Bark­ing 9-5, em­ploy­ers open doors to ‘sooth­ing’ dogs

7 Days in Dubai - - SPECIAL REPORT -

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.

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