Did you know that offering employees the opportunity to bring their pets to work is a current trend? It’s true! According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), nine percent of employers already have an office policy allowing pets. This includes some well-recognized employers-of-choice such as Google, Amazon, Salesforce and Workday.
The fact is that the percentage of workplaces with a pet-friendly policy has more than doubled in the past four years. Benefits experts believe that this percentage will continue to increase in the future.
Why you may ask? According to a business magazine called Chief Executive, the next generation of business professionals want it. A survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital found that more than 66 percent of human resource decision makers said that potential candidates asked if the workspace was pet-friendly during their interview process.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. A pet-friendly environment can benefit both the employer and the employee. The employer may see increased retention, loyalty, productivity, and morale in their staff. On the other hand, the employee may experience decreased stress and absenteeism, according to a recent study from the Virginia Commonwealth University. As an added bonus, when you allow pets in the office, employees may be more engaged and willing to work a full day. The policy eliminates their need to worry about rushing home to check-in on their pet.
If you already have a program like this or are looking to start one, consider effective communications a key element of its success. Here are some ways to make sure you’re engaging employees appropriately:
Make Sure Every Employee’s Voice is Heard
In order for a pet-friendly workspace to be successful, employees need to feel included. With this in mind, be sure to remember everybody might not have a pet or feel comfortable around animals. That’s why it’s important to find out where people are. Do this by talking to coworkers who might be worried about this implementation, are allergic, or have any questions or concerns. Engage them in a short online poll, focus groups or informal meetings to get their thoughts. Use what you learn to inform not only the program, but communications strategy. Arm managers with talking points so they know how to approach people on their teams who may be skeptical.
Design a “Frequently Asked Questions” Document That Lays Out Program Guidelines
One of the most important steps in creating this type of policy is making sure that the guidelines are clear. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are a user-friendly tool for distributing information in a way that can be scanned, easy to revisit, and quickly updated as questions come your way. Start with the questions you expect you’ll get the most. Write them in the way employees would ask them to make the information intuitive for search. Update often to aid in eliminating any confusion.
Get the Word Out Through the Appropriate Media
How you decide to spread the word to your employees is crucial. Are you going to send out a mass email? Post a flyer in the break room? Hold a company-wide meeting? Post it on your company’s intranet? There are many different ways to tell your employees about this new policy, but some may be more fitting for your company than others. The goal is to meet employees where you know they go most. This ensures that you are reaching as many people as possible. Even though younger workers tend to value this pet-friendly program most, not all want to receive information on line. Because we all learn differently, the best approach is to use a mix of approaches, from online to traditional. This guarantees that you connect with everybody somewhere.
Create Clear Messaging That Includes the Ground Rules
No matter how you decide to share information, remember that consistency is key. Reiterate the ground rules and key aspects of the policy often and through a variety of media so employees always know what to expect. If your message is direct, concise, and clear, employees are more likely to be receptive. Something to keep in mind is that when you begin to tire of the information, employees are just starting to get it.
Communicating the Pet-Friendly Policy in Recruitment
Your current workers aren’t the only ones who should know about this new policy. Promote it to job-searching millennials who, as we now know, are looking for pet-friendly offices. Talk to your Human Resources team to see how you can best communicate this policy in the recruitment process. That may include adding it to job postings on sites like Indeed or Glassdoor, putting it in the employee handbook and promoting it at job fairs. This could be a real deal maker for some candidates and in a tight job market, that counts!
As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about when educating your employees on how to embrace a pet-friendly office. Note that your communications strategy is crucial when explaining any new policy. Communicate well so you can set employees and your program up for real success.