This Friday sees the third annual ‘Bring your dog to work day’ across the UK, with businesses up and down the country opening their doors to their employees’ four-legged friends.
While the day was created as a means to raise money for the dog charity ‘all Dogs Matter’, and has its own website and hashtag #BringYourDogToWorkDay, there are some very real benefits to both the employees and the businesses themselves in having pooches in the workplace.
A survey from the Society for Human Resource Management in 2015 in the USA revealed that 8% of US businesses actually allow pets, which has increased from 5% in 2013.
At Online Learning Academy, we’re firmly behind the concept of dogs in the workplace, with our official #OfficeDog Bailey having a permanent basket and ‘The Boss’ bowl for her regular visits to check on her investment. But let’s look at some of the advantages to having dogs in the workplace.
Exercise (for you, not them)
We all know dogs need, and demand, regular exercise and toilet breaks. Nobody wants an accident at work! We also know it’s good for employees to get up from their desk every now and then and walk around, although most of us don’t. We’re just too busy. This leads to back problems and eye problems from staring at a computer screen. Most experts advise taking a short break from a computer screen every two hours, yet I’m pretty sure even I don’t do that… except when Bailey’s in the office, of course.
Having a dog in the office means its owner gets more exercise at work, which reduces health issues – which reduces absences. That’s something every employer can get behind.
Every dog owner knows that by stroking their dog they’re relieving stress. It’s very cathartic. Stress levels at work are one of the biggest causes of illness and absenteeism. If only there was a way to reduce stress at the office without spending money on redecorating, office masseurs or some form of entertainment.
There is. It’s fluffy and has four paws.
A dog in the office instantly reduces stress levels and works a lot better than those novelty stress balls you often see thrown around an office in anger. If you threw one when there was a dog in the office, they’d only bring it back to you – and there goes the stress!
You try being overwhelmed with work when there’s a fluffy puppy sat on your lap.
Sets the tone of the workplace
A lot of very large businesses allow dogs in their office, such as Huffington Post – which has allowed dogs in its New York and LA offices since 2011. An office which allows dogs is seen as progressive and flexible, the sort of place people want to work. Making your business the kind of place people want to work in is half the battle, and it will help to retain staff.
Google, probably the best company in the world for staff benefits, even offers pet insurance as one of its employee perks.
You may think having dogs around could be distracting, but many companies have found quite the opposite is true. Inverse Square, a software development firm based in Indianapolis, found that having dogs around meant employees would happily work longer hours as the time flew by. They also found that taking one of the dogs for a quick walk around the block really helped to spark those creative thoughts which often elude developers at the wrong time.
Dogs need training!
Obviously you don’t just want an open season on people bringing dogs into your place of work. Not all dog owners are well-behaved enough to have trained their dogs properly. At Amazon’s headquarters, in Seattle, for example employees are required to register their dogs before they’re allowed to bring them into the office and they must confirm the dogs have been ‘housebroken’ and keep them on a lead unless they’re in an office with the door closed.
Ben & Jerry’s, despite being a food brand, also allows dogs in their head office in South Burlington. The ice cream manufacturer has allowed dogs in its offices since 2000 and it has allowed the firm to hire people who live too far away to be able to ‘nip home’ to let their dogs out during their lunch hour. Now they can bring their dogs with them.
It wouldn’t be fair to look at all the plus-points of taking your dog to work without also looking at the disadvantages. Here are a few possible issues you may need to think about before you decide whether or not it’s right for your business:
- Building doesn’t allow dogs
This is a common issue reported by companies who want to allow pets – the building they’re in does not. This could be a serviced office, a business centre or a leased building. You will need to check the rules and regulations regarding bringing dogs into the office if you don’t own the building.
- The smell
Yes, some dogs do smell. Especially when they’ve had an accident in the office. If you are to allow dogs in your workplace you’ll need to make sure you have suitable cleaning products on hand for the inevitable, and make sure the dogs are well groomed and well trained.
- Phobias or allergies
Some people are scared of dogs and some are allergic. If this is the case, then your dog policy is never going to get off the ground. Before you do anything, make sure you canvas your staff.
- Professionalism and boundaries
Some people, often clients, won’t find the presence of dogs as pleasurable as you or your staff. If you have clients in your office for meetings then it’s advisable to keep the dogs away from them, and out of any meeting areas, unless they’re on a lead. Some visitors could be really put off by a bundle of fluff running towards them looking for some attention.
All of that being said, we believe any negatives are far outweighed by the positives in having dogs at work.
So, does your company have a dog policy? Perhaps it’s time you thought about one.