Nothing lights up a room quite like a cute puppy. As soon as one comes bounding in, everyone stops what they’re doing and crowds around, waiting for their turn to play with it.

Many companies have noticed the positive effect that dogs have on their staff, and schemes like Bring Your Dog to Work Day are becoming more popular.

But before you rush to the nearest shelter, here’s what you need to consider…

Ask your staff

Do an anonymous survey among your employees to find out how they’d feel about having dogs around. This will let you find out if any of your staff are allergic to dogs, are afraid of them, or simply find them too distracting.

Remember that not everyone is a dog person, and no one should feel uncomfortable while at work.

Come up with a clear policy

Once you’ve got feedback from your employees, make a policy that lays down guidelines for bringing dogs to work. Decide if you’ll allow staff to bring their dogs in every day, or only on certain days. For example, the last Friday of the month.

Nestlé’s HQ in Gatwick is arguably the most dog-friendly workplace in the UK. Since 2015, staff have been able to take their four-legged friends to work with them, but only after both dog and human complete a three-step assessment:

  1. Staff must fill out a survey about their dog’s habits.
  2. An independent specialist guides the dog through 12 simple exercises, including a test of how it reacts to new people and its ability to follow simple requests. The dog must also undergo a full health check.
  3. The dog then gets a three-month probationary period, during which the company checks its behaviour to make sure it gets on with everyone.

Your policy should also cover who’s responsible for the dog’s behaviour during work hours, and the amount of time you’ll allow staff to play with their pets.

Create dog-friendly and dog-free areas

Not every area in a workplace is suited to dogs. You probably don’t want a hyperactive Jack Russell jumping onto you while you’re trying to deliver a killer presentation in the boardroom. The canteen should also be off limits.

If your workplace is big enough, you could allocate dog-friendly lifts, meeting rooms and communal areas where dogs can roam free.

Don’t forget your risk assessment

While studies show that dogs reduce workplace stress, your health & safety officer might disagree. Bringing live animals into a workplace creates all sorts of new risks.

What might happen if someone’s Labrador chews through wiring or wreaks havoc on the office furniture?

Your new furry guests could also invalidate your liability insurance and compromise your fire safety certificate if you don’t include them in your risk assessment.

So what’s the verdict?

All in all, allowing dogs into the workplace can be a great idea. They make people happier and help create a fun workplace.

But as we’ve seen, there’s a lot you need to consider. If you run a small business, you need to decide if creating a dog-friendly (and dog-proof) workplace is worth the effort.