Summer is a great time to walk to work if you live close enough to the office to do so. Or to drive to work in a convertible. Do you know what goes well with both of those things? Dogs! And possibly other travel-friendly pets.
I saw a press release last week from pet-friendly workplace, Mars Petcare, offering tips for creating an office that works for both humans and dogs. More than mindless fun, dogs under desks and on employee laps means a more productive workforce. “Having pets in the office can improve productivity and collaboration with colleagues,” said Dave Bradey, vice president of People and Organization at Mars Petcare. “More importantly, people want to work in pet-friendly offices—87 percent of business leaders we surveyed across the country cited welcoming pets as a great tool to attract and retain talent.”
The company recently opened a new North American headquarters, designed as a “Pet-Friendly Workplace of the Future.” “Every aspect of the office features elements to foster a positive working environment for associates and their four-legged friends, including acres of outdoor green space, indoor dog play areas, full-time ‘pet sitters,’ automated water bowls, furniture with pet-friendly fabric, and more,” the company explained in the press release.
I was at a trade show for the optical industry a couple of weeks ago as part of my job as the editor of a business-of-eyecare publication, and I proposed dogs to our sales rep as a marketing strategy. On the show floor, it occurred to me how many people would stop by a booth if it had puppies or kittens up for adoption that you could meet or just watch. A company at a trade show could collaborate with a local animal rescue charity to bring in a few puppies and kittens in need of homes. People would stop by to see and meet the animals, and in the process, your sales team could chat them up.
In a workplace, animals have the same impact. They give employees another reason to show up and stick it out all day. An office full of dogs, and maybe even rescue cats who live there as vermin-patrol agents, is a place that represents more than work and salary. It becomes a place with an element of fun that offers a respite from human interaction. You can go to a bar with colleagues to blow off steam, but they’re still humans, and if humans are causing you stress, there still could be an element of tension present. Ten minutes with a dog or cat is a chance to be free of the reasoning and social consciousness that forms the basis of stress.
In addition to combatting absenteeism and stress, learning to relate to animals can help you better relate to humans. People who are in the process of overcoming addictions, trauma, or are in prison being rehabilitated have benefitted from spending time with animals ranging from domestic pets to horses. As I’ve written about in Training, and in this blog, there is a corporate training program that uses interaction between horses and humans to train people to become better managers.
Giving employees the ability to bring pets to the office sometimes can make it feasible to have a pet. It means not having to pay for a dog-walker, or having to rush home from work early to let the dog out. One or two breaks during a workday to walk a dog encourages the healthy habit of walking, rather than remaining seated day, along with serendipitous interactions with strangers. New York City, where I live, is not known for being especially chatty and friendly. Yet when two people walking their dogs pass each other on the sidewalk, they often feel compelled to stop and let their dogs sniff at each other while the owners make small talk. And often a person without a dog will coo at the dog so the dog’s human pauses and lets the stranger greet the dog. Those interactions can create an employee with better ideas for new products and marketing. It gets an employee out of the small cultural circle most of us live and work in, facilitating conversations with people they would not have otherwise talked to.
Similarly, having a dog gets you into the heart of your community, taking you to places like public dog parks. Even having a cat can teach you about your community. I have established a relationship with the people who work at the locally owned neighborhood pet supply shop where I buy my Jackie Cat her food and toys. I felt like a greater part of my community when I adopted her from a New York-based no-kill animal rescue organization, Bideawee. When you interact with one local charity, like an animal rescue group, you often get exposed to other local charities. Those local philanthropies can form the foundation of a new corporate social responsibility initiative that can both do good and help you to market your company’s products and services.
I’ve heard it said that humans are social animals. I don’t know how social all other animals are, but I do know that having other animals beside humans in a workplace encourages greater connection to the happy side of life.
Is your workplace pet friendly? What would be required to make it possible for people to bring their pets to the office?