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The Pros and Cons of Office Pets

Pros and cons of office pets: how to develop an inclusive pet policy

Today is International Take Your Dog to Work Day® a furry tradition established by Pet Sitters International in 1996!

"With restrictions easing and offices beginning to re-open after the worst of COVID-19 has hopefully passed, I believe we shouldn’t be prepping our pets for our return to work and their return to isolation." says 
Anneke van den Broek from pet care brand Rufus & Coco. "Instead, I would urge employers to reconsider their pet policies."

Many pets have been purchased or adopted during COVID-19. In fact, 1.5 million people logged on to animal adoption site Pet Rescue in March-April, and the RSPCA have seen huge spikes in adoption rates across the country. They will likely suffer separation anxiety and struggle to adjust to an unfamiliar routine as we return to work. 

Rufus & Coco have a beloved office cat Coco and believe everyone should be able to experience the joys of pets at work. 

So, I spoke with my friend and founder of HR Fundamentals, Lisa Donohoe, about the pros and cons of office pets and how offices can successfully develop and implement a pet policy at their work. 

She shares, “I’ve drafted a pet policy before with people on both sides of the fence; I think a pet policy is a great idea, as it sets the standards of behaviour. 

Where we’ve seen issues in the past is with dogs that aren’t well trained and the issue becomes ‘who cleans up?’ ‘how well is it cleaned up?’ and so on. With our clients who do successfully have pets in the office, they typically have only a few older dogs in the office who sleep a lot and cause minimal disruptions.”

Here are some pawsome benefits of office pets:

1. People take much needed breaks

We aren’t robots and need to take breaks throughout the day in order to manage our health and do our best work. Pets can act as a prompt for people who might otherwise eat lunch at their desk on a busy day. They need to be taken out for toilet breaks and fresh air, as do we!

2. Pets are proven to be good for mental and physical health

Having pets around helps reduce our stress and anxiety levels by lowering our heart rate and stress hormones. Dogs can reduce stress and loneliness for seniors, with one study finding that nursing home residents felt much less lonely after spending time alone with a dog than when other people joined in the visit. 

Physical contact and affection can lower your heart rate. One study found that a few minutes of stroking our pet dog prompts a release of a number of "feel good" hormones in humans, such as serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin

Another study found petting a dog for just 18 minutes raised levels of immune system antibodies in college student’s saliva.

3. Pets encourage socialisation

Office pets are great for a friendly office culture. They encourage connection and community and are great conversation starters! They are great for bonding and help us meet new people. With greater social connectedness, comes greater self-esteem.

Watch out for possible cat-astrophic consequences:

1. Allergies

Sadly, some people are allergic to pets. If these people aren’t consulted before pets are brought into the office it can create problems, possibly even legal ones.

2. Mess

Office pets need to be well trained pets and owners need to be clearly accountable. Drafting a pet policy that requires pets to have had training, limits the disruption they can cause and clarifies the responsibilities of owners is essential!

3. Injuries

Fortunately this is uncommon, however pets can pose a risk. Size, behaviour and physical restrictions for where they can be at work should all be considered, with the safety of staff a priority.

Lisa from HR Fundamentals shares, “What is really key is the communication and consultation with those people who office pets will impact, to make sure their voices are heard.”

And of course, when considering office pet policies, everyone working in the space needs to be considered. Allergies can be an issue as can fears of pets or simply a dislike of them in your space.

One initiative I’ve heard of, is a feedback box where everyone can share their thoughts about welcoming pets in the office. This way it is anonymous and everyone’s voice is heard. No one wants to be the person at a meeting preventing pet lovers from having their furbabies by their side!

Another potential way around this would be having pet-friendly days coincide with flexible work days, so that those who don’t like pets can work from home on the days pets come in.

We hope from this pandemic to see more offices developing flexible policies for pets at work, or workers allowed at home with their pets more!

Happy International Take Your Dog To Work Day 2020!

written by Anneke van den Broek, founder and CEO of Rufus & Coco - June 2020 

About Anneke van den Broek 

Pet Advocate and Founder and CEO of Rufus & Coco - Australia’s most awarded pet care brand - Anneke van den Broek has built a globally successful business supporting pet owners and giving back to animal charities and not-for-profits. 

Anneke van den Broek CEO of Rufus & Coco and her dog lying on a beachRecognised as one of Australia’s 50 most influential women entrepreneurs by Rare Birds, Anneke is also the recipient of the 2012 Anita Prabhu Women in Business Award and in 2016 was inducted into the Business Woman’s Hall of Fame. Running a ‘Women of EO’ (The Sydney faction of the global Entrepreneur’s Organisation) forum, she mentors high growth startups, helping them to build multi-million-dollar businesses. Growing up, her father taught her from a very young age that she ‘could do anything if she tried,’ and that she did. An early entrepreneur, at eight years old she was breeding and selling mice to her local pet store for 40c each. 

A successful career in marketing and management followed and at 23, she was single-handedly running 300 David Jones fashion shows across Australia each year. She went on to become the Marketing Director for Blackmores and held senior positions at Apparel Group and Bonds. During these years in corporate, she went back to study to complete an MBA, knowing that ultimately, she wanted to start her own business. 

She grew up in a house where if you didn’t get to the couch first the dog would take your spot and quickly recognised the growing trend of people treating their pets as part of the family. Having owned more than 40 pets in her life, when the opportunity presented itself to launch a business, she chose an industry she knew she could remain passionate about for years to come. 

In 2008, pregnant with her first child, she launched Rufus & Coco, a ‘best of breed’ pet care brand offering fashionable, affordable, natural and quality pet care products unlike anything that was available at the time. With great passion and persistence, she has taken Rufus & Coco from a startup to the largest privately-owned pet business in the pet accessories category selling into grocery in Australia. 

Rufus & Coco are Australia’s most awarded pet care brand, receiving seven business awards for innovation. 

Photo Credit (all images): Rufus & Coco (supplied)

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