While you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, that old dog can be a key strategy for employers looking to increase productivity and reduce absenteeism in the workplace.

Workplace perks like free snacks, flexible working hours and on-site amenities are designed to attract top talent, but many companies miss a huge opportunity by creating a pet-friendly workplace, experts say.

Pets have the ability to lift moods, improve happiness and reduce stress, Marcie Whichard
vice president, industry and public affairs, at Petco said this week at the World Congress National Employee Well-Being Conference in Alexandria, Va. “At Petco we see it as a competitive advantage, especially with the millennial generation.”

In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual report points to a slight increase over the years of employers allowing pets to come to work. In 2017, 8% of employers say pets are welcome.

Further, last year’s Banfield Pet Hospital survey of more than 12,000 employees and HR managers found that seven in 10 said that pets in the workplace had a positive impact on office dynamics.

“It’s a tremendous engagement starter,” Whichard said. “It becomes more of a social environment and allows people to see another side of the employee that they wouldn’t normally see.”

There also are several wellness opportunities when allowing pets in the office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says pets help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Additionally, walking pets gets employees more mobile and moving around the office.

“Pets are a prescription for your health,” added Steven Feldman, executive director at the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization.

And, lucky for employers, moving from a non-pet workplace to a pet-friendly atmosphere can be easily achieved, Whichard said. Still, creating an environment for optimal productivity requires some rules.

“When you’re designing for pets in the workplace, consider pet-friendly materials,” she said. “Think of it along the lines of office child daycares.” Some things to consider include:

· Safe plant materials
· Janitorial requirements
· Pest/flea control

A modified water fountain that can be used by people and their pets and dog-park environments are things that can be easily be added to your facilities, she said.

“Just know that you don’t have to necessarily build it form the ground up,” she said. “A dog barrier/gate can be perfectly suitable.”

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