Employee engagement and retention is a constant challenge. Some companies are using a new perk to try to improve both: Allowing employees to bring their pets to work.

 

Seven percent of employers now allow it, writes Yuki Noguchi for NPR, up from 5 percent five years ago.

 

Pet-friendly workplaces can make your workers more likely to stay, writes Lisa Rabasca Roepe for the Society of Human Resource Management.

 

“A 2016 study by Banfield Pet Hospital found that 83 percent of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to companies with pet-friendly policies,” she writes, and “half of workers at companies without such policies said they would be more likely to stay at their organization if it were to offer pet-related perks. The same survey found that 88 percent of the 1,006 employees surveyed, and 91 percent of 200 HR decision-makers, agreed that having pets at work improves morale.”

 

Here are three tips for taking advantage of pets’ mood-boosting properties at your company:

 

  1. Set some ground rules

 

“Before creating any policy that involves bringing pets to the office, it’s critical to get employees’ input,” Roepe writes. That means collecting opinions and making sure you’re noting any employee concerns.

 

Your policy should also address how an owner should deal with days full of meetings and what to do when a pet behaves badly. And make sure your lease allows animals, as well.

 

“If you’re going to allow dogs (or other animals) in the office, make sure you double check with your insurance carrier to make sure you’re covered in the event that the dog freaks out and bites someone, or someone trips over her,” writes Suzanne Lucas for The Balance.

 

  1. Allow non-pet lovers plenty of space

 

Of course, not all your employees love animals and some are likely allergic.

 

While pet allergies aren’t necessarily guaranteed in the Americans with Disabilities Act, they might still be considered disabilities.

 

“The allergy sufferer should be given an area that (pets aren’t) allowed to visit,” Lucas writes. “An office with a door that closes, for instance, or (pets) should be given a limited area to run around.”

 

Some companies even offer those who don’t want to be around pets the option to use different entrances or sit in spaces with separate HVAC systems, Roepe writes.

 

  1. If allowing pets won’t work, offer related alternatives

 

While allowing animals might be great for retention and lowering employees’ stress, the reality is, it won’t work for every company.

 

If that’s the case at your workplace, try implementing other animal-related programs, like encouraging employees to volunteer or foster needy pets either online or in person. Or, set up occasional pet visit days or even schedule times for therapy animals to join you at work.

 

“No matter which options you pursue, showing employees you care about their lives outside of work—including their pets—can give you an edge when it comes to recruiting, wellness and morale,”

Roepe writes. “And who doesn’t want to be top dog?”