When you have an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), it doesn’t take long to quickly learn how much they can benefit you. But, ESAs aren’t only meant to be with you at home. If you spend most of your day in an office or another work environment, you may want to consider bringing your ESA with you. After all, they have a job to do, too.
The good news? Many modern workplaces have started to accept ESAs, and “office dogs”, in general. Pets in the workplace have been shown to reduce stress, enhance office cultures, and improve employee productivity.
But, you still might be nervous about approaching your employer with your needs. An ESA isn’t just an “office dog” to boost everyone else’s morale. They are there to help you feel balanced and calm throughout the day. Unfortunately, support animals aren’t yet protected under the ADA, so your employer doesn’t have any obligation to allow your pet in the workplace.
So, how can you talk to them about the importance of your ESA? What are your options if they don’t agree to let you have your furry friend around?
How to Approach Your Employer
It’s important to be as transparent as possible with your employer. Emotional Support Animals are meant to help with a variety of mental health conditions, including:
- Chronic Stress
Obviously, those are all conditions that could negatively impact your job performance. Mentioning that to your employer can let them know you want to keep your job and do it well, but you need some help.
It’s also a good idea to get your ESA certified. People typically do this to take their dogs on airplanes and into public places. But, it can give your employer peace of mind knowing your dog is certified and will be well-behaved in the workplace.
Your employer should be made aware that they cannot discriminate against you because of a disability. If your ESA helps you with a mental health condition, your employer should consider the animal a reasonable accommodation to help with that disability. When you approach them with that thought, they may be more willing to accept having the animal in the workplace.
The Benefits of Having Your ESA With You
Keep in mind that Emotional Support Animals don’t have to go through any actual training the way a service animal does. They are there to provide constant comfort and companionship when you need it most. Some of the biggest benefits of having your ESA with you in the workplace include:
- They can lower anxiety and stress.
- They can enhance your social engagement with co-workers.
- They can help you feel calmer and relaxed, which can lead to an increase in productivity.
These are all benefits you should be able to discuss with your employer if you feel as though you need your ESA at work. Keep in mind that your boss might be concerned about things like the animal disrupting the environment, distracting others, or even behavioral issues like biting. Any proof of training your pet has gone through can help ease your employer’s mind and make them more willing to give your ESA a shot. In most cases, the benefits will always outweigh the risks.
What Are Your Other Options?
Unfortunately, some employers won’t budge when it comes to allowing ESAs in the workplace. One day, there may be laws in place that change that.
For now, though, you might want to consider other options if you truly feel you need your ESA by your side to get through the day. One solution is to consider working remotely. If your employer isn’t willing to let a dog come into the office, it’s worth asking if you can do your job from home.
Remote working has grown in popularity over the last several years. In 2018, 4.3 million people in the U.S. worked remotely. Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has grown exponentially and will likely become the “norm” for millions more.
If you’re allowed to work remotely, your employer may need to know that you’re able to keep up with your job and succeed. That will require you to stay organized, have the proper tools and equipment, and understand the importance of constant communication with your co-workers no matter where you are. If you can ensure them that your performance won’t suffer, they may be more willing to give you a remote position.
Whether you end up bringing your ESA to work with you or you’re able to stay home with them, don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from speaking up. ESAs may not always get the same recognition as service animals. But, mental health conditions can create real, debilitating issues. If your support animal helps you to deal with those conditions, you shouldn’t have to work for hours each day without them.