A dog being walked around Banfield Pet Hospital.
Photograph by Cameron Browne Cameron Browne courtesy of Banfield Pet Hospital

It's a perk many are asking about.

By Michal Addady
March 31, 2016

Four-legged friends roaming around the workplace could be better for your company than you might think.

For its inaugural “Pet-Friendly Workplace PAWrometer” (or Pets At Work barometer), Banfield Pet Hospital surveyed 1,006 employees and 200 Human Resources decision makers from U.S. companies to measure their perception of pets in the office. It found that just 22% of employees and 25% of HRDMs, those at or above the director/vice president level responsible for making HR policy and company benefit decisions, work in pet-friendly environments but those that do think it greatly improves the workplace.

Most of those surveyed in pet-friendly workplaces perceive their company’s policy as positive in every aspect addressed by the study. 67% of employees and 81% of HRDMs agreed that it led to increased productivity; 82% and 91% believe it makes people more loyal to the company; and 86% and 92% say it decreases employees’ stress levels. When employees are allowed to bring their pets into the office it takes a mental burden off of them since they no longer have to worry about leaving pets at home alone, and it increases their ability to work longer hours.

While many agree that pet-friendly workplaces improve the lives of existing employees, it also seems to be a huge draw for potential hires. “Allowing pets in the workplace can be a real competitive edge,” Tami Majer, senior vice president of People and Organization for Banfield Pet Hospital, told Fortune. “It’s a benefit/amenity that companies are bringing to the table to recruit employees, especially with respect to millennials.” Nearly two-thirds of HRDMs say that candidates often ask about pet-friendly workplace policies during the interview process, and 79% say they proactively bring it up as a recruitment tool. Pet-friendly policies may also be conducive to employee retention as 53% of employees in non-pet-friendly workplaces say they would be more likely to remain with their company if they had the option to bring their pet to work with them.

The “PAWrometer” found that pet-friendly work environments were most common in the Information Technology Services industry, accounting for nearly 40% of survey participants who work in pet-friendly offices. Company size is also a significant factor, with about a third of respondents from pet-friendly offices saying they work at a company with fewer than 50 employees. There appears to be a downward trend as the number of employees increases, going down to 17% at companies that employ more than 500 people. Considering pet-friendly policies are most popular at tech companies with under 50 people, it’s a safe bet to say that you’re more likely to find them at Silicon Valley startups than Fortune 500 companies—though a handful on Fortune‘s Best Companies to Work For list do offer that option.

 

As for why more companies don’t implement these policies, Banfield’s research found that more than 50% of HRDMs in non-pet-friendly workplaces think it would be difficult to implement, though only 25% of HRDMs at pet-friendly companies agree that it was in fact difficult. Of course not all companies are equal, and difficulty levels fluctuate under different circumstances.

Banfield, for one, had a head start. As a veterinary hospital, its employees and facilities were already equipped to handle the presence of pets, and when an official policy was implemented it was easier to gain access to pet-focused benefits through partners. For example, Banfield offers employees discounts on pet food, pet products, and one-on-one training sessions, as well as free office hours with a behaviorist. Speaking to the process of implementing a formal policy, Majer said that it “takes support and buy-in from senior leadership, down to every associate in the workplace,” which likely helps explain why it’s more common at smaller companies.

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