With the benefits of allowing dogs in your office ranging from improved employee wellbeing to increased productivity and even enhancing your ability to attract and retain the best people, it’s no surprise that the number of organisations looking to open their workplace up to dogs is on the rise.
So how can you maximise the benefits that dogs will bring to your organisation while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of both people and dogs? Here are our five top tips for creating a dog friendly office:
- Engage with your employees
- Establish ground rules
- Keep dog amenities onsite
- Dog proof your office
- Make use of signage
Engage with your employees
While the majority of your employees will likely jump for joy at the prospect of being able to bring their dog into work, or to be in the company of their colleagues’ dogs, it’s important to consider that others may be uncomfortable in the presence of dogs. Maybe it’s due to an allergy, phobia or cultural consideration. Regardless, it’s vital that you engage with your employees prior to introducing your dogs in the workplace policy to make sure you have controls in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone.
If you have an employee with an allergy, speak to them about the severity of their allergy; do they have to completely avoid pet dander being in the air or is it when they come into close contact? Are there areas of your office that you can assign as ‘dog free zones’? What is the ventilation like in your office? Consider the use of air purifiers which can remove up to 99% of pet dander from the air and are readily available.
In relation to phobias and cultural considerations, again dog free zones will be a necessity. If your workplace allows for it, consider reserving one door as the entrance and exit for employees with dogs. Put measures in place to behaviour assess the dogs prior to allowing them in the office to ensure that all employees feel safe.
Establish ground rules
While you can excuse a dog getting a little over excited on their very first day, consistent disruptions will quickly get frustrating.
Within our dog friendly office toolkit, we recommend two behaviour assessments. The first is a questionnaire completed by employees; this is a great way to get people really thinking about whether their dog will be suitable for the office environment. The second is a short behaviour assessment on a dog’s first day in the office, containing guidance for what to look out for.
We also encourage the use of a code of conduct and dogs in the workplace policy to set clear guidelines around what is, and what isn’t, acceptable. Allowing dogs in the office is a fantastic employee perk and the clearer the guidelines, the more likely you will be to reap the benefits. You will likely find that staff go above and beyond to stick within the guidelines to ensure the benefit doesn’t get taken away!
Keep dog amenities onsite
While you might decide that dog owners need to take responsibility for bringing in their dog’s favourites toys / bowls / treats / bed / towel etc., there is a strong argument for providing employees with a pack of goodies to welcome their dog to the office (after all, their dogs are there for the greater good!). This also gives you control over your office space and is especially good for those organisations who want to tie the colours in with their brand. An on-brand water bowl, lead, toys, mat or bed and towel will be sure keep your office looking neat.
Think practically; maybe you can provide hooks behind a store cupboard door near the dog entrance so that staff can dry out towels and hang up leads between trips outside. Ensure water bowls are raised to reduce the risk of spills or create a communal water station in a safe place. Avoid toys that squeak and have plenty of poo bags and cleaning equipment available in case of accidents.
Consider adding some dog friendly items in meeting rooms too. An area where dogs can relax with their favourite toy and a water bowl will be hugely appreciated. You might want to consider adding lead loops within meeting rooms and at desks so that staff can secure their dogs where required. This prevents people tying leads to furniture which can risk damaging it.
Finally, be sure to buy a first aid kit specifically for dogs and make sure all owners know where to find it. Some of the items within the kit will have expiry dates so keep an eye on these.
Remember, any investment you make in creating a dog friendly space will be repaid back to you through increased morale, engagement, productivity, presenteeism and your ability to attract and retain staff.
Dog proof your office
Alongside the ‘nice to have’s’, it’s essential that you take measures to make sure your employees’ dogs are safe within the workspace.
Wherever possible, move loose electrical equipment (such as paper shredders) high up where they are out of reach of paws and tongues. If this is not possible, make sure they are at the very least switched off when not in use, ideally at the mains.
If there are loose wires under desks, use cable ties to keep them tidy and minimise the risk of dogs getting tangled in them.
Put lids on any bins that are in reach and ask employees to only put food in bins that you specify to reduce the risk of any scavenging.
Finally, many sweet and savoury treats that can be found around offices can be harmful for dogs so make sure all employees know not to leave these in easy to reach areas.
Make use of signage
Companies that allow dogs in the office can be perceived as friendly, caring and warm so make sure this positive perception is solidified as soon as people enter the building with carefully worded signage.
Whether you’re signposting dog friendly areas, dog free zones, water stations or treat areas, these are all opportunities to make people smile while also providing key information.
Of course this also helps those employees or visitors who want to avoid contact with dogs by making it clear that you are an all inclusive organisation.
With the right considerations and resources in place, opening your office doors to dogs will increase collaboration, boost morale and improve employee engagement. To help more workplaces to realise these benefits, we have created the complete toolkit containing everything you need to safely introduce dogs into your office. Including editable templates and posters, alongside helpful guides and process guidelines, the office dogs guide will make it easy and fun to open your doors to four legged friends. So you can welcome the benefits sooner than you might think.