The Secret Work of Pets? A New Movie Has Us Wondering Whether to Bring Pets to the Office

The Secret Work of Pets? A New Movie Has Us Wondering Whether to Bring Pets to the Office

By: Steve Cox
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Monday, July 18, 2016 - 10:45am


The new animated film The Secret Life of Pets topped the box office for a second straight weekend with total earnings over $250 million globally and breaking box office records. The animated film follows New York City pets who wonder what their owners do all day at this mysterious place called “work.”

The film’s appeal is easy to see. Most pet owners feel at least a twinge of guilt when they leave their companions home alone for the day. But what if we didn’t have to leave them? The same pet-lovers who made The Secret Life of Pets a hit are driving another trend, this one in the workplace: Offices are increasingly allowing employees to bring their pets to work.

Last year, eight percent of workplaces allowed people to bring pets to work, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey. That’s up from five percent in 2013. The trend is taking off because having pets in the office has benefits for both employees and businesses. But there are some drawbacks.

Pro: Pets help promote well-being and productivity

Having pets around has been shown to reduce employee stress, which can lead to increased productivity. A 2012 Virginia Commonwealth University study of one pet-friendly workplace found that employees who brought their dogs to work saw their stress levels fall 11 percent throughout the day. Those in the same workplace who did not bring dogs to work saw their stress levels rise 70 percent during the day. The reason is simple: participants said that petting dogs was a great stress-reliever. The dogs also contributed to employee wellness by forcing owners to take them for a walk in the middle of the day. Other studies have shown that being around pets can decrease blood pressure and even reduce cholesterol.

Pets even help with team-building. A 2012 study from Central Michigan University found that when dogs were present in small groups, the groups reported more cohesion and trust.

Con: Allergies and behavior problems

While there are health benefits of having pets in the workplace, for some employees it’s a health risk. An estimated 15 to 30 percent of Americans suffer from some sort of pet allergy, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Having pets in the office won’t just make it impossible for allergic employees to get anything done, it could cause serious medical issues, such as temporary breathlessness.

And just as not every workplace is ready to be pet-friendly, the workplace isn’t right for every pet. Businesses that want to go pet-friendly need to set ground rules to ensure the pets that arrive will be happy in the workplace. To ensure canine harmony at their pet-friendly offices, Nestle instituted a three-step “pawthorisation process” which required all dogs to be okayed by an animal behavior expert before coming to work. The company also created dog-friendly meeting rooms and an indoor space for the dogs to play off-leash. The lesson here is that businesses should not go pet-friendly without giving it some serious thought.

Pro: Pet-friendly policies might attract talent

Bring-your-pet-to-work policies are joining a slew of other workplace perks aimed at attracting the best talent. For example, millennials are on track to become the largest pet-owning generation. As companies compete to attract them, pet-friendly workplaces are becoming a recruitment tool.

And for some businesses, being animal-friendly just makes sense. Nestle, which owns the Purina dog food brand, began allowing dogs to come to work in their U.K. offices in 2015 in part to attract animal-loving employees.

Would your workplace benefit from permitting pets in the office? Tell us why or why not in the comments section.

Steve Cox leads Public Relations for Sodexo North America with $9B in annual revenue, 125,000 employees, 9,000 operating sites and 15 million consumers served daily. Sodexo is committed to improving performance and enhancing quality of life for the individuals, organizations and communities we serve.