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Do you love animals? What if I told you working alongside them could have a positive impact on your mental and physical health? Many companies, including Google and Mars Inc. Canada, have introduced policies for allowing animals in the workplace for this reason. I’ve even seen the benefits of having pets in the workplace firsthand when on occasion I’ve brought my dog Benny to the Aspiria office.

As long as your employees aren’t allergic to fur, here are some potential benefits of having an office pet or allowing pets in the workplace:

Improved Physical Health

Gone are the days of spending lunch at your desk! With an animal in tow, you can spend time away from your workstation by taking them for a walk or playing with them. Most dog breeds need a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day to stay healthy, which is great for the humans that walk them because that same walk time lessens their risk of stroke by 20% to 40%. Additionally, simply being around pets has been known to lower cholesterol levels.

Stress Reduction

Many people own pets for therapeutic purposes to help them with symptoms of depression or anxiety. A whopping 74% of pet owners claim that their pet has improved their mental health. Even fast-paced work environments can benefit from pets because stressful situations don’t affect the hearts of pet owners as much as they do non-pet owners.

Social Bonding

The presence of pets can be an excellent way to boost team morale. Pet owners often love to talk about their furry family members, and having an animal around can be an effective icebreaker to develop workplace friendships. I’ve noticed a different dynamic with our Aspiria team each time I bring Benny to the office. There is more chatter, laughter, and, movement – a “lighter” feeling and mood – when Benny is around. This is particularly important because people with strong social networks are 50% more likely to live longer than people with less social support.

If allergies are a concern or you’d prefer an animal that runs less risk of damaging your workplace or distracting employees, as hyperactive cats and dogs can sometimes do, you may want to consider a small lizard, a turtle, or some fish. Although these types of animals aren’t as interactive as cats or dogs, they can still provide many of the same benefits.

Before you introduce an office pet or pet policy to your workplace, here are some important precautions you may want to consider for the sake of everyone’s safety and well-being: 

  • Vaccines: Rabies can be extremely dangerous for both animals and humans. Even indoor cats can contract rabies if they accidentally get out of the house. For everyone’s safety, ensure every cat and dog that enters your workplace has been vaccinated against rabies.
  • Phobias: Some people experience intense fear and anxiety if they are around certain animals. Approximately 5% of people have a phobia of dogs. I would suggest sending an email to your entire staff to inform them of which specific animal species may be permitted on the premises after a specific date, adding that employees are encouraged to reply privately with any concerns so that accommodations can be made.

For more information on how having a pet in your workplace might affect your employees’ health and productivity, you can contact your Employee Assistance Program provider and request a management consultation with an expert to discuss your concerns and potential limitations.