It came about as a result of an employee who wanted to adopt a rescue dog. Because the dog was blind, leaving him at home during the day would have been problematic. And so the conversation started.
Yvonne: “Well why can’t he just bring the dog here?”
Edmond: “You can’t have a dog at work!”
Steve: “Well, why not?”
It turned out to be a surprisingly short discussion. The owners and management of Media-X are mostly dog people and no one else really objected. There was precedent and need, so we became a dog friendly office. Unfortunately, the adoption never took place so that particular dog never came to work.
In the past, I had occasionally brought my dog Penny in for a few days when I couldn’t make other arrangements. Bonnie has brought Daisy in for the same reasons and Steve, President and CEO of Media-X has brought his critters in. He now has four dogs: Leo, Prince, Nina and Sophia.
In Europe you find dogs at work, in stores, in restaurants, on public transportation – in fact, pretty much anywhere you find people. In many ways it is taken for granted. In North America it has been fairly rare to find non-working dogs anywhere outside the park or home. But there is now a growing trend in North America of bringing your dog to work with you. A 2006 survey from The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPA) reports that nearly one in five American companies allows pets in the workplace.
There are certainly things that you have to think about before you take this step. Basic common sense rules need to be established. We were in a good position to welcome dogs as we now own our own building and have places outside where dogs can be walked. All of us have areas that can be closed off, even if only with a gate.
You have to take into account if people are afraid of dogs, are allergic to them or just plain don’t think they should be in the office. One of our staff members, Edmond, is not fond of dogs but even he has become accustomed to our additions saying “They are OK. I’m more worried about rolling over a paw if one is around my desk”.
Most of the dogs are only occasional visitors, some for a few days at a stretch, some for a few hours at a time. For now, only Penny is a regular member of the staff. She guards my office. We joke that she works pro-bone-o. She is here at the office for three days a week and at my son’s for the remaining two work days. I prefer not to have Penny in the office on Fridays when we have our staff lunch.
During meetings she sits on my lap or lies on the floor. Occasionally she will give soft woofs at things she sees out the window…that’s usually when she ends up in my lap!
When I first started bringing Penny in to work, I blocked the bottom part of my door so she could have the freedom of my office but I could still communicate with staff outside the door. When I took her out of my office I kept her on a leash. Now she has the run of the place but she sticks so close to me that the opportunity for her to roam makes almost no difference. She is affectionately known as “The Fuzzy Chicken” because she is quite timid and backs away when people try to approach her.
Staff at work are now used to her and even though she stays away from most people they still seem to enjoy having her around. They seem eternally hopeful that she will let them pet her.
One person that Penny is beginning to be comfortable with is Kelly Pratt. Kelly is nice and quiet and doesn’t intimidate Penny. For Penny’s part, she is an education for Kelly. “I’m not really a pet person” said Kelly recently. “I’ve never actually been around them much. In fact, I’ve spent more time around Penny than any other animal. She fascinates me. I never knew they were that smart. I see her applying logic to situations and I didn’t think they could do that.”
We have even had guests bring in their dogs. We recently had the pleasure of hosting Thor for a few hours when his owner came for a meeting.
In a study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, scientists found that people who took their dogs to work reported lower stress throughout the day than employees without pets or those who had pets but didn’t take them to work.
According to the preliminary investigation published in March by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business, employees who bring their dog to the office can cap the amount of stress experienced during the day, and improve job satisfaction for all.
Dr Randolph Barker, who monitored the investigation, stated that “dogs’ presence in the workplace may reduce stress for their owners”. He also noted that the dogs appeared to be “communication energizers,” sparking conversations amongst employees, and increasing engagement. “We think dogs’ presence in the workplace may reduce stress for their owners, increase job satisfaction even for those without pets. It’s a low-cost wellness intervention, or benefit, that’s available readily to any organization.”
Penny and I certainly appreciate the open mindedness. So perhaps Steve isn’t barking mad after all! What do you think?