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18th December 2019

HR Issues – Paws and listen to this wonderful tail

During our successful Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference a month ago, speakers and delegates discussed various measures which can be taken in the workplace to enhance wellbeing. These included: mental health first aid training; creating agile workspaces; financial education; managing cancer in the workplace; and biophilia (bringing our innate love of nature into the office), among other things. What was not mentioned however, and what may well become the next workplace wellbeing trend to emerge in the coming decade, was the power of pets in the workplace.

The idea itself is not new. Nestle (owner of Purina pet food brand) trialled allowing staff to bring dogs into the office at the end of 2014. Purina themselves encouraged organisations to hold a pets at work day, with a survey of participants shortly after finding a 22% increase in satisfaction with the working environment. Before that, Mars Petcare (owner of Sheba, Whiskas and Pedigree) had been allowing pets at work since 2008. And the interest is becoming more widespread, to the extent that 24th June is now National “Bring Your Pet to Work Day” in the UK. A survey by Reed.co.uk estimates that 8% of people in the UK can bring their dogs into the office.

The workplace can be an environment of isolation and high stress from time to time. Organisations which have implemented pets at work schemes have reported benefits to productivity, team cohesion, and an elevation of the collective mood in general. Even prison guards at Rye Hill in Northamptonshire have reported the calming effect taking their dogs for “walkies on the wings” can have on prisoners. Sean McCormack, Head Vet at Tails.com, claimed that a pets in the office policy is a “no brainer” as long as it is well-managed. In order to ensure such a scheme is properly managed, organisations should:

  • Ensure that no one is scared of, allergic to, or uncomfortable around cats and dogs
  • Check that insurance covers pets in the office
  • Encourage staff to fill out application forms before bringing their pets in (focusing on their comfort around other dogs and new people)
  • Start with only a couple of dogs, assessing the impact before expanding
  • Have dedicated “pet-free zones”
  • Refrain from hyping dogs up too much, the aim being to have them quietly sitting around their owners’ desks rather than running riot

Your organisation may not yet be at the stage of allowing pets in the office, but an interesting alternative may be to recognise their importance in the lives of your employees. One of the employment law team at Navigator was recently asked to draft a “pawternity policy” for a client, whereby employees are given one week’s paid leave to introduce a new cat or dog to their new home environment. Brainstorming and establishing creative ideas such as this are exactly what makes the organisation special for your employees, showing them that they are highly valued. Whether you are introducing a pets at work policy, offering pawternity leave, or simply encouraging suggestions on how to improve the workplace, making an effort to enhance the wellbeing of your employees will be greatly appreciated and reciprocated.

If you are looking to enhance your suite of HR policies and procedures (canine-related or otherwise) in the year 2020, get in touch with Navigator for a consultation surrounding our bespoke HR Audit. Likewise, should you need some help in designing a workplace wellbeing programme, or wish to see how yours compares to other organisations, contact us about our Health and Wellbeing Audit.

For any questions related to the above article, contact scott.mccrory-irving@navigatorlaw.co.uk.

18th December 2019