Workplace Pet Loss

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Written and shared with permission by River Valley Gateway.

With 67% of Americans owning some sort of pet, it’s no wonder that our furry friends play such a vital role in many of our lives. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, however, only 7% of businesses allow pets in the workplace. This discrepancy in percentages raises questions about pets’ involvement in the business realm. Why should businesses allow pets in the workplace? Why shouldn’t they? What happens once the pet passes away? In this blog, we will dive into the nuances of the business-pet relationship.

The Benefits
There are many benefits to having pets in the workplace. Of those, stress-relief is among the most valuable. Similar to in-home pets, workplace pets are great at lightening the mood and making clients and employees smile. In a professional atmosphere, the addition of a pet can cushion the overwhelming intensity of expectation. A study by a Virginia Commonwealth University measured saliva samples and concluded that employees who brought their dogs to work had lower stress-hormone levels than those who didn’t. This means that pets in the workplace can have a positive impact on the mood of the business’s employees, an effect that can increase productivity and lead to higher levels of success.

However, pets can improve productivity in other ways as well. In fact, a Nationwide study found that 90% of employees in pet-friendly workplaces feel more connected to their company’s mission, are fully engaged with their work, and are willing to recommend their employer to others. On the other hand, this percent was less than 65 for employees of non-pet-friendly businesses. To put it simply, employees in pet-friendly workplaces are more dedicated to their business. Furthermore, the same study determined that being pet-friendly is a trait that not only attracts new employees but creates more loyal ones. These benefits improve the success of the business, increase the morale of employees, and escalate the satisfaction of clientele. Because of these reasons, more businesses should consider becoming pet-friendly.

The Loss of a Workplace Pet
Despite the many advantages posed by pet-friendly environments, there is still cause for concern. The main detriment to having a workplace pet is the inevitable goodbye. At some point, your morale-boosting furry friend will pass away. Although it is foreseeable, a pet’s death is likely to cause stress, grief, and sadness among clients and employees alike. In many cases, clients will ask about the pet, unknowing of its recent death. This can bring a wave of grief among clients and employees that will undo the benefits previously provoked by the pet’s presence. However, it is still possible to experience the benefits of a workplace pet up to and after its death.

If appropriate, clients and employees may be invited to honor the pet before its passing, such as during a farewell gathering or one on one individual goodbyes leading up the day of euthanasia. For those who are very close to the pet, they could be welcomed during a euthanasia appointment itself, which may even take place at the workplace depending on the right situation. If the pet has died naturally, giving the opportunity to see the body and pay tribute is a special way to care for those who loved them.

Maintaining Business Morale After Pet Loss
There are several solutions that can be taken into consideration in order to facilitate healthy grief among employees and clients after a pet’s death. One such solution is a memorial. Creating a memorial and placing it at the entrance of an establishment is a respectful way of delivering the news to clients while continuing to honor the pet’s life. This gives the business’s visitors a ‘heads up’ in a way that won’t disrupt or hinder business operations. Another solution that is worth consideration is continuing to incorporate the pet into the business. Rather than ignoring or forgetting the pet’s passing and therefore participating in unhealthy grief, some good ways to promote healthy grief are by naming a product after it, creating a ‘pet wall’, or encouraging employees to participate in a routine remembrance at a certain time each day/week.

Although bringing the pet’s death to light may seem counterintuitive, being open about its death can reestablish the benefits of the pet. Lastly, businesses can consider having a second pet in the workplace. Whether nearing its death or after, the presence of a second pet can restore the positive atmosphere created by the first pet. This solution may not be for every business, but as long as it doesn’t lead to an unethical ‘replacement’, the effects can be positive. The various solutions we have presented demonstrate the importance of paying homage to a workplace pet before and after its death.

Workplace pets are a complicated topic. They create various benefits: reducing stress, increasing productivity, and attracting new employees and clients. These benefits improve the overall success of the business and help everyone involved. Although a workplace pet’s death can bring sadness and grief that is harmful to a business’s performance, there are various methods to healthily and respectfully handle it. A memorial at the entrance of a building, incorporating the pet into everyday business operations and considering a second pet are all options that allow businesses to maintain good morale and performance while respecting natural processes.

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