Back in 2015, Addison Group’s second annual workplace survey found that when it comes to workplace perks, game-rooms aren’t a priority. In fact, “millennials ranked having a dog-friendly office higher than having a napping room, concierge service and a play room complete with ping pong, billiards and video games.”
More recent, however, is the shift towards a wellness-focused workplace. Humans perform their best when they feel their best. And here’s a fun fact for you: pets (not only dogs) can help humans feel if not their best, then definitely better.
In an article titled “Science Says Your Pet Is Good for Your Mental Health”, Time Magazine states that “animals of many types can help calm stress, fear and anxiety in young children, the elderly and anyone in between.” And although the nitty-gritty details of how animals help us feel better are yet to be fully understood, the fact is that science has established that something about our fellow living creatures makes us feel better.
Millennials, then, weren’t all that crazy when they said they’d much rather have a dog-friendly workplace than an office with a napping room.
But before you go open your coworking or workspace’s doors to pets, you should consider a few things. That is, unless you’re OK with someone dropping in to your workspace accompanied by a horse.
For starters, you need to consider whether your building or landlord allow pets. Tim Bailey, Director of Operations at Bond Collective told Allwork.Space that since they chose to allow pets in their centers, “as a company, we made a decision to work into all of our current leases a clause that would allow our furry members to always be welcome. As we look to expand, we try to select locations that share the same passion for pets.”
Landlords and building rules are a first step, but you also need to think about how welcoming pets will affect your workspace community, as well as how it will impact your overall design and the wear and tear of your furniture. Because of this, it’s important to have clear terms and conditions. Bond Collective, for example, allows “pets to be in the common areas and private offices. However, we don’t allow any pets on any of the furniture and we also respect our community members; if one community member has a phobia or allergy, our pet parents need to take this into consideration and act accordingly.”
Daryn DeZengotita, from SyncLife Coworking, shared that they have “designated dog zones and no dog zones. We have also mapped out a ‘traffic route’ that dog-owners are allowed to take when accompanied by their dogs, so that we minimize the possible disruption.”
Amy Margaret King, from GoodWork, said that the space “will be allowing a limited amount of well-trained dogs.” However, “you have to have a dedicated office to bring your dog, or have a ‘super super mellow dog’ for certain dedicated desks areas.”
King, however, believes that in order for the pet-friendly model to work, operators need to have a highly detailed pet policy. A point that Bailey agrees with.
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GoodWork’s pet application asks for the dog’s updated shot information, and also sets forth ground rules. There is a trial period, the pet-owner must have a clear understanding of the approved dog environment and is responsible for cleaning after his or her pet. Additionally, the dog in question has to be well-behaved, cannot bark at people walking by, and must remain leashed or by the side of the owner. GoodWork’s application also calls for a US$50 fee and they reserve the right to limit and control the number of pets onsite and how long they are a welcomed member of the community.
Bond Collective also asks pet parents to submit an application. Their application asks for the pet name, breed, color, weight, picture, proof of vaccination, state or city tag license, and updated vet records.
Just like GoodWork, Bond Collective’s application also sets forth some ground rules. Pet owners must monitor pets at all times, pets cannot be left unattended and they are not allowed on any furniture or rugs — owners are responsible for reimbursing for any damage to furniture or rugs. Owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets and making sure that their pet behaves at all times. Bond reserves the right to apply charges if any major incident occurs and of limiting and terminating the stay of any pet. Last but not least, their application also includes the following clause: “I understand that BOND staff loves animals and that many petting sessions will occur.”
While workspace operators should have a set process for welcoming pets, some would argue that it’s also best to evaluate pets on a case by case basis.
Joao Carlos Simões, from IDEIA in Portugal shared that “we (the IDEIA team) need to have an interview with the pet prior to acceptance.” Yes, you read that right. It’s not the pet owner they need to approve, they’re already a member of the community; they need to approve the pet, and for that they need to meet him or her. The process seems to be working out for IDEIA, as they currently have a labrador that Joao claims “everyone loves.”
A similar story is that of Awesome Inc in Lexington, Kentucky, where we are told there is no pet policy, but they did allow one extremely quiet and well-behaved poodle to join their community.
Pets welcomed in the workplace have been mostly limited to cats and/or dogs. Yet, there are other types of animals that could be considered. Bailey said that, “Bond would consider any pet as listed in our lease agreement. Generally speaking, cats and dogs are our primary consideration; anything else would have to be proposed and considered.”
Allowing pets in the workplace can have many benefits, including community activities like hosting “Yappy Hours” where members can meet pups or cats up for adoption from local shelters. However, in order for pet-friendly workplaces to work without disrupting the work environment, the matter needs to be approached strategically and correctly.
- Make sure your building or landlord allows pets
- Have a clear, easy to follow application process that asks for all necessary and relevant information
- Make sure you clearly state what types of pets your center allows
- Have a pet “code of conduct” that applies to pets and pet-owners
- Take into consideration other community member’s opinions, phobias, and allergies
- Host Yappy Hours and pet all your struggles away