EBN ran a piece on pet-friendly workplaces – "Are American workplaces going to the dogs?" As we wind down the dog days of summer, thought this was a good excuse to share a photo of my furry kids and share some commentary on what we dog-lovers hope will be the next big benefit trend to emerge. The article provides an interesting stat for employers to ponder: 35% of millennials currently own a pet and another 20% say they plan to get one. Paving the way for pet-friendly work environments are companies like Amazon, Kimpton and Salesforce.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to accommodating pets in the work place. Beyond the obvious -- attraction and retention of pet owners – pros also include stress reduction, improved wellbeing, and increased colleague interaction as you get to know each other’s pets. Of course, there are other considerations: Not everyone is comfortable around animals and not all animals are well-behaved. The combination of those two factors could have a negative impact on productivity. As with any policy, it is important to assess the risk and liability – and this is no exception.

If you don’t think you are ready to open your doors to pets at work, there are other pet-friendly things an employer can do. According to Mercer’s survey, 15% of large employers make pet insurance available, and some go so far as to subsidize the coverage. Another alternative would be to make employees aware of discounts for pet insurance. According to Consumer Reports, some affinity groups may provide members with breaks on pet insurance premiums. Healthy Paws, for example, provides a 10 percent lifetime discount to AAA members. PetPlan gives AARP members and active-duty or retired military personnel a 10 percent discount if they sign up for a plan online, or 5 percent if they buy a plan by phone.

Other popular perks for employers to consider are negotiated discounts on pet products and referral services for pet sitting and dog walking. And of course, the ultimate pet-friendly policy is to permit work from home, ensuring the owner is available to feed, walk, pet, scratch and/or belly-rub on demand.

  

Senior Partner, National Leader for U.S. Health Care