A week ago Nicole wrote about the benefits of bringing your pet to the office. Although I am an animal lover and see the benefit of spending time with pets, I would like to state my case for the opposing side - why taking your pets to the office is not a good idea.
The first area of concern is office health and hygiene. According to the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) 3.9 million South Africans suffer from asthma. It is also estimated that 15 - 20% of the population suffers from pet-related allergies. With animals being identified as a “trigger” for asthma and allergies, I’m sure as an employer you would be concerned. Millions of Rands is spent to curb absenteeism in the workplace and if bringing pets to work carries the risk of up to 20% of your workforce taking medical leave to recover from the effects of asthma and allergies, I’m sure you will agree that your colleagues' health is more important.
I do see the merits of pets reducing stress and if you are really passionate about bringing pets to work I would suggest you have your office deep cleaned (including an antibacterial fogging treatment) on a regular basis and educate colleagues on good hand hygiene practices to ensure you mitigate some of the risks.
The second cause for concern is the risk of injury. Even the best trained, most even- tempered pet may cause injury. Whether the pet is excited and accidentally jumps up and knocks someone over or is frightened and bites or scratches someone, this may lead to work days lost and medical bills. In extreme cases, the company may be held liable and could lead to unforeseen legal costs.
Thirdly, you may want to consider distractions. There is nothing cuter than a puppy running around and it is guaranteed that at least 50% of the office will drop what they are doing to fuss over the little guy. You also need to consider your brand image when it comes to background noise. I certainly wouldn’t take you seriously if dogs were barking in the background while you were trying to close a deal with me.
You also need to consider the distraction of a “cleanup in aisle 5” if your pet has an accident in the passage. That will need to be cleaned thoroughly to avoid stains and lingering odours.
Lastly, you need to consider pet health. We have a responsibility to care for our pets and I do question if a pet would get enough attention and exercise while in an office environment. You may be able to put out food and water but where does your pet play, and run around, how often do you take your pet for a “bathroom break” (and then you need to dispose of the waste responsibly)? These are logistical questions that can further hinder productivity and, more importantly, can negatively affect your pet.
The question remains, do you take your pet to work or not? It’s both a personal choice and an organisational choice. One needs to engage in a consultative approach to ensure you consider all colleagues and the wellbeing of your pet.
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