Here at Trupanion, we love our cats and dogs. We love our cats and dogs so much that we bring some of them to work with us, every day. Nearly 289 dogs and some brave cats co-work with us in our Seattle Headquarters. Pets in the workplace have become the new normal for many offices, not just ours. And people ask us about how to convince their company to implement pet-friendly workplace benefits, all the time. Studies show job satisfaction goes way up when pets occupy our work space. To better understand how to manage a pet-friendly work environment we sat down with the expert, Trupanion’s office pet program manager, J Marmol, to discuss guidelines for approaching pets in the workplace.
A guide to greeting pets in the office
The Day-to-Day Operations of an office pet program manager are pretty similar to any other office manager. The only focus point being on everything cat or dog. According to J, “A portion of my day is spent reviewing pet applications. Almost as if a cat or dog is applying for a job. There is a rigorous interview process with temperament testing, behavior assessment, and a navigational office walk. I have to make sure the pet is a right fit for the workspace.
“Then I spend the remainder of my day hanging out with pets! I have play-dates, one-on-ones with dogs, quick meetings with cats, and check-in time with owners. Additionally, I collaborate and work with our dog-walkers throughout the workday.”
Pet-proof the office
Pet-proofing is an important necessity to have in the office. A work space requires desks and chairs to work similarly your pet needs a relaxed and safe work environment. Likewise, to provide comfort for our pets, J states, “We provide baby gates at the entrance to all cubicle spaces for safety. Every pet must be on leash on the property and we have playrooms always available for interaction, play-dates and pet parties. Our dog-walkers are available all operating hours, sanitation stations are located throughout the property, and yes we even walk cats.” Team members bring in their pets favorite bed and toys to spruce up the cubicle space.
Greeting your cubicle co-worker
When approaching your human office mate first thing in the morning – do you run up to their desk and yell good morning? Seems like that might not be the best way to start off a Monday. Pets should be treated with the same respect. J mentions 3 helpful tips in regards to approaching pets in cubicles.
- Don’t run at gates or walk quickly through the workspace. Be mindful of the pet and human that is in that cubicle space.
- Approach the cubicle in a calm demeanor and movements should be slow.
- Treats are a helpful introduction, but ask the owner before giving out treats. The pet might have an allergy or medical condition.
How to approach a pet walking around the workplace
You have mastered the hello with the cat in the corner cubicle. As you walk to the mid-day meeting you see the Labrador retriever from across the hall – how do you approach the pup? J reveals 5 necessary steps to approaching the office pet.
- Ask the owner. First and foremost – the owner must be okay with this interaction. The owner might be busy, be on break, or might not have the time.
- Do not pet the head. Approaching the pet and automatically petting the pet’s head is intimidating and scary for pets.
- Let the pet come to you and get on their level.
- A smell interaction is a smart approach. Some dogs don’t want to be petted, but they do want to smell you and sit near you.
- Let the pet dictate the interaction. If the pet shows interest in some belly rubs, go for it!
There are clear red flags if an interaction is not a positive one. J continues, “Any sign of a tail tuck, ears down, or mouth clamp is a sign of a dog might lash out or run away. The pet is not comfortable. If any pet is growling, snarling, hissing, or bearing of teeth the interaction should stop immediately.”
Pets and the future of workplaces
Our pets can go anywhere in our workspace. They are welcome in cubicles, break spaces, meeting rooms and restrooms. J continues “This for the reason that they are family, but this is still an office for people. Pets navigate through our space. I hope to see a space built for pets… pieces built specifically for pets. As we grow a space where truly we are navigating around the pets. That is why we are here.”