Going over to the bark side: Benefits of dogs at work

You remember the office? Let us refresh your memory. It’s like an uninterrupted Zoom call, with better sound and audio quality. And you have to wear pants. Ring a bell?

Time away from the glass boxes where we used to spend our weekdays has given much time to think about how they work. Particularly as an entrepreneur, it’s now possible to challenge traditional assumptions about what a workplace should be like.

41% of Canadian households have at least one dog, and a survey from earlier this year revealed that 45% of remote workers surveyed were in favour of dogs being allowed in the office.

Yet despite some notable exceptions, including big companies like Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s, Etsy, (and an upcoming startup by the name of Google), dog-friendly workplaces remain the exception, rather than the rule, worldwide.

Benefits 

Why switch things up? Well, there’s actually a mounting body of evidence that dogs bring a lot of advantages to workplaces that welcome them.

Studies have shown that these positive results include higher worker satisfaction and engagement, lower stress levels, and even less coworker backstabbing.

It’s not just studies either. Companies that participate in pet-friendly workplaces have reported several practical benefits, including:

  • Social enablement: Dogs provide a reason for an employee to start up a conversation with a colleague, whether as a co-owners or simply an admirer. More positive socializing is conducive to a healthy culture.
  • Better health: Having a dog means a series of enforced breaks (to feed, walk). This gives your brain a chance to de-stress and see things from a different perspective. And, of course, it gives your body some much-needed movement.
  • Companionship: People can feel alone and uncared for even in a crowded office, especially when working on a difficult task alone. Dogs provide company and support that colleagues often can’t.
  • Recruiting aid: Employees who love their pets or have experienced a pet-friendly workplace are starting to factor it into their criteria for a new employer. Making this a policy could be an essential tool for attracting talent (particularly the millennial variety).
  • Efficiency: Employees who might otherwise have to leave the office to take care of their pets can now do so without the need for a commute. Staying late, if required on occasion, is also no longer a problem.

Of course…

Introducing a dog-friendly policy isn’t as simple as a company-wide email. There are obviously potential issues with dogs in the workplace that must be addressed ahead of time.

The most important first steps include consulting existing employees (some may have allergies), checking with your landlord (does the insurance cover damage by pets?), and investigating any upgrades needed to premises, such as HEPA filters or designated areas no-dog zones.

You should also think through the need to coordinate around events involving clients and prospective customers. This includes conference calls, which should be bark-free, and client visits, which should ideally not feature an ambush by a pack of affectionate Labradoodles.

Office policies on dogs are typically quite detailed, going through the firm’s responsibilities and the employee regarding norms of care and cleanliness. Some even include a probationary period of three months for new dogs. 

This “safety net” makes sense when you think about it as it is tantamount to hiring a new employee and should be approached with the same seriousness as any HR issue.

The final word

As an entrepreneur, you typically have the freedom to make policies that reflect your vision of the firm. It’s well worth considering your approach to dogs in the office, as it could turn out to impact the performance of your team and its ability to grow. 

After all, it’s the leashed you can do.

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