Chaos in the Cubicles, or a Calm Company: Does a pets-at-work Policy Work?

Of the many holidays scheduled throughout the year, one of the newest to hit the calendar is National Take Your Pet to Work Day.  In the US this is scheduled for June 23rd in 2017.  If your company is considering getting involved in this or implementing a full pets-at-work policy, now might be the prime time to start preparing to make it work for your business and its employees.

Increasingly businesses across the US are becoming more dog friendly.  According to the US pet food company, Purina, although around 72% of companies do not allow employees to bring their pets to work, it is anticipated that this could change in coming years as some employers are seeing specific advantages from introducing this additional employee benefit.  Admittedly there are many working situations where it simply is not practical to have a dog in tow, but in certain office environments, it can be a feasible option.

Why become dog friendly?

A happy, relaxed employee is more likely to be motivated at work and more likely to stay with a company for longer. High employee turnover is never a good sign in any organization and smart employers know that losing good people costs them both in time and money.  A recent article by Julie Kantorindicated that employee turnover costs a company conservatively between $15,000 and $25,000 every time an employee on a low salary leaves to go elsewhere and this amount ratchets up quickly with higher salaried employees.  It stands to reason that employers who show employees that they are valued are likely to get more respect and a better work ethic in return. Ideas for businesses to keep staff content and engaged are varied and can include the following:

  • flexible working hours
  • benefits such as good healthcare coverage
  • telecommuting opportunities
  • on-site child care
  • access to exercise facilities at lunch time or after work
  • a pets-at-work policy

Any benefits that offer employees a better work-life balance tend to be well received. Amazon, Etsy, Google, Bissell, Clif Bar and Petco are just a few of the US companies that are keen to get pets involved. They believe that millennials especially (currently aged between 18 and 34 years old) are influenced in a positive way if there are dogs in the office. One company (the BrewDog brewery in Columbus, Ohio) has even introduced a paid parental leave plan for employees who are welcoming a new puppy into their homes. Following the parental leave, they are then permitted to bring the pup to work.

It doesn’t work for all, but for some companies, allowing staff this flexibility of having a pet at work can reap rewards.

 

dog-under-a-desk

 

What are the advantages of having dogs at work?

Benefits of having dogs at work can include some of the following:

A happier and healthier workforce. Employees with pets at the desk are less likely to suffer from depression as petting a dog releases endorphins, reducing anxiety in the owner. Having a dog around also encourages more physical activity.  With a dog at your feet, you have to get active during the day, by taking regular comfort breaks and walking before work, at lunchtime, and after work. These benefits are really only true for the dog owners among the staff and not necessarily applicable to those without pets.

Dogs get to spend more time with their owners and vice versa.  When you add your commute time to your working day, chances are you are away from your home for a lot longer than you may realize.  Many pet owners who work full time will hire dog walkers to take the dog out for a walk during the day, but even with that special attention it is usually only for a short amount of time during the day, so your dog is likely to be lonely and miss your presence.  If your dog is with you, he may be less stressed and you can also relax knowing that he is in your care.

Increased social interaction.  Having a pet around can break the ice between co-workers and can also help to improve communication between staff at different levels. If there are other dogs in the office, your dog may get the opportunity to socialize more with other dogs.

 

Young woman petting dog at office desk

How can employers get this policy started?

If you are thinking about implementing a pets-at-work policy there are several things to consider from the outset.

  • It’s not always easy to get commercial real estate that allows pets to be on the premises, so be sure there isn’t a “no-pets” policy in your building.
  • If you are thinking about adopting a pets-at-work policy at your workplace, a good way to start could be with a “Bring Your Pet to Work Day.”  This allows you to see how having animals around affects your work environment without having to commit to a full pet-friendly policy from the outset.
  • Talk to other organizations that have a pets-at-work policy and find out from them what works, what hasn’t worked, and why.
  • If you decide to invite pets into your workplace, be prepared to make revisions to the policy as you experience different situations during a working week or month.

How can employees make it work?

man-with-dog-on-lap

If the company gives the idea of dogs at work the go-ahead, employees who want to bring dogs should think about the best approach to ensure that they and the company can capture all the positive benefits.

Will it be OK with all coworkers in the office?  Some people are allergic to dogs, whereas others are downright fearful, so it’s important to be respectful of all employees needs.

What to do when dogs don’t get along. Chances are there will be plenty of other dogs at the office too.  If there are, introduce them slowly.  Not all will get on with one another, so be prepared for that and have a plan on what to do should that be the case.

Consider dog temperaments and how they differ with breed and training. Some dogs are too stressed in new settings to cope with going into a work environment, whereas others are fairly laid back and could fit in anywhere.  Think realistically and objectively about where your dog sits on this scale in terms of temperament and level of training.

Think about grooming. In the same way that you take a shower and dress appropriately for work, you should take a similar approach with your dog.  Make sure he is groomed as well as he can be – a muddy pooch may not be a good fit in a well-presented office environment.

Health and safety for dogs.  Ensure that the office environment is as hazard-free as possible. Make sure that any choking hazards are out of the way of the pets, and there is no chance of them chewing on cables, plants or anything else that could be dangerous. Ensure all pet vaccinations are up to date.  This is vital, to ensure that pets stay healthy when coming into contact with other dogs. Do not take a sick dog to work. You don’t know how that is going to play out, and this can be made worse when introducing him into a more stressful environment.

Don’t let him wander.  Although your dog wouldn’t be on a leash at home, this is not the same kind of environment.  You need to know where your dog is at every point during the day and the best way of doing that is keeping him tethered.

Pay attention to physical needs. Your dog will require regular attention during your time at work.  Make sure you have dishes for water and food with you and some (preferably non-squeaky) toys for distraction.  Take your dog for frequent excursions outside, so that he can relieve himself and so he doesn’t get overly restless being cooped up in an office environment all day.  Again, this is a time to consider whether your dog’s breed can tolerate being inside an office for a long period of time.

Don’t leave your dog unattended for large periods of time.  This can be difficult if you are likely to be attending lengthy meetings, so take that into consideration before bringing your dog to work.

 

Dog in glasses sitting in an office chair, on with box folder with documents

Do you think having your pet at work would make you more productive?  If you work somewhere that already welcomes pets in the workplace, we’d love to hear about your experiences.

Reference

  1. Kantor J. Want to Keep Your Millenials – Mentor Them.  Huff Post. December 18, 2016

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Why Distracted Driving is Driving me to Distraction

“You can never have too many…” have been the words to start many quotes over the decades, from a variety of people ranging from authors to actors.  Most of these quotes are completed with words such as “friends,” “shoes,” or “books.” At Pet Barrier, I say, “You can never have too many reminders about distracted driving.”  Regular blog followers may remember a couple of posts on distracted driving in 2016 and you may be asking why, with all the subjects that I could be writing about, I am covering the topic of distracted driving yet again.  The answer is simple and sobering. Distracted driving is now considered to be at epidemic levels in the US.1

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US traffic accident fatalities rose by 7.2% in 2015, which is the largest increase in the last 50 years. Early estimates by the NHTSA for the first 9 months of 2016 indicate that fatalities have increased by a further 8%.  After having experienced many years of decline in fatality rates during the early 2000s, this trend toward an increase in fatalities is worrying.

 

distracted-driver

What exactly is distracted driving?

Many people consider themselves to be cautious, considerate, safe drivers and sometimes don’t realize that things that they do in addition to driving can be fatal. Causes of distractions on the road are numerous, ranging from events occurring outside the vehicle, restless pets or children or adult passengers within the vehicle, eating, drinking, shaving, applying makeup, smoking, adjusting controls on the stereo, downloading music, dealing with hand-held devices, and last but by no means least, using cell phones for phone calls and texting.

According to EndDD,there are three types of distraction:

  1. Manual distractions – your hands are taken away from the steering wheel to perform a task. An example is reaching for a soda
  2. Visual distractions – your eyes are taken off the road. They give the example of when you spill the soda and look down at your clothes to see the outcome
  3. Cognitive distractions – your mind wanders away from the task at hand. They finish the example with you thinking about how to get your clothes cleaned.

In Washington State alone, 30% of fatal road accidents in 2016 were caused by distracted driving. Taking your eye off the road for even 2 seconds can result in an accident. If you talk on a cell phone while driving, your risk of an accident quadruples.  If you text while driving, your risk of an accident is increased by eight times.  According to Alexis Myers of the Associated Press,14 states currently ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in a car. 46 states prohibit texting messaging for all drivers.  Research by AAAsuggests that even when drivers put down the phone or the navigation device, the driver is still not fully engaged with the task of driving as the driver’s mind still remains distracted. An article by Bart Jansen in USA Today indicated that millennials are the age group most likely to engage in risky practices behind the wheel.Although the millennial statistics were the highest, other age groups did not fare well either. This suggests that greater education and awareness across the entire population of driving age would be advantageous.  

How can you avoid driving distractions?

There will always be incidents that arise when we are driving that are totally unexpected and cannot be planned for ahead of the journey.  But for many of the distracted driving scenarios, a little bit of planning ahead by trying to manage these distractions before setting out on the road can help to avoid some of these distractions entirely.

Turn cell phones off or switch to silent, before starting your journey

No phone call, social media update, or text message is more important than a person’s life. Don’t talk, or (even worse) text, on the phone while driving.  If you absolutely need to make a call or send a text message during your journey, pull over and make the call or send the text when your vehicle is stationary. As for selfies, nobody wants to see a selfie of you driving, they’d far rather see you in person and more importantly alive.

Take care of personal hygiene before getting in the car

This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but we’ve all seen drivers shaving on their commute, or applying mascara.  It is far better to take care of your personal hygiene before setting out on a journey.  If you can’t do that then wait until you get to your destination to apply your makeup or remove your stubble.

woman-putting-on-make-up-while-driving

Secure pets correctly

Ensure that pets are securely placed to the rear of your vehicle.  Using a vehicle-specific pet barrier is an excellent choice and if you have multiple pets, having a trunk divider added to this mix can prevent them from becoming rambunctious during a journey.  Other options are to harness your pet in one of the rear seats, in a similar way to using a seat belt. There are a wide variety of products on the market to ensure your pet is positioned in the most appropriate area of the vehicle so that the driver is not suddenly surprised by a furry friend wanting a hug.  Check out what can work best for your vehicle and for your pet.

 travall-dg-04

Set your GPS system before starting the journey

This also applies if your GPS system is on your cell phone. Ensure that the device is located in an area where you can see both the device and the road easily and clearly and ensure it can be operated hands free.

Eat and drink before or after your journey, not during it

Your car will remain cleaner, your clothes will be cleaner,  and more importantly you will not be distracted from the road.

eating-while-driving

 

Take care of your kid’s needs before starting the journey

Ensure that children are comfortable and securely buckled in a car seat that is appropriate for their current age, height, and weight.  Make sure that they have their toys, pacifiers, sippy cup or whatever else they need within their easy reach, so they are able to get to items, leaving the driver free to deal with the important task of driving.  If a toy or any other item gets dropped on the floor, leave it there until you can get to a safe place to pull over. Don’t try to reach behind your seat to return it to the child while you are driving.

child-ready-for-a-journey

 

 

The following You Tube video was put together by The Try Guysas they considered the effects of distracted driving.  They were certainly surprised by the results.

The Try Guys Try Distracted Driving

 

Don’t become complacent about driving.  Every trip, take the time to plan ahead and when you are driving ensure that your mind is on the road and not on the other things going on in your life.  Multitasking behind the wheel is simply asking for trouble. Retweet, share on Facebook, reblog, or do whatever you can to get the message out to friends, family, and strangers, so that everyone, no matter what age, is educated about and fully understands the risks of distracted driving.  Let’s all work to make American roads safer for 2017 and beyond.

Do you have any tips that have helped avoid distractions when you’ve been traveling with pets, kids or other passengers?  We’d love to hear about them.

Please drive mindfully every trip – every life is worth it!

References

  1. Darrow B. http://fortune.com/2016/09/14/distracted-driving-epidemic/ September 14, 2016
  2. http://www.enddd.org/the-facts-about-distracted-driving/
  3. Myers A. Distracted driving penalties could increase statewide in Wash. Associated          Press. Feb 12, 2017 – 10:12 AM
  4. https://www.aaafoundation.org/distracted-driving
  5. Jansen B. Millennial drivers are highway hazards, survey shows. USA Today. Feb 15, 2017.
  6. The Try Guys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2atx1Jh6YP0

 

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