609: Office Pets

How do you feel about pets in the office?


Full episode script

As I’m typing the script for this particular episode, I’ve got a cat laying across one one my hands, insisting that I don’t move it more than a few inches. That, however, is because podcast HQ is also known as my personal living room.

 

When you start talking about more traditional office environments, though, cats (and more often dogs) are a whole different discussion point. According to the Society of Human Resource Management in 2016, 7 percent of employers now allow pets to come to work with their owners. That’s up from 5 percent five years ago.

 

There’s a lot to be said for pets in the office, with some research arguing that having pets around can help reduce stress, increase productivity, and do more to recognize the work-life balance that more workers are demanding.

 

On the other hand, pets in the office isn’t always a slam-dunk joy that everyone appreciates. About 30 percent of Americans have allergies to cats and/or dogs, and a dog that isn’t well-behaved can really ruin everyone’s experience of furry friends.

 

One study quoted by Scientific American found that 20 percent of people in an office with dogs reported less stress, while 20 percent reported more stress. And 60 percent didn’t really report one direction or the other. And there’s a lot of details that need to be worked out – like if it’s OK or a small dog to end up on a conference table, or what the company policy on an indoor piddling accident may be.

 

And, also as Scientific American pointed out, quote:

Are we thinking about the animals themselves? One area that the research rarely seems to address is the pet’s response to being a workplace environment. There are obviously situations where pets should not be present: food service operations or manufacturing/factory settings where safety is a concern, for example. But pets may struggle in a normal office environment as well. Barbara J. King, emerita anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, who has spent her career researching on, writing about, and advocating for animals, pointed out in an email to me that the research is biased in our favor. We’re thinking about our needs and how our pets help us, but we are not considering what they may need from their environment in these cases.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.