Commentary: I love dogs, but please don’t bring them to the office
I’m a dog lover and the paw parent of an overgrown five-year-old puppy named Yuri. I can imagine bringing him to my office, but as a company policy, I don’t think it would be a great idea. Here’s why.
SINGAPORE: It’s an employee’s market these days. Companies are struggling with workers not wanting to head back to the office after two-and-a-half years of working from home. An Institute of Policy Studies survey in April showed that up to 52 per cent of workers feel that flexible work arrangements should be the new norm.
In fact, a recent study by Randstad showed that two in five employees would not accept a job unless it had options for remote working.
With this demand for critical talent and impetus to lure staff back to the office, some companies are bending backwards with special perks to accommodate these requests.
And one of these “creative benefits” include allowing staff to bring their pets to the work.
In the US, companies such as Google, Amazon and Uber have adopted pet-friendly policies. Closer to home Carousell and some co-working spaces have similarly jumped onto this trend.
With the pandemic pet-adoption boom where the number of dogs licensed by the AVS increased by 20 per cent from 70,000 in 2019 to 84,000 in the first half of 2022, I can clearly see the allure of a pet-friendly office. However, I think allowing pets in the office is an idea that warrants deeper consideration.
THE BENEFITS OF PETS IS CLEAR
Indeed, research has shown that pets reduce stress and help improve mental health. In a survey by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Singapore, 89 per cent of respondents said their pets had a positive impact during the pandemic.
Having pets in the office would also be a great way for employees who do not have pets of their own to experience the joys and therapeutic benefits of interacting with them. Pets have also been shown to raise the morale and mood of the office.
However, the harsh reality is that not everyone is a pet lover, and this could give rise to complications.
NOT FOR EVERYONE
I did not grow up with dogs. In fact, I disliked them. I was bitten by one when I was nine years old, and after that, I irrationally avoided them - even friendly and cuddly poodles – fearing they might tear my limb off.
I shunned them until my wife brought a cute puppy home in 2017. Now, I’m a die-hard convert.
But having experienced a fear of dogs myself, I can truly say that someone with a previous traumatic experience will find it anxiety-inducing simply to be around one. Post-traumatic stress disorder after a dog bite is real, and having free-roaming pets in the office can be intimidating.
AN “UN-INCLUSIVE” ENVIRONMENT?
One inadvertent outcome of a pet-friendly policy could be that the workplace automatically becomes an “un-inclusive” environment.
Some people are allergic to pet dander and simply having these furry creatures in the same room might result in negative health outcomes for them.
On a more significant note, certain religions discourage direct contact with particular animals, and it could result in unintentional insensitivities or even cause direct conflict between employees, creating unnecessary problems for management to resolve.
A NIGHTMARE FOR HUMAN RESOURCES
In fact, allowing pets in the office would be like opening a Pandora’s Box of nightmares for the HR department.
From having to enforce a limit to the number and types of pets to the office, arranging for housekeeping to make regular sweeps of pet detritus and poop, to mediating between disgruntled cat and dog owners when their pets decide to disagree – I can imagine the turmoil arising from having a menagerie in the office.
When the novelty of “Pets in the Pantry” is replaced by the pain of “Lawsuits from Legal”, companies will quickly find out that good intentions can bring bad results.
PERHAPS A COMPROMISE?
Now, don’t get me wrong. As a converted dog lover, I would love to work in an office surrounded by our fuzzy friends. However, in the real world, this would be challenging.
Perhaps a compromise could be struck, where staff are allowed to bring their pets once a month under strict regulations and those who dislike animals could be given the day off? That could be a happy win-win scenario for both parties.
Or possibly, management could demarcate floors or areas that are pet-friendly and others that are off-limits, so that neither the twain shall meet?
Whatever management decides, as long as they involve their staff in the discussion and the outcome, I am certain that a healthy office environment will result.
Pets or no pets.
Adrian Choo is the CEO and founder of Career Agility International, a career strategy consultancy. He is also the proud paw parent of Yuri Tandoori, a five-year-old Chow-Spitz who has his own Instagram page.