role in the success of this policy.

Do you have any other tips on how to maintain a pet-friendly offices?
For employees who are preparing to bring their pet into the workplace, there are checklists on the Purina website to ensure it’s an enjoyable day for pets, colleagues and owners.

A few things to keep in mind:
  • Select a day when you have time to take your dog outside for regular bathroom breaks and to stretch their legs
  • If you're going to meetings with others, check with everyone else that they are comfortable with your pet being in the meeting room
  • A collar and lead will keep your pet contained at your desk and it is easy to keep them with you when walking through the office and taking a break outside
  • Keeping your pet hydrated throughout the day is very important – especially if they are running around the office or getting excited with all the attention they are attracting for the day
  • Providing your colleagues with treats to give to your pet is a great positive way for people to meet your pet and develop a great friendship
  • Providing your pet with toys is a great way to keep them occupied, especially when you are in meetings as they stimulate their mind and keeps them out of trouble. Toys are also great for meeting new friends and giving colleagues a chance to play!

How has Nestlé and Purina evolved HR policy around pets?
Nestlé and Purina have a clear policy based around transparency and communication when it comes to bringing pets to work. The Purina office is pet friendly every day and the Nestlé office allows pets on special ‘Pets at Work’ days.

All pets must apply to come into the office. The application process looks at a range of areas including behaviour traits, vaccination history and personality. Once approved, owners must attend an induction and book in their pet, as there are limits to how many pets can be in the office at any given time.

Once a pet is in the office there are rules and expectations of owners to ensure that having pets at work is a positive experience for all staff members, not just pet owners.

Nestlé Purina implemented its own pet-friendly policy in 2004 and is aiming to have pet-friendly policies up and running in all Nestlé offices across the world by 2020.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Pets help with attraction and retention. Employers should be aware that 88 per cent of workers in already pet-friendly offices reported that they would view a pet friendly policy as an added benefit offered by any future employers.

In an employment market where competition for talent is fierce, workplaces that offer alternative employee experiences, such as a pet-friendly policy, could be the deciding factor for potential employees.

Research referenced: Nestlé Purina commissioned APD in June 2016 to complete the study. A total of 2,911 Australian employees were surveyed to identify 1,019 Australian office workers who qualified to complete the main survey.

Related stories:
Every opinion counts at Australia's best workplace
Motivating employees by animal instinct
Putting the “human” back in human resources

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