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Having pets at work is becoming all the rage. Though the policy is generally associated with hip startups or animal-centric businesses, the workplace perk of allowing pets is beginning to spread into the mainstream. Welcoming four-legged office mates undoubtedly brings unique challenges into the work environment, but evidence suggests it may be worth the hurdles.

Benefits of a Dog Friendly Office

People love their dogs — according to a recent survey, over 54 million American households have a dog, and 65 percent of those regard their pet as a member of the family. People are happier when they can be around their dog. For this reason, offering a pet friendly workplace policy is seen by dog owners as a major perk — one that can drive loyalty to the company and ensure employee retention. At the same time, this work perk is sure to attract new canine-loving talent.

Dogs also add a sense of happiness playfulness to the environment, defusing tensions and improving morale. Spending a few minutes with a dog can help release stress and clear the mind. While it can undoubtedly be a distraction to have animals around, their stress relieving properties ultimately lead to happier, more focused workers.

Challenges of Dog Friendly Workplaces

An office full of happy workers with great job satisfaction and company loyalty is incredibly valuable to any type of company. However, bringing dogs into the office isn’t the easiest task. Sharing office space with canines means issues of cleanliness — vacuuming up dog hair, managing the occasional accident, dealing with greater wear and tear on furniture and surfaces.

And while many of your employees might be thrilled to bring their dog to work or be around others’ dogs, not everyone will be pleased with this change. In particular, those who are allergic to animals will be negatively affected. People who are afraid of dogs or simply don’t like them will also be unhappy with the policy and feel less comfortable in their workplace. Loud or rambunctious dogs will prove distracting even to dog-loving employees.

Managing Challenges in a Dog Friendly Offices

While there is no perfect solution that will keep every employee happy in pet friendly workplaces, there are many measures that can be taken to accommodate pets at work as harmoniously as possible. A large part of it comes down to figuring out how much freedom the dogs should be given, and how to manage that. Restricting dogs to certain areas of the office is ideal for situations with allergic or dog-averse coworkers. Ideally if the space allows, cubicles could be outfitted with dog-proof gates allowing easy access for humans but keeping the pups inside. A more convenient solution is simply to require that dogs be kept on leashes at all times.

What Types of Dogs Should Be Allowed?

Deciding what type of dogs to allow is also crucial. All dogs may be good dogs, but that doesn’t mean they’re all good for an office environment. Pet friendly employers should require that office dogs be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and reasonably well behaved. A three-strike system can be implemented — if the dog consistently causes problems, its workplace privileges could be revoked.

Communication is Key

Above all, communication with employees and getting out ahead of the problem are key. Employers must be sure to lay out explicit ground rules and processes before the doggy doors are opened, rather than waiting until a problem has arisen to figure out how to solve it. While in the process of planning a dog policy, it’s a good idea to request feedback from the office as a whole. People who express discomfort with the idea of working around dogs could be given an option to request that no dogs be permitted in their general area.

With good communication and well defined policies in place, your office could be on its way to being the doggie heaven that many of your employees dream of — and others are dying to work for.

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