At Justworks, we think having a dog-friendly office is a wonderful workplace perk. Sure, we’re biased — we’re on Rover.com’s list of Best Dog-Friendly Companies, after all.
But in all seriousness, a dog-friendly office can be a real benefit. Dog owners don’t need to spend money on doggy daycare or dog walkers when they can bring their pet to work. Plus, their coworkers get to hang out with their furry friends and enjoy the fun atmosphere created by having dogs around. Many people find it relaxing and therapeutic.
If you’re wondering whether allowing dogs in the office will be a good fit for your own organization, there’s certainly a lot to think about. In this post, discover some key considerations for creating a dog-friendly office, and learn some tips for making a policy that works for dogs and humans alike.
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Considering a Dog-Friendly Office
First things first: check into whether your office building allows dogs at all. If not, the decision is made for you, unless you’re willing to relocate.
The next big question to consider is whether a dog-friendly office is right for your company. If your office plays host to a lot of important client meetings, it might not be the best fit. The same may be true if your dress code leans toward business attire — paw prints on suits and dresses is never a good look. If your office environment is more casual or laid-back, it might be easier to have dogs around.
If a dog-friendly workplace will fit your company, consider whether it will also be a good fit for your employees. Do you have many dog owners on staff? Have folks been asking for this perk? Will employees enjoy having dogs around? A quick poll or survey is a great way to gauge interest.
While you’re surveying for pro-dog sentiment, it’s also crucial to hear the other side. Some people have a real fear of dogs, or are allergic to them. You don’t want to make employees feel that their health and wellbeing are less important than a coworker’s pet. Consider whether your space can accommodate these people as well as dogs. For instance, maybe one floor of the office can be for dog owners, while another floor is strictly dog-free. If this type of accommodation isn’t possible, you may want to rethink allowing dogs.
Finally, it’s an obvious one, but remember that as fun as they are to have around, dogs won’t behave 100% of the time. They might bark right when you’re on that important call, or have an accident on the carpet. Are you and your team willing to handle the bad along with the good? Make sure dog owners understand their responsibilities… and make sure to keep carpet cleaner stocked in the office.
Creating a Policy
If you’ve decided a dog-friendly environment is a good fit for your company, it’s time to make a policy. Basically, this outlines all the rules around having dogs in the office so that everyone can be on the same page.
Some common requirements are that office dogs must be up to date on their shots, and of course, be housebroken. It’s also worth highlighting whether or not they should be kept on a leash when in the office, and point out any areas of the workplace that are off-limits to dogs.
Your policy should also include a process for addressing any complaints from employees. If a dog is having too many in-office accidents, for instance, you might consider putting them on probation, and not let them come to the office for a certain period of time. If they’re a repeat offender, how many strikes do you give before they’re banned entirely?
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employers should also be aware of the "one-bite rule," a governing principle in most jurisdictions:
"If a dog has bitten in the past, the owner is on notice that it can happen again and subject to strict liability," said Joshua S. Bauchner, partner at Ansell Grimm & Aaron law firm in the New York City area. "By inviting the dog into the workplace, the employer reasonably may assume that liability for failing to ask if the employee's dog has a record and by failing to take other necessary precautions."
Additionally, companies should make sure that allowing dogs at work does not create a workplace hazard under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or its regulations (and applicable state health and safety requirements). In some cases, the presence of dogs in the workplace may trigger an employee complaint that the employer has violated the general duty clause or OSHA regulations. For example, the presence of water from dog bowls, urine, or pet toys on a walking surface can create a slipping hazard, or dogs or leashes on the floor can create a tripping hazard. Employee safety should always be a top priority.
Take a look at SHRM’s helpful checklist of do’s and don’ts when creating a dog-friendly work environment for even more tips.
Lessons from Justworks
At Justworks, we’ve allowed dogs in the office since the very beginning. Milo, the dog of our founder and CEO, Isaac Oates, was around for many of the early days of the company. Now, you might encounter 10 or more dogs roaming the Justworks office on any given workday! Needless to say, we’ve learned some things along the way.
Here are a few best practices from our Workplace team on creating great dog-friendly offices:
Have a “no dogs on the furniture” rule. It helps encourage good behavior, and it keeps non-dog owners and dog owners alike pretty happy.
Keep lint rollers handy — you never know where the dog hair may end up!
Speak with your Facilities team about using pet-friendly cleaning products and insecticides to make sure the office is a safe place for dogs.
Implement a check-in system so you know which dogs are in the space. This helps especially in case of an emergency.
If you’re making a dog-friendly office a part of your company culture, talk about it. We put it right on the Careers page of our website, listed under workplace perks. Why? We think it’s important that prospective hires get a good picture of what our work environment is like. Having dogs in our office is a beloved part of that.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.