Dogged Ambition: Why Take Your Dog to Work?
What do Google, Etsy and Ben & Jerry’s have in common?
The answer is that all these companies allow employees to take their dogs to work. What these progressive workplaces worked out is that dogs make for happier employees and this boosts productivity.
Think about it. If your dog is beside your desk, you’re not under pressure to get home to let them out for a toilet break…and that’s without the other benefits of decreased stress, increased camaraderie, and a more vibrant energy to the office.
Taking dogs into the workplace is a hot topic and the benefits are backed by studies and science.
Don’t take my word for it, according to Journal of Workplace Health Management (a 2012 study) employees with a canine companion at their side felt less stress and coped better on bad days. This is a measurable effect because scientists looking at the levels of the stress hormone cortisol found it was lower in the people with dogs.
Not only does reduced stress mean you feel better, but your immune system is stronger which means you’re better able to fight infections and…you guessed it…take fewer day’s off due to ill health.
A 2008 study by American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found when pets were allowed in the workplace people worked for longer, were happier, and less likely to be absent.
Sitting is the New Smoking
Sitting at a desk for long periods of time is dangerous – so dangerous in fact that medics now describe sitting still as “the new smoking”. Having a dog encourages you to take breaks and move around – which incidentally also increase your concentration when you return to work.
Dogs encourage natural pauses in workflow and employees to take brief “brain breaks”, which in short term refresh the mind and encourages clear thinking. In the long term, this boosts serotonin levels and decreases depression rates.
Dogs in the office are a great icebreaker and give new insight into your colleagues. For example, that guy from IT who seemed a complete dork turns out to have a gorgeous Labrador – suddenly you find yourself chatting about how Labrador’s love food and discover the IT guy’s not so bad after all.
Dogs encourage people to enter into conversation, which builds team spirit and camaraderie. The result is a vibrant, forward-thinking atmosphere in the office, where people are happier and stay in post for longer, leading to reduced staff turnover.
Now all you have to do is convince the boss it’s a paw-some idea….
Make it the Boss’s Business
Taking your dog to work makes sense, but how to convince the boss?
By appealing to their business acumen, that’s how. Open their eyes to the benefits, after all what’s not to like about:
- Increased productivity
- Decreased staff turnover
- Less absenteeism
- A better, more vibrant atmosphere
- Improved team spirit
All this and it doesn’t cost management a dollar.
Of course, it helps your case if you do your homework first and put forward a compelling case.
Survey Your Co-workers
Find out how your colleagues feel. Take note of both their positive and negative comments, and see where the areas of concern lie.
Look into the legal side and have answers to the Health & Safety issues ready. Also, set up a meeting or committee with interested people and key decision makers to discuss the possibility and set grounds rules of behaviour for dogs whilst on the premises. This gives employees guidelines for what is and isn’t acceptable and prevents the development of unforeseen issues.
Take Care of Practicalities
Work out the implications of having dogs around and sort out the practicalities, such as a doggy toilet area and a place to exercise.
Suggest a trial run – but don’t fall foul of your own plan. Make sure everyone remains professional, and having dogs around isn’t just an excuse to take a day off – but in the office. The annual ‘Take Your Dog to Work Day’ provides a great opportunity to broaching the subject and a trial run.
Of course, taking your dog to work has the potential to be a complete disaster if the dog is not a steady character or is poorly trained.
Is Your Dog Suitable to Take to Work?
Even with the best will in the world, not every dog has a suitable temperament to spend a day in an office. Ask yourself the following questions and answer honestly.
- Is the dog friendly with people and other dogs? (A fearful or aggressive dog is best left at home)
- Is the dog well-trained and obeys basic commands first time?
- Is the dog free from infections, diseases and parasites (such as fleas)?
If the dog passes these tests then there are some practicalities to take care of.
- Make sure the dog is up-to-date with their vaccinations.
- Give regular parasite preventative treatments (Dogs are welcome, fleas are not).
- Bring with you toys, a clean blanket or pet bed, food, water, snacks (& dishes) to ensure your dogs needs are well taken care of and that they are occupied.
- Make sure your workspace is pet-proof – that any cables or cords are secured and that anything unsafe for your dog to eat or chew are well out of reach or removed (plants, small objects, etc). Also think about what might be in accessible rubbish bins, before your dog sniffs it out!
- Consider a folding baby gate to limit the dog to your part of the office.
- Put the dog on a lead when away from your desk.
- Schedule your breaks around your dogs needs like toilet breaks.
Don’t Make People Turn Up their Noses
The office is your place of work and just as you dress for success, make sure your dog is well-turned out by washing and grooming them. Bear in mind the message a squeaky toy sends out is not professional, so avoid noisy toys. Likewise, save smelly treats for home and have no-odour chews in the office.
Consideration for Others
Last but not least, have consideration for others. Some people have allergies, so keep the dog away from them. Likewise don’t take your dog into conferences or allow them to be noisy when others are on the phone.
Be sure to clean up after your pet after they’ve toileted. And don’t wash the dog’s bowls up in the same sink as the coffee mugs –after all, not everyone is a fan of dog slobber cappuccinos.
We would love to see or hear from those whose workplace is dog friendly or are celebrating International ‘Take Your Dog to Work Day’. If your goes to work with you, we’d love to see photos or hear of your experience!