Good for Business

By staff June 1, 2003

According to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), pets in the office create a more productive work environment and reduce absenteeism. Of all the companies polled, 100 percent agreed that having two-legged, four-legged (and even some no-legged) critters about relaxed employees and contributed to a much more stable atmosphere.

Here are some of their findings:

CREATIVITY - Seventy-three percent of the companies involved in the study said having pets around stimulated creativity.

ABSENTEEISM - Twenty-seven percent reported fewer days lost to illness.

GETTING ALONG - Interpersonal skills improved 73 percent with pets in the office compared to 42 percent when employees participated in traditional management training seminars.

ATMOSPHERE - Ninety-six percent of businesses polled say having pets creates positive work relations.

OVERTIME - Nearly 58 percent of employees in offices with pets stayed later than their counterparts who did not have pets.

AIR QUALITY - It may be coincidental, but 92 percent of companies with pets in their office have 25 percent or fewer employees who smoke.

While all this sounds delightful on paper, there can be logistical problems to having an office pet. They have the same biological needs as humans, for example. If you have an outdoor kitty, as in Susan Burns' story, this isn't a problem, but if you're dealing with a cuddly mutt roaming an accounting office, who gets to deal with those needs? If you're interested in reaping some of the benefits of animals in your workplace, here are some things to consider first:

1) BLESS YOU! No, not that kind. The kind that happens after you sneeze. Your first priority should be to make sure no one in your office is allergic to animals. Do you have frequent guests? If so, make sure they visit areas not frequented by the pet, or that the pet is secure when people arrive.

2) WHAT KIND OF PET IS BEST FOR YOU? If you're a lawyer, you'll prefer the quiet nature of a cat to a rambunctious dog. Even small terriers can create a stir when they encounter unfamiliar noises. If you choose a cat, make sure it's neutered or spayed (hell hath no wrath like a kitty in heat). If you want a bird, consider how much attention it will receive during the day. Parakeets can generally entertain themselves, but parrots and cockatiels require enormous attention, and their squawks can break glass when they don't get enough.

3) HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW? Should you decide on a cat, think short hair. Although long-haired cats (like Persians, Himalayans and Maine Coons) are more laid-back, few people in the office may be willing to constantly clean up all that hair. It hangs in the air, can infiltrate computer keyboards and even hard drives. If you have carpet, you'll be vacuuming-a lot.

4) PUPPY LOVE. Sometimes dogs love too much, and they'll demonstrate it to you with small puddles. Make sure any pet you choose is toilet trained. If you have a cat, someone will need to be in charge of cleaning the litterbox. A dog will need to be walked periodically. Even birds need their cages cleaned, and very few people can stomach a boa stomaching a lab rat for lunch.

5) TGIF - Most pets in the office already belong to an employee, but if the pet has been procured strictly for the office, someone will need to take it home and care for it over the weekend. Fish are the exception. They can go two days without feeding, but on three-day weekends, someone should come in and check, lest you come back to a floater.

6) I WANT MY MOMMY! Let's face it, some animals have severe separation issues with their owners. This happens mostly with dogs. The minute Mommy or Daddy steps out to lunch, pooch runs a path bare in the carpet searching for them. Remember, animals don't understand the meaning of, "I'll be right back." If yours hasn't grasped this concept, best to leave him at home. Few employees consider babysitting hysterical pets part of their job description.

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