Who let the dogs in? Is a dog friendly workplace a happier environment?

We explore the pros and cons and how to make it work

 

One of the office dogs at Amazon

How do you feel about dogs in the office? According to recent research, over a third of British businesses have now adopted a pet-friendly policy. But not everyone is happy about it.

At Ben Johnson Interiors we’re roughly split down the middle on dogs. For starters we don’t like to think of our lovely new workplaces being roughed up! But overall, we believe it depends on what type of business you’re running and what your people think of the idea.

One of our clients is Inspired Pet Nutrition, a long-established, award winning FMCG pet food manufacturer with market leading brands including Wagg and Harringtons. With many animal lovers on their staff, they naturally allow dogs at work and have incorporated practical, sturdy surfaces, robust furniture and wipe-clean floors throughout in their workplace design.

On the other hand, our client Mayborn Group, the company behind the much loved baby brand Tommee Tippee who moved into their stunning 30,000 HQ in Tyneside last year, ruled that dogs would not be allowed. With families and babies visiting and baby products including bottles being designed here, it was felt that animals on the premises would be a health and safety risk.

As well as the nature of your business and feelings of your staff, at Ben Johnson Interiors, we always consider that workplaces should inspire creativity, productivity and wellbeing. If allowing dogs enhances this, then fair enough – but if they detract, then we would probably rule it a no-no.

Of 2,000 office workers surveyed by animalfriends.co.uk, around half thought that office dogs were a major distraction and bad for business, while the other half maintained that office dogs can ease anxious environments and relieve stress. The same amount of people claim pets are a great way to boost morale because they give people an excuse to talk to colleagues about non-work matters. It seems there are pros and cons all the way…

 

Dogs at Google

In a study by an American University, stress reduction levels were detected by testing the saliva of participants to monitor Cortisol (which measures stress) levels all day. At the start of the day, all employees had similar stress levels, but as the day progressed, the employees who brought their dogs to work had the lowest stress levels.

The pro-pooch lobby would argue that a dog in the office increases collaboration and helps to build relationships. Having a friendly workplace develops a good company culture. Collaboration is where most innovation happens – so increasing contact and collaboration between colleagues can boost business.

Having a pet-friendly office means dogs are not left alone at home, so both owner and dog benefit – and possibly dog-loving colleagues.

Finally, on the plus side, a 2016 US survey found that 82% of employees feel a greater sense of loyalty to pet-friendly companies. In the UK 26% of the population own a dog so allowing a dog in the workplace is a significant benefit – and a reason for employees to stay.

But on the other side of the argument there’s a strong case too.

The anti-dogs at work brigade will argue that dogs can be too much of a distraction in the office and people can waste time fussing over them instead of working.

Some individuals in a workplace may dislike dogs or be scared of them. Or worse – they might be allergic. This is likely to make these people more stressed and will be counter-productive to their work.

No matter how well people look after their pets, a dog’s idea of hygiene isn’t up to human standards. They often have questionable habits, they can smell, and an animal in the office will always pose a health and safety threat. Even the best behaved dog can feel nervous in unfamiliar surroundings with strange people and their immediate reaction is usually barking, snarling or even biting. Consider the legal implications if this happens on your premises.

Some companies have reported problems with dogs stealing food out of office bins, barking at motorcycle couriers and being aggressive to other dogs in the office. A dog may even invalidate a company’s liability insurance and compromise its fire safety certificate unless a proper risk assessment is carried out.

So, while allowing dogs into the workplace has benefits, there are also many potential negatives to take on board. A strict “Pet Policy” is important if you are considering it.

One of the dogs at Nestle

Here are 10 of the best known Pet Friendly UK companies and all have adopted a strict code of conduct:

  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Next Model Management
  • Build-a-Bear Workshop
  • Nestlé
  • Firebox
  • Amazonv
  • Google
  • Airbnb

Nestle, who owns Purina the pet-food brand, is pet-friendly but has adopted a number of precautions to safeguard against dog-related complaints. There are meeting rooms and lifts where dogs are not allowed to go, and each dog has a three- month probationary period before it is permanently allowed in the building.

At Nestle dogs must also be insured for third party liability claims and are checked for fleas and worms once every six months by a free in-house vet. Dogs are not allowed into eating areas and a cleaner is on call for any accidents.

If you’re thinking of going pet-friendly, here are some basics to include in a Pet Policy:

  • Make sure dogs are well behaved and trained (Nestle’s three month probation is a good idea).
  • Dogs must be healthy. Ask for proof from vets that the dogs are fit and up to date on all their injections.
  • Having animals around significantly increases the chance of damages. Make sure both you and the pet owner have the relevant insurance.
  • As in Nestle example above, enforce pet-free areas.
  • Establish whether dogs need to be on the lead at all times or whether you can allow them to roam free.
  • If your office has more than one dog in at a time you need to make sure the dogs have been socialised and interact well together.
  • Complaints policy – have a separate procedure for complaints – and make sure owners are aware of the consequences.

Finally, if you wish to make any alterations or modifications to your workplace before you go ahead with a dog-friendly policy, then call Ben Johnson Interiors. We’re not only experienced experts in space-planning and designing the most practical and productive workspaces for you, but we can also install and fit all the components from walls, floors and ceilings to partitions, acoustic booths and storage. And when it comes to sturdy, robust, dog-friendly furniture, we can always source the best – at the optimum price.

Image from Blue Cross