SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.
Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.
I am the owner of a small mortgage company with 30 employees. We have been primarily operating remotely for over a year. As we prepare to return to the office, several employees have asked me about bringing their pets to work with them. I am leaning against it, but would I be considered unreasonable? —W. Lee
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: While you may be seeing an uptick in requests to bring pets to work, keep in mind that only about 7 percent of employers allow pets in the workplace. However, if you decide against opening your office to pets, be prepared to explain why. Employees might not like your decision but may understand the rationale behind it. If you decide to become a pet-friendly workplace, then you will want to implement clear guidelines and expectations to support the policy.
I can certainly understand your staff's sentiments since many people have purchased and adopted pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. After spending months at home, many owners have developed strong bonds with their pets and dread leaving them for extended periods of time. Separation anxiety for pets and their owners is real. However, not all employers are ready for pets in the workplace. Simply because other organizations allow pets does not mean it will work for you and your company.
There are some key points to consider before deciding what is best for your company. Is your workplace conducive to pets? If you are in a larger office building, there may be regulations on allowing pets in the building. If you have outside clients, vendors and partners, you will want to evaluate the impact on them. Additionally, some of your other employees may have allergies to consider. Think about the impact pets would have on your work environment. Would pets improve morale or productivity, or would they be a distraction? Also consider what types of pets you would allow.
As you assess your choices, a good trial run might involve sponsoring a "bring your pet to work day." It would give you an opportunity to further gauge how this might work.
If you decide to allow pets in the workplace, craft an approval process to address all relevant criteria, including type of pet and health standards. Clearly articulate pet care and behavior guidelines as you roll out the new policy.
Additionally, you may be obligated to consider a service animal in your workplace as a reasonable accommodation if one of your employees has a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Currently, only dogs are considered service animals.
I'll add this: Leaders should always gather feedback from staff, but as you weigh your options, look for the answer that adds value to the work. I hope you make the best decision for your work and your workplace. Good luck.
I am contemplating relocating for a new job. However, I may consider moving back in the next 3-5 years. What can I do as I leave my current job that will improve my chances for a possible future return? —Martin E.
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I commend your foresight in seeking to secure a path back to what may be your soon-to-be-former employer. It is important to set your employer, co-workers and supervisors up for success to ensure you will be welcomed back down the line. Once you've decided to take the leap, there are a few things you can do to leave a good impression.
Give at least two weeks' notice. While this may seem obvious, providing adequate resignation notice can play a key role in your employer's willingness to rehire you. You could be a great employee, but if you burn that bridge by providing little notice of your departure, it could ruin your chance of being rehired. I would also consider two weeks to be a minimum notice. In this competitive talent market, I'm sure your employer—and the colleagues you're leaving behind who will need to pick up your work—would appreciate four weeks.
Don't leave a mess behind. When you inform your manager of your departure, create a list of your current projects and assignments. Your supervisor will want to know if these items will be completed prior to your departure and what items will remain outstanding. If you can, suggest someone who might be well-suited to finish these tasks. Contact your customers, clients and vendors and let them know who to reach out to after you leave.
Discuss your return plans now. Once you've ensured your exit will be as smooth and painless as possible for your employer, speak candidly with your manager about the possibility of returning in the future.
Keep in touch. Reach out in a year or so to share how you are doing in your new role and ask how business is going for your employer. Stay informed about the company to show that you are still invested: Remain in contact with co-workers, follow any media alerts relating to the business and so on.
Honor your agreements. If you've entered into a noncompete, nondisparagement or confidentiality agreement, or other similar contracts, be sure to stick to your contract terms. If you foresee any of these being problematic in the new position you have in mind, discuss that with your current employer.
The lasting impression you establish will set the stage for a potential return. May you create and maintain valuable working relationships no matter where your career path takes you.