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Several years ago when I was cube-dweller I dreamed of being able to take my dog to work. There was a dog-friendly office in the same office building and I’d often see dogs in the elevator going to work with their people. My favorite was an Irish setter. I used to think how much better my boring job would be if I had one of our dogs with me. Today I work from home which means our three four-legged kids are with me every day.
This year in honor of Take Your Dog to Work Day I wanted see how many other dog lovers get to take their companions to work. It turns out a lot. The response to my request was overwhelming. Dozens of people wrote to tell me how much they loved taking their dogs to the office. They sent pictures of their dogs at work. Yes, many were entrepreneurs who brought their own dogs to the office. But, to my surprise there were several larger companies where having dogs at the office is seen as the norm.
Ted Manning, CEO, Ibex Outdoor Clothing says that having dogs in the workplace is an integral part of their company culture. Manning said “Most importantly, having our dogs alongside us at work helps us maintain a healthy and happy work/life balance, an oft-overlooked and difficult to achieve accomplishment in this busy world.” At the company headquarters there are 50 employees and 13 dogs in the office on a regular basis which may be why the dogs are featured on the Ibex site. He was proud to say last year, Ibex was awarded the winner of Purina’s “Pets of Work” contest.
People were eager to point out that having dogs in the office reduced stress and created an overall happier environment. Several mentioned the fact that having their dog with them forced them to get up and move around more often during the day even if it was just to take their pup for a walk.
As Mark Sonder, Chief Entertainment Officer of entertainment and events company Mark Sonder Productions, said “My pooch sleeps under my desk on top of my feet. Security for him; stress reliever for me. It’s s symbiotic relationship. People love to work him. Good for him and when someone wishes to leave the office, they now have a great excuse.”
Holly Neber, president AEI Consultants which provides environmental and energy services, agrees, “Our company works under intense deadlines and sometimes just a brief break with a happy dog helps to refocus your mindset and crank through a project. While there are minor inconveniences of inter-dog scuffles or barking when someone is on a call, the overall benefits outweigh the occasional issues.”
Junior, who goes to work at manufacturing company Magnum Plastics, Inc. with Gary Castelle, helps out by keeping his owner in line. Castelle said, “Junior has a calming effect on my not-always-so-calm personality. When I start to get loud, he makes his ‘did I do something wrong’ face and it brings me back.”
Sometimes dogs are good for business. Donna Stuart says dogs are part of what attracts clients to Glen Group a branding studio with a staff of ten and five dogs in residence on most days. She noted “Clients love seeing the dogs; in fact, some tell us that the mention of the dogs on our website is what connected with them. The dogs are part of meetings, and when a client or a printer drops by a gift of cookies, dog cookies are usually included.”
Somewhat surprisingly, more than one company said that being able to have dogs in the office was one of the “must haves” when they were looking for office space. Mark Malmberg, communication director and co-president, The Nerdery, said “As of today 52 dogs do duty here at The Nerdery, pun well intended. We’ve moved or expanded our offices eight times in as many years, and an open-door dog policy has been a must-have in every lease negotiation.”
And The Nerdery is not alone. Jessie Carney, account director, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, said that when they were looking for new space for the 50-person company, “There was one prerequisite on the top of the list: the building had to be dog-friendly.” Although Carney says having dogs at work is not all fun and games. One day Lasker, a sheperd-poodle mix, was petrified by the almost life-size cutout of Madonna that was standing in the office and would not stop barking. Poor Lasker had to be taken home early that day.
It’s not just dog-lovers who see an advantage of having pets at work. Angela Lawrence, managing director of marketing agency AcrobatAnt, who admits she’s not a “dog person” said that she didn’t mind having dogs at the office and “it seems to make our company a better place to work in employees’ minds.” Others agreed. More than one person said that working in a dog-friendly office was a factor when they decided to take their current position.
Still, everyone is not on board. Lori Malett, president, Hatch Staffing Services notes companies with an open floor plan may have problems. She said “While I certainly see benefits to dogs at work, I think it would be far more distracting than productive if every employee in our office had the opportunity to bring their dog to work and also would not want to put employees with allergies in an awkward position.” Her suggestion is to allow employees to bring dogs to the office as an occasional perk.
Some companies have set up rules to help make having dogs in the office safe and harmonious for everyone. Petplan pet insurance with a staff of over 100 employees has a detailed “Pets At Work Pledge” which dogs and their owners must adhere to. The eight-point “Pledge” includes: requiring dogs to be current on vaccinations, socialized and well behaved, housebroken (three-accidents and you’re out); communal building areas are off limits; and dogs are not to be fed in the office.
Others are a little bit more relaxed about rules. Meredith Red, vice president, Casey & Sayre Public Relations, whose dog Spunky has been accompanying her to the office for 15 years said, “Our only requirement is that the employees use their own judgment, as they know their dogs better than anyone. I’m sure we will be throwing a dog party at our office on Take Your Dog to Work Day!”
If you’d like to have dog-friendly policy at your office read Five Ways to Persuade Your Boss to Allow Dogs at Workfrom The Humane Society of the United States.