Managing a mobile workforce
Did you know: Over 50 percent of Canadian households have some sort of pet, ranging from dogs and cats to birds and fish. The majority, of course, are dogs and cats, and those pets don’t just stay home. Many pet owners increasingly enjoy taking their animals with them when they run errands and some of them can even take their pets with them to work. These days, a good number of businesses are taking notice—using pet-friendly work environments to help employees de-stress and enhance the recruitment pool.In Germany, pets are particularly welcome at places of business with the exception of establishments that sell fresh food. In fact, pets can pretty much go wherever their owners go—even most government offices. Can you imagine how convenient that might be for pet owners in your community? Not that you would be the next pet store, but you would definitely be a welcome stop and preferred place of employment among people who enjoy taking their animals with them.

Adopting a pet-friendly policy
Think it’s just the Germans? Nope! In 2009, Knoxville, Tennessee was voted the most dog-friendly city in the southeast region of the United States by Dog Fancy magazine. The city recommends starting slowly, allowing pets on certain days or during certain business hours. Maybe it means only allowing them into certain parts of your facility, limiting pet size or the maximum number of pets at any given time.

A pet-friendly policy can be customer-facing or staff-facing. Currently, 17 percent of workplaces south of the border allow employees to bring their animals to the office with them due in part to a number of studies showing the relaxing and even therapeutic nature of interaction with animals, and many Canadian companies are following suit. This might be an idea to consider if you work in a high-stress environment like Jone Bouman does. Jone is the director of communications at the American Humane Association film and TV office in Los Angeles, California. Her Lhasa Apso terrier mix Twigden accompanies her to work every day. “He makes me utterly happy,” she says. “And,” she notes, “I’ve actually seen the faces of people in my office relax and their shoulders go down whenever they pick him up for a hug or he trots into their office for a visit.”

We recognize a pet-friendly policy isn’t for everyone and it will take serious consideration and buy-in should you venture down that “ruff” path. Some people have allergies or even fears of animals. There’s also a fair amount of extra work that comes with allowing pets. But, if you decide that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, below are some basic starting guidelines for your new pet policy.

Make these rules and the others you agree upon very clear to your staff, visitors and returning customers.

  • Animals have to be friendly and obedient.
  • They must be on-leash at all times.
  • They must also be house-trained.
  • Require animals to be up to date on shots and vaccines.

Promote the policy
Pet owners aren’t going to know about the switch unless you tell them. That’s why it’s important to talk about the change you’re making, and help visitors and staff understand the rules governing your pet-friendly environment going forward.

  • Post a sign. Publicize the news with a sidewalk or yard sign so passersby with pooches know they’re welcome.
  • Then post the policy. To ensure that you’re covering all of your proverbial bases, hang a poster in a place immediately inside your facility so people know what to expect and what’s permitted.
  • Provide water. Place a water bowl just outside your door, or if it’s cold outside, just inside the threshold so your new four-legged visitors are able to quench their thirst if they need to.
  • Plan for accidents. Becoming pet-friendly also means planning for, well, accidents. Set up a readily accessible station of cleaning supplies, just in case. Think paper towels, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and disposable pet bags.
  • Cater to cats, too. Have a few pet brushes on-hand for feline pet owners who visit with their kitties in tow.
  • Reward good behaviour. Train staff to recognize a good-mannered animal when they see one. Allow staff to have treats so as to reward those models of good behaviour—and thank their owners, too!

Pet-friendly business and workplaces are on the rise —you, too, can be one of them!

Pets: An Integral Part of the Family.”  Ontario Veterinary Medical Association. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.

Pets in Germany.” How To Germany – Pets in Germany. How to Germany, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2012.

“Becoming a Pet Friendly Business.” Pet Friendliest Community | Becoming a Pet Friendly Business. Pet Friendliest Community, 2009. Web. 05 Nov. 2012.

Afzal, Sara. “Is Your Office Going to the Dogs?” Is Your Office Going to the Dogs? Five Top Dog-friendly Employers. – American Humane Association – CSMonitor.com. The Christian Science Monitor, n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.

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