Pet friendly employee benefits can help with recruitment and retention

Ruby the bulldog goes to work with her mom every day.

The modern workplace is going to the dogs — or at least that what employees are hoping for.

As pet ownership has evolved, so too has the workplace. Today’s workforce — made up mostly of millennials — is more vocal about what they want from their employers, and many want to bring their pets to work. Despite the demand from employees, only a small percentage of employers have fully embraced this idea. But the employers who have allowed pets to come to work can attest to the many benefits this has on their employees wellness and productivity, as well as recruitment and retention.

Several companies including Petco, Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon all allow their employees to bring their dogs into work, while other companies like Trupanion, Zogics, and Ceros offers employees pet benefits like insurance and bereavement days. More companies are jumping on the pet insurance bandwagon as they realize employees will spend thousands of dollars on pet care, and often forgo making a payment on another bill in order to ensure their animal is taken care of.

“We have on any given day upwards of 10 dogs in our office,” says Sofia Montgomery, workplace coordinator at Justworks, a benefits, HR and compliance company for small businesses. “People really love it. Everyone says that it makes them happy and gives them moments of relief and laughter.”

Pets have become such an intricate part of people’s lives that employers have started to offer employee benefits that meet the specific needs of pet owners.

Indeed, 15% of U.S. employers now offer a pet insurance benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, that’s a rise from 9% in 2015. There were 2.43 million pets insured at the end of 2018, according to the Insurance Information Institute, that’s a 17% rise from 2017. The majority of American households — 67% — own a pet, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Yet only 7% of employers have made their workplaces pet friendly, according to SHRM.

The value employees place on their pets has resulted in 87% of polled employers saying being dog friendly helps them attract and retain more talent, according to Mars Petcare’s 2019 annual report: Better Cities for Pets.

Sofia Montgomery, workplace coordinator at Justworks, will sometimes bring her rescue dog Hennessy into the office.

Mars Petcare, a segment of the Mars confectionery company, has a new dog-friendly headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, with several unique office perks including a Wi-Fi enabled dog park, coffee bars with water stations for pets, wider furniture with pet-friendly fabric, and over 60 acres of outdoor green space and walking paths.

“Everything from the flooring and furniture, to the landscaping and amenities, was designed for associates to enjoy time at work with their pets,” says Dave Bradey, vice president of people and organization at Mars Petcare North America. “Research shows that people thrive in pet friendly workplaces. For us, it’s a no brainer, and we hope that other companies will consider opening their doors to pets as well.”

Additionally, 59% of the respondents surveyed by Mars Petcare say they would choose to work for a dog-friendly employer over one that is not.

“I work in a pet-friendly space a few days a week. I chose the building because it offered the chance to take my dog to work,” says Michelle Fait, a certified financial planner with Satori Financial. “I find people are more willing to talk with each other when they can begin by engaging with my dog. Most clients prefer my dog to attend our meetings. Talking about money can be stressful and my dog won't let anyone get too stressed.”

Of course having a dog in the workplace can come with challenges, but they aren’t unmanageable. At Justworks, dogs must be vaccinated and house broken. They can’t be too loud or rambunctious, and they need to be friendly with other animals. Otherwise, the pet isn’t allowed at the office.

For employees who are allergic to some pets, Montgomery says they’ve had people trade desks, and they also have a strict no dogs on the furniture policy.

When the Justworks employees heard that the company would be moving locations, their top question was if the company would remain dog friendly, Montgomery said.

Animal companionship can have a dramatically positive result on someone’s stress levels and their mental health, especially for someone with PTSD or another severe mental illness, according to Mental Health America. So having a pet-friendly workplace can be an important factor in your employees’ overall well-being.

“There are so many benefits to having pets in the workplace, from reducing stress and creating community, to boosting morale and reducing isolation, to of course increasing productivity,” Bradey says.

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