Bring Your Dog to Work: A Great Policy or Totally Woof?by Emma Siemasko Published in Small Business, Startup on
Many startups and small businesses have a laidback, relaxed attitude and offer great benefits– flexible hours, laundry services, transportation, pool tables, and equity. It doesn’t stop there. Tons of companies are now encouraging employees to bring dogs and other pets to the office.
If you’re a puppy-friendly founder or business owner, it seems like a no-brainer to create a Bring-Your-Dog-to-Work policy so that Snoopy and Pluto can stay by your side.
But, hm, are dogs at work a good idea? Sure, you’re cool with your own pets, but what about when your employees bring theirs? What if someone gets bitten?
Before you move forward with your plan for a dog-friendly office, there’s a lot to consider!
Even if everyone at your company loves dogs, someone might be allergic, and that’s a real cause for concern. If you want to create a Bring-Your-Dog-to-Work policy, don’t just assume everyone is cool with pets. Ask around and see if there are issues before your software developer is sneezing and wondering if they can work from home. Other options? You might make parts of your office dog-free or ask that dogs always be kept within 5 feet of their owners.
You might be psyched about dogs, but are you going to be cool with someone’s goldfish, chinchilla, or cat? You need to make it clear which pets are allowed so that employees know who they can bring to work. Google allows dogs, but not cats, partly because the two animals don’t get along that well. “Google’s affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. We like cats, but we’re a dog company, so as a general rule we feel cats visiting our offices would be fairly stressed out,” explains The Google Code of Conduct.
Productivity or Distraction?
For some, the presence of dogs may bring peace and serenity, but for others they’re a complete and utter distraction! Consider having a Bring-Your-Dog-to-Work week to see how you and your employees react to your furry friends. Are you as productive as ever or completely hung up on the pooches? Remember—it’s ok if the dogs force employees to leave their desks and get some air. “Having a pet encourages employees to take breaks during the day that they may not take if they didn’t have a pet,” says Michael Oldenburg of Autodesk, a dog-friendly company.
If you allow dogs in your office and someone gets bitten, jumped on, or hurt, you’re going to be liable. Chas Rampenthal, Vice President of Product Development at LegalZoom, recommends that you ask employees to get insurance so that they’re covered, just in case. “It is not too much to require the employee to sign an indemnification agreement that will require the employee to pay the cost of defending any dog-bite case that comes your company’s way,” says Rampenthal.
If you decide you want a Bring-Your-Dog-to-Work Policy, you must decide on a set of rules—and write them down. Are employees allowed to bring their dogs every day or only one day per month or week? When the dogs are in the office, where can they go? Can dogs come to meetings? It’s crucial to write down a set of rules so that your Bring-Your-Dog-to-Work Policy protects your employees. If the office is filled with barking, energetic dogs, it will feel more like a zoo than a place to get stuff done.
Go Forth and Get Barking
Dogs are awesome best friends, which is why so many employees love having them in the office. If your landlord allows it and you’re prepared to tackle concerns head on, build a Bring-Your-Dog-to-Work policy everyone will love!
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