We’ve talked a lot about the future of office design over the past few months, as employers are jumping on board the concept of ‘casual’ office environments. From open breakout spaces, natural design elements, and softer lighting that isn’t as harsh as the fluorescent lighting that’s been plaguing offices for generations, productivity means feeling at-home at work.
For a lot of people, a large part of their home life is their pets, so it’s not surprising that some workplaces are going so far as to create pet-friendly office environments. Considering pet ownership has been linked to everything from stress relief to positive moods and improved physical health, being able to bring your pet to work could do a lot more than just improve the mood of your staff.
Studies have shown that pets have calming effects, and these calming effects can easily translate across to work environments. This is especially the case in stressful industries, as pets can lower stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure. The presence of pets, like cats and dogs can also help diffuse tension, and decrease stress when staff are feeling overwhelmed, which can, in turn, assist with productivity.
Communication and human interaction can also improve in pet-friendly work environments. For instance, how often do you stop to talk to someone on the street when they have a cute dog, or when you’re both walking your dogs and they start sniffing each other? Now, how often do you stop and talk to a random person you’re walking past if neither of you has a pet? Pets in the office have the same effect, as colleagues who don’t usually speak to or work directly together can strike up a conversation while stopping to pet the dog. This helps to build relationships across departments, while also harmonising workspaces.
You’ll also find that having pets in the office helps to boost energy, morale and mood, making employees happier at work. Plus, allowing pets in a workplace paints a business in a more positive light for current and potential future employees, as it shows flexibility and acceptance.
When planning your office re-fits, if allowing pets at work is something you want to do, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.
Both people and animals need space. It doesn’t do anyone good to be cooped up all day in a confined space (which is why more and more offices are adopting open plan offices), and pets are no exception. To make a pet-friendly environment plausible, you will need to make sure you have the space to accommodate them. However, to make space for your four-legged companions, try not to take away space from the actual workers, as they need room to breath too.
Not everyone in the office will be animal lovers. In cases where people have allergies, fears of pets, or even if you’re having important clients come into the office and you’d rather avoid getting dog hair all over their expensive suits, having designated pet-free areas is advisable.
Set up playpens to one side of your workplace’s breakout space and try to keep any pets within this area when needed. This can be tricky at times, especially if you have cats that tend to just roam freely. However, if you provide adequate entertainment you shouldn’t encounter any major issues. It’s also important that the pets you allow in the office are well trained, and that their owners understand it’s their responsibility to keep an eye on them when they are wandering freely around the office.
When setting up playpens, also try to incorporate heavier duty structures that will act as a permanent fixture, rather than just chucking in a cheap wire playpen from a discount variety store. Not only will this ensure you maintain the aesthetic of your office, it will also ensure you actively try to keep the pet-friendly movement alive.
Just like when you’re bringing a new puppy home, there are certain things you’ll need to do to prepare your office for your new furry colleagues. For instance, you might need to re-evaluate the shelving and storage in the kitchen and at people’s desks, to make sure no one tries to eat anything they shouldn’t be eating.
It’s also a good idea to install some form of storage for wires (like baskets that run the length of the underside of desks) and loose cables, and if you have an IT room, make sure that’s part of your pet-friendly zone.
Also, make sure you have a designated area for food and water, and that there is some form of schedule for toilet breaks. Air fresheners and good office ventilation will also be a must to avoid having an office that smells too strongly of dogs or cats.
Food and water bowls, toys, cat scratchers, kitty litter trays – are all essentials. To get the most out of your pet-friendly environment, you’ll need to be prepared for every situation, and will need to make your pet zone a fun and engaging place that people want to spend time around.
Some handy products to have on-hand include:
More and more Australian workplaces are making their offices pet-friendly, including the likes of Google in Sydney and Cotton On’s head office (check out #dogsofcottonon to see all of the adorable pictures!)
Each of these companies uses their pet-friendly environment as a selling point, and it’s something that staff members rate highly about the workplace culture.
To help make your workplace a happier more productive environment, talk to the team at DAVIDSON Projects, in consultation with your designer, to find out how we can make your space more animal-friendly during your next office re-fit.