Is bring­ing pets to work a good idea?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Joyce M. Rosen­berg AP Busi­ness Writer

When 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 Robert­son’s co-work­ers.

Be­yond the old tra­di­tion of a used book­store or an­tique shop hav­ing a res­i­dent cat, some ur­ban del­i­catessens and bode­gas have cats to mit­i­gate any ro­dent prob­lems. And at some smaller pro­fes­sional busi­nesses with a re­laxed cul­ture, it’s be­com­ing more ac­cept­able for em­ploy­ees bring in their pets. 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, is a fre­quent vis­i­tor.

A sur­vey by the So­ci­ety for Hu­man Re­sources Man­age­ment found that 7 per­cent of or­ga­ni­za­tions al­low pets in the work­place, though that may not re­flect the prac­tices of very small busi­nesses that don’t have HR of­fi­cers.

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 rec­og­nize when some­one’s stressed out.”

But not ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing em­ploy­ees, cus­tomers and visi­tors, thinks an­i­mals be­long in an of­fice or a store. For as many cus­tomers that may be charmed, some peo­ple are al­ler­gic or afraid — and might take their busi­ness else­where. So be­sides pay­ing at­ten­tion to per­mis­sion from land­lords and laws about hav­ing an­i­mals where food is be­ing pre­pared, peo­ple need to con­sider

how to ac­com­mo­date un­com­fort­able staffers or clients.

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 any in­ci­dents like bit­ing, and keep­ing an­i­mals well-be­haved so they won’t frighten visi­tors. Some own­ers say when they in­ter­view job can­di­dates, they let them know there are pets around.

Staffers at Cel­tra’s San Fran­cisco of­fice asked to

bring in their pooches. Man­agers de­cided that was OK at its four of­fices, 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 Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, seven of the 20 staffers want to bring their dogs into the Los Gatos, Cal­i­for­nia-based of­fice. CEO Mar­i­anne O’Con­nor, who has a Ger­man shepherd named Kaya, worked out a sched­ule

that al­lows two dogs each day. Up­hol­stered fur­ni­ture may be off lim­its.

“We push them off gen­tly, and they learn, that’s not for them,” O’Con­nor says.

When visi­tors ar­rive, pups may be placed in a closed of­fice with a wa­ter bowl and toy.

At Cres­cent City Books in New Or­leans, the ma­jor­ity of cus­tomers are glad to see Is­abel, a Maine coon mix cat, and some let her curl up on their laps as they sit read­ing. “Most with any is­sues just keep their dis­tance,” man­ager Michael Zell says.

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 and much hap­pier when Buchanan was around. So she be­gan tak­ing him to work at her epony­mous PR firm in Bryn Mawr, 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.

Be­hav­ioral is­sues can crop up, but many own­ers said they can be dealt with. If Rosie the bull­dog at O’Con­nell & Gold­berg starts bark­ing dur­ing a phone call, the of­fice man­ager quickly

lures her away from Gold­berg’s side. When Buchanan’s dog and a staffer’s couldn’t get along, the boss paid for a trainer to work with both pups and their own­ers. Peace was re­stored.

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.

Many peo­ple with­out pets are happy to have co-work­ers’ an­i­mals nearby.

“The dogs just wan­der

around from of­fice to of­fice, say hi to ev­ery­one and no­body minds,” says Mike Dun­klee, co-owner of Blvd Suites, a cor­po­rate hous­ing com­pany based in Oak Park, Michi­gan. Some staffers with­out pets keep treats in their desks.

Cats also some­times make them­selves at home in work­places with dogs. When Bran­don Sciv­o­lette, pres­i­dent of Elite Mov­ing La­bor, goes on va­ca­tion, his cat boards at the Tampa, Florida-based com­pany, where there is of­ten at least one dog about.

“A cat is a great thing for an of­fice. It goes from of­fice to of­fice to hang out with peo­ple,” Sciv­o­lette says.

AP PHOTO/LYNNE SLADKY

Bull­dog Rosie sits un­der the desk of her owner Bar­bara Gold­berg, CEO of O’Con­nell & Gold­berg Pub­lic Re­la­tions, at her of­fice in Hol­ly­wood, Fla. Gold­berg is a small busi­ness owner who be­lieves pets im­prove the qual­ity of their work life, boost­ing morale and eas­ing ten­sion for staffers.

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