Should workplaces in New Zealand allow pets at work?

In Aotearoa, our love for pets is boundless. Whether they're fluffy cats or loyal dogs, it's a common sight to see these adorable companions frolicking in parks, sprinting on beaches, or even joining their owners on shopping trips, in fact, all SPCA op shops are dog-friendly so long as your pooch is on a leash. But have you ever thought about bringing them to work?

In fact, initiatives such as Pets at Work by Purina is a global initiative that encourages and supports organisations to make their workplace pet-friendly. “The presence of pets at work can serve as a low-cost wellness intervention opportunity that shows the organisation cares about its people,” said HR Consultant Grant Amos of Amos & Associates. But pets in the office aren't all tail wags and paw shakes, there's a lot more to consider.

Pros of pets in the office

Boosts employee morale

Pets have a knack for lifting spirits. Their antics, unconditional love, and companionship can brighten up even the gloomiest day. Research suggests that having pets at work boosts happiness, relieves anxiety or stress, and encourages healthy breaks. Not to mention the bonus of improved pet welfare who can benefit from the increased attention, socialisation, and enrichment a workplace can offer them.

Increased productivity

Pets can also act as a catalyst for productivity. With their pets by their side, employees may feel more relaxed and focused, leading to enhanced work performance. It can also encourage healthy breaks (potty break, anyone?) which can clear the head and improve efficiency.

Improved work-life balance

Bringing pets to work can be a game-changer for employees striving to achieve a better work-life balance. Instead of stressing about their pets being home alone or the financial strain of pet care they can relish their company during work hours, creating a more harmonious lifestyle.

Fosters a positive work environment

A pet-friendly workplace can contribute to a more positive work environment by fostering camaraderie among employees, promoting teamwork, and can even serve as a unique employee recruitment and retention strategy.

Cons of pets in the office

Allergies and health concerns indoors

For pet owners, the perks are obvious, but having pets in the workplace can be a nightmare for those with allergies or asthma. It can also be a health concern for employees with weakened immune systems.

Logistical challenges

  • Distractions and noise: While the playful antics of pets can bring joy, they can also create disruptions. Barking, meowing, or the need for frequent attention can become distracting for employees trying to focus on their tasks.
  • Damage to office property: Pets, especially young ones, can potentially damage office property. They might chew on cables, knock over items, or have little 'accidents' that can lead to additional cleaning costs and maintenance.
  • Increased responsibility for management: A pet-friendly office might mean creating additional pet policies, managing disputes, and taking care of any liability issues.
  • Pet interactions: If there's more than one pet in the workplace, there is a possibility of them not getting along, creating tension and distraction.
  • Getting your pet to work: Depending on how you get there, bringing your pet to work can be logistically challenging. While some communities have pet-friendly transport, if you take public transportation or have a long commute, it may not be ideal.

Fear or phobias

Not everyone is comfortable around animals, and some employees might have a genuine fear or phobia of pets. This can create discomfort and stress in the workplace, making it difficult for them to perform their job effectively.

Legal and liability issues

While having pets at work can be a joy, it's not without its legal and liability challenges. Employers must navigate several considerations to ensure they're not inadvertently crossing any boundaries or exposing themselves to unnecessary risks.

  • Lease agreements: Many commercial properties have strict lease agreements that may prohibit pets on the premises. Worth looking into before your dog gets banned like Teddy, the mayoral pooch!
  • Risk to visitors: Allowing pets in the workplace can pose potential risks to visitors, including customers, clients, or vendors. These individuals may not be comfortable around animals, have allergies, or even fear them.
  • Employee rights and health concerns: Considering the rights and health of all employees is vital. Some may have allergies or fears related to certain animals and are entitled to a safe and comfortable working environment.

Before establishing a pet-friendly workplace policy, it's advisable to consult with a legal expert to understand the implications and to ensure all potential liabilities are addressed. Remember, bringing a pet to the workplace is a privilege not a right, so it is important to be to your colleagues and your pet when considering bringing pets into the workplace.

Coverage considerations

Regular business insurance policies likely don't cover pet-related incidents, potentially resulting in significant costs if issues arise. Specialised insurance is likely needed.

Don't let unexpected incidents catch you off guard! Embrace the positive vibes that pets can bring to the workplace but remember to cover your bases to ensure your pet’s health and wellbeing. 

Check out SPCA Pet Insurance cover options today