Have you ever thought about bringing your four-legged friend to work with you?
If you’ve ever longed to bring your pup along to the office, or your heart breaks a little every time you race out the door in the morning, now is your chance to bring your boss’s attention to the range of benefits from having your pooch with you at work.
We asked founder of Happy Office Dogs, Stephanie Rousseau, to tell us just how great bringing your dog to work can be, and her top tips for making sure the arrangement works for everyone.
Stephanie says the case for employers opening their doors to their employees’ four-legged friends is a strong one. Research shows there are many advantages to be gained in doing so, including:
• Reduced stress amongst employees. Stress is a major contributor to employee absenteeism, and one that is expected to increase over the coming years;
• Increased cohesion and team satisfaction;
• Enhanced recruitment – two thirds of HR decision makers are regularly asked about pet-friendly policies;
• Improved employee retention – 65% of respondents to one survey even said they’d take a pay cut if it meant they could take their pets to work.
Of course, the employers and employees aren’t the only ones who stand to gain. For dogs, many of whom are living increasingly isolated lives as their owners work more and commute further, accompanying their owner to work can provide them with one of the things they value most- companionship. They can also benefit from a chance to experience new surroundings, interesting smells, and to meet new people and other dogs.
There are, however, a number of things to consider if you’re hoping to bring your dog to work. It goes without saying that you will have to get your employer’s permission and they are likely to have a number of concerns. Here are the most common concerns:
• The building lease forbids it: many workplaces are rented, and your employer may be subject to an agreement which says that animals are not allowed on the premises. It may be possible for your employer to negotiate an exception to this, especially if they can prove that they have a water-tight pet policy that minimises the risks.
• A concern for staff who dislike or have a phobia of dogs: in smaller workplaces, seeking the approval of your colleagues before speaking to your boss will strengthen your case. In larger workplaces, it may be possible to create dog-friendly and dog-free zones. It is important that these areas are clearly labelled to minimise the chances of somebody with an allergy ending up in a room where allergens are present despite the dogs having left.
• A worry that dogs will negatively affect productivity: studies show that this is not the case, and some suggest that allowing dogs can even improve productivity.
If you’re one of the lucky people who will be bringing your dog to work on Friday – or one of the even luckier people who can bring your dog to work every day – these are my top tips for ensuring the experience is positive for all involved.
• Plan your journey: I suggest that you plan to allow extra time for your journey to work. Allowing plenty of time for your dog to sniff and potter before a day in the office will provide them with the mental stimulation to start the day in a calm, relaxed manner. Check the rules surrounding dogs on public transport in your area. They may not be allowed on your usual mode of transport, or may only be allowed at the driver’s discretion. Avoiding using public transport at peak times, when your dog could be overwhelmed by the volume of people, trod upon, or subject to unwelcome attention.
• Keep things calm: Getting your dog wound up by playing fast games like fetch will leave their systems flooded with adrenaline. When they’ve slept off the physical tiredness, these hormones will still be in their systems and can contribute to unwanted behaviours. Keeping them calm and engaging them in slow, mentally stimulating activities will tire them out in a much more beneficial way. Slow, sniffy walks, nose games and puzzles are all winners.
• Pack a bag: pack a bag with clean-up stuff (excited dogs pee more often, so new environments can sometimes lead to accidents), treats, chew toys that will alleviate boredom and release feel-good hormones in the brain, and a comfortable bed. Dogs need to get about 40% of their sleep during the day, so if they can’t settle comfortably somewhere in the office, they may become over-tired. Over-tired dogs tend to become restless and struggle to settle.
And remember, don’t expect too much from your dog – this is a new experience for them too, and if it’s going to be an on-going arrangement, you may need to tweak things to ensure they work for all involved!
Steph Rousseau is an Irish dog trainer and behaviourist with a particular interest in facilitating dogs in the workplace. Her book Office Dogs: The Manual, published by Hubble & Hattie, is available to order from Amazon and you can follow her work on her website www.happyofficedogs.com.