With nearly everyone back to work and school after the summer holidays, we pooches can get awful lonesome left on our own in the homestead. The good news is that a surprising number of businesses now recognise the value of allowing employees to take us into work with them, and not just on the annual “Take Your Dog to Work” day. Increasingly, what started out as occasional visits has grown into standard practice in some offices in the UK.
So, why the sudden trend? Studies in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that employee stress declined over the course of a workday for those who had their dogs with them, while it increased for non-dog owners and those who left the pooches at home. And that when dogs were present in a workplace group, office employees were more likely to trust each other and collaborate more effectively …. Hmmm!
So who are these businesses allowing us canines to wander their corridors? In the UK, dogs are welcome at the offices of Next Model Management, Conde Nast, Firebox, the Blue Cross, Pets at Home and the Dog’s Trust to name but a few. Some of the larger dog friendly companies in the US include Google, Proctor & Gamble, Pet Care, Ben & Jerry’s, Amazon and Build-a-Bear. In fact, Milford, who is Build-a-Bear’s “Dog CEO” deserves a special mention; he celebrates his birthday every year by throwing a party for the other company dogs. Build-A-Bear’s dog friendly workplace policy is one of the reasons why the company has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for three consecutive years.
Stress relief, health benefits, greater trust in the workplace — there are many reasons to want to take your dog along to work. So what considerations should you take as an employer if you are thinking of embarking (excuse the pun!) on a pro-dog workplace.
Employers have to weigh up the positives with the potential negatives. For example, what do you do about aggressive dogs? While most of our owners will tell you, “Don’t worry my dog wont bite,” it’s not always true. Even the most mild-mannered pup may get aggressive when put into an uncomfortable situation; perhaps including 8 to 10 hours in an office building with many new faces and possibly several unfamiliar dogs.
You should also decide whether you are willing to face the possibility that an employee-owned dog could become aggressive with an employee, customer or visitor. If so, you should make sure you have appropriate insurance and while you’re at it, check your building’s lease to ensure dogs are allowed.
Think about the nature of your business. It will not be possible to bring dogs to work in areas where food or drink is manufactured, prepared or served. Certain medical establishments may not allow dogs. Although employees of Ben & Jerry’s can take their dogs to work, they are only allowed in the offices.
You may have to say “no” to dogs in the work place if you have employees who are allergic to dog dander or who are very fearful of dogs. Employers have an obligation to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone in the work place, and if dogs are going to be detrimental to the health of any colleagues, bringing canine companions to work may not be viable.
If you decide your office culture can include a place for us dogs, it is very wise to have a detailed policy. The policy should include, among other things, an animal background check (assuring the dog has not been aggressive previously), allowing only house-trained and vaccinated dogs, requiring certain cleaning and hygiene requirements, requiring the use of a lead in certain parts of the office (if not all), creating a no-dog area for those who are not themselves dog-friendly or allergic, and implementing a zero-tolerance policy.
So do consider it carefully and I will leave you with a cautionary tale. You may remember the story of Alan – Tatler’s previous office pooch. Alan became a Twitter sensation a few years ago, building up a fan base of more than 2,700 followers before meeting a tragic end when he became trapped in the revolving doors at Vogue House, Conde Nast’s London headquarters on his way out for a walk. Thankfully his replacement Geoffrey is alive and well and reportedly doing fine. RIP Alan, you are sorely missed.
Ciao for now