One of the best things about owning your own business is getting to make decisions like what the office dress code is – and whether you and your employees can bring their pets to work. And even if you don’t allow pets during the normal workday, you may be considering hopping on the Take Your Dog to Work Day bandwagon on June 21, when workplaces around the U.S. invite Fidos and Fluffies to join the meetings and water cooler conversations.
But before you set up a water bowl and buy an office leash, make sure you’re aware of the unique risks that accompany animals in the workplace so you can avoid unexpected expenses.
When you invite animals of any kind into the workplace, you open your business to…
- Property damage risks: From chewing to shedding to (ahem) evacuating, animals can cause some serious damage to the valuable equipment you rely on to run your business. And even if you’re meticulous about monitoring Spot’s behavior, you’ll eventually be on an important phone call or in a meeting that prevents you from taking him out or intervening before he marks his territory on a central processing unit. And even if your office mascot spends her days swimming around a bowl, remember that the bowl can tip and water can spill all over your laptop. Consider minimizing your Property damage exposure by requiring pet owners to accept financial responsibility for any damage their animals cause. If it’s your pet in the office, talk with your insurance agent about whether your business’s Property Insurance policy will cover pet-related disasters.
- Injury risks: Dog bites are the obvious source of injury for pet-staffed offices, but so are trips caused by animals scampering in front of unsuspecting people. In addition, employees and clients with allergies could potentially have trouble breathing (and working!) when furrier friends are around. Be sure to inquire about health concerns before establishing any pet policy – and again, ask the pet’s owner to assume financial responsibility for any injuries that arise.
- Lease violations: Unless you own the building where you work, you’ll have to follow your landlord’s rules regarding pets in the office. Run afoul of those standards, and you risk major fines and even eviction. (Read more on renter's liability concerns in "Do I Need a Renter's Policy?")
- Productivity issues: While some research suggests that pets in the workplace have the potential to relieve stress and increase productivity, evidence is limited. Depending on the personality of the pet and the dynamics of your company, an animal could have a detrimental effect on the overall success of your company. Consider, too, that even if everyone in your office loves your animals, not all your clients will be fans of animals and having them around could cost you credibility with important audiences. (For more about increasing productivity, check out the article "Why Ice Cream Is Good for Your Bottom Line.")