When the Going Gets “Ruff”—Allow Employees to Bring Dogs to Work

The dog in the cubicle with you probably isn’t a literal dog, but a person who works like a dog for your company, as you do.

As an animal lover, I was disappointed when I didn’t see any dogs in my office this past Friday. It was Bring Your Dog to Work Day, and no one at my company did it. That might be because no one at my company gave them the go-ahead to bring the furry light of their life to the office. I have a furry light of my life at home (albeit a cat), so I understand why bringing that creature with you for the day would be a great thing.

In honor of the occasion, I was contacted about a company, Softchoice, which is accomplished in the bring-your-dog-to-work department. Here are some of the high points that were shared with me:

  • Softchoice is one of the longest-running dog-friendly companies since being founded in 1989.
  • The company’s employees have registered some 80 dogs in total, with around 30 at the office on any given day.
  • Softchoice has its own committee called the Dog Owners Group (DOG), which sets out the rules and regulations around dog ownership in the office.
  • There is a designated “introductory period” for new dogs. Once the dog and its owner have completed the introductory session, the employee is issued a certificate to post at his or her desk.
  • Softchoice has several dog-free meeting rooms and a dog-free working zone with its own HVAC system and a separate entrance/exit.

These are important tips to pass along to other companies, as they address top concerns, such as what to do about employees who are allergic to dogs and/or simply don’t like them (unthinkable to me), or are afraid of them.

By far the greatest benefit to having dogs in the office is the relaxation and stress reduction they bring. When you’ve just spent 20 minutes on the phone with an angry, unreasonable client, wouldn’t it help to have an adorable golden retriever saunter over and put his wet nose in your lap? Or a cocker spaniel wrap herself around your ankles? How long would you remember to be angry about the difficult client?

Allowing employees to bring dogs to the office also relieves the stress employees can feel about leaving their pets alone all day at home, or the financial difficulty of hiring a professional dog walker. I find myself wondering during the day what my cat, a comparably independent animal, is up to; I imagine I would wonder even more about a dog, as dogs are not as known for being able to entertain themselves.

Animal owners also tend to be better people—a controversial statement that will make those ambivalent or antagonistic toward pets angry, but there is research to support what I say.

A recent study by BarkBox, featured on People.com, found that out of all the pet parents polled by BarkBox, 93 percent of dog owners said they can easily name at least one way their dog has made them a better person by improving their emotional, behavioral or physical well-being. Waking up to a devoted dog has made greeting the day with enthusiasm easier for 71 percent of the dog owners polled. Others said their dogs made them noticeably more patient (54 percent), responsible (52 percent), and affectionate (47 percent).

Patient, kind, responsible, and expressive (maybe not affectionate per se) sound like the qualities I would want in my employees.

Bringing dogs to the office goes beyond the dogs. It relates to the growing awareness of the importance of tailoring offices to employee well-being and comfort. It’s related to flex-time options, napping rooms, and workstations that increase employees’ ability to do the best they can for your company. If having a beloved pet at their feet makes an employee happier, and better able to help your company be more profitable, it would be worth allowing him or her that privilege, right?

Does your company participate in Bring Your Dog to Work Day? Do you ever allow employees to bring pets to the office? How might this privilege tie into the effort to create a nurturing, comfortable environment for your workforce?


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