Barking 9-5, employers open doors to ‘soothing’ dogs
hen a conference call turns tedious, Brent Robertson can still count on getting a smile from watching Gus rolling around on the floor.
The golden retriever is a regular visitor to Fathom, Robertson’s management consulting business in West Hartford, Connecticut. So are Pookie and Ari, dogs owned by two of his co-workers.
It’s part of a canine craze in which some employers, keen to adopt a more relaxed culture, are allowing employees to bring their pets to work.
Robertson is among business owners who think having animals around boosts morale, improves the work atmosphere and raises productivity.
“Everyone seems to smile and immediately become a little bit happier,” says Barbara Goldberg, CEO of O’Connell & Goldberg, a public relations company based in Hollywood, Florida. Her bulldog, Rosie (right), is a frequent visitor.
A survey by the Society for Human Resources Management found that 7 per cent of organisations allow pets in the workplace.
At Badger Maps, owner Steve Benson’s Pomeranian mix, Foxy, seems to know when employees of the San Francisco app developer need some comfort.
“They’re very intuitive,” Benson says of dogs.
“They have the ability to recognise when someone’s stressed out.”
But not everyone thinks animals belong in an office or a store. For as many customers and staff that may be charmed, some people are allergic or afraid.
Rodney Alvarez, a human resources executive at Celtra, a video advertising company, says legal issues to consider include making sure the company’s insurance covers incidents such as biting as well as keeping animals well-behaved so they won’t frighten visitors. Staffers at Celtra’s San Francisco office asked to bring in their pooches. Managers said yes, but only if every staffer agreed, Alvarez says. One Boston employee said no, and so there are no dogs in that office. One regular deliveryman to Fathom is petrified of dogs. Since Gus “is a full contact dog”, Robertson says, “we collect the dogs and put them away in a room so [the deliveryman] can do his thing.” And at Sterling Public Relations, seven of the 20 staffers want to bring their dogs into the Los Gatos, California office. CEO Marianne O’Connor, who has a German shepherd named Kaya, worked out a schedule that allows two dogs each day. Most often, a business becomes pet-friendly when it’s the owner who brings an animal in. Anne Buchanan adopted a dog about 12 years ago who turned out to be emotionally needy so she began taking him to work at her PR firm in Pennsylvania.
As her company grew, staffers asked if they could bring pets in, too. There are generally two dogs in the office, and sometimes as many as four, including Buchanan’s two rescues, Katie and Lacey.
Behavioural issues do crop up though. Sterling staffer Rosie Brown recalls when Hazel, a co-worker’s Swedish Vallhund, couldn’t wait for her owner to get out of a meeting and left a present behind Brown’s chair. The next day, Hazel’s owner brought a cake for the office that said, “Sorry I pooped. Love, Hazel.” “We all laughed it off,” Brown says. We’re just hoping the dogs pull their weight and join in the teamaking duties.