Of­fice dogs? It’s heads, tails

Some peo­ple love them, some hate them, some peo­ple sneeze.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN MAGSAM

Mr. Frun­k­les, a young Welsh corgi, waits by the front door to greet all vis­i­tors, re­gard­less of species. Maddie Cate, a shy schnau­zer, sits in a shel­tered spot, keep­ing a close eye on her hu­man who works at the re­cep­tion desk. Alli, a black Labrador re­triever, barges through a door left slightly ajar, mak­ing sure a meet­ing in progress doesn’t need her in­put.

It’s a typ­i­cal day at the of­fices of Col­lec­tive Bias in Rogers, a work­place where em­ploy­ees are not only al­lowed, they are en­cour­aged, to take their canine com­pan­ions to work.

Dog-friendly of­fices are rare in the United States, but re­cent stud­ies in­di­cate work­ers wish em­ploy­ers were more wel­com­ing to pets or that they’d of­fer more pet-fo­cused ben­e­fits.

A re­cent study by em­ploy­ment agency Robert Half showed that 82 per­cent of of­fices don’t al­low pets, while 60 per­cent of work­ers said they’d like some sort of pet-friendly en­vi­ron­ment at work. The Ban­field Pet Hos­pi­tal’s sec­ond Pet-Friendly Work­place PAWrom­e­ter re­leased in April in­di­cated that work­ers would like to see perks like pet be­reave­ment leave and paid time off to tend to a sick pet or to care for a new pet — even more than al­low­ing pets in the of­fice.

“Any given day there could be 20 dogs here, or there could be two,” said Amy Cal­la­han, co­founder and chief com­pli­ance of­fi­cer at Col­lec­tive Bias, a mar­ket­ing com­pany that em­ploys about 110 at its Rogers lo­ca­tion. On a re­cent work­day, pooches lounged be­side desks and wan­dered about hap­pily while their own­ers worked.

Since its in­cep­tion, the com­pany wanted to be dog-friendly, but ini­tially land­lords were op­posed, Cal­la­han said. When the com­pany moved to Ben­tonville in 2011, and then moved in 2014 to its cur­rent home in Rogers, an agree­ment with the land­lords to al­low work­ers to take their pets to work was vi­tal.

And it has paid off, Cal­la­han said, not­ing that the dogs have a calm­ing ef­fect on the of­fice and help to re­duce stress in an en­vi­ron­ment filled with dead­lines and de­mands. The dogs also help build ca­ma­raderie among co-work­ers.

“The dogs help break down bar­ri­ers be­tween peo­ple,” she said.

A re­cent study of pets at work by Cal­i­for­nia-based Robert Half found that 6 per­cent of hu­man re­sources man­agers said pets were al­ways wel­come in their of­fices, and 6 per­cent said pets were wel­come on spe­cial oc­ca­sions. An­other 6 per­cent al­lowed small pets in con­tain­ers, like fish or tur­tles. Most of­fices didn’t al­low pets of any sort at any time.

The sur­vey found that 29 per­cent of work­ers love the idea of pets in the of­fice, say­ing it would make work more fun. An­other 31 per­cent said pets in the of­fice would be OK as long as the own­ers con­trolled their

an­i­mals. The sur­vey found that 31 per­cent of em­ploy­ees didn’t like the idea, con­tend­ing that pets be­long at home and would be a dis­trac­tion at work. Eight per­cent said they hated the thought of work­ing in a of­fice with pets, not­ing that they are afraid of an­i­mals, are al­ler­gic to them or find them an­noy­ing.

As for how pets in the of­fice af­fect em­ployee hap­pi­ness, 9 per­cent of the hu­man re­sources pro­fes­sion­als said pets would have a very pos­i­tive im­pact on em­ployee hap­pi­ness; 46 per­cent said it would be some­what pos­i­tive; 37 per­cent said it would have no im­pact; 6 per­cent said it would have a some­what neg­a­tive im­pact; and 2 per­cent said it would have a very neg­a­tive im­pact.

When asked about pro­duc­tiv­ity, 4 per­cent said pets would have a very pos­i­tive im­pact, 33 per­cent had a some­what pos­i­tive view, 46 per­cent thought there’d be no im­pact, 14 per­cent pre­dicted a some­what neg­a­tive im­pact on pro­duc­tiv­ity and 3 per­cent said very neg­a­tive.

Stephanie Shine, a vice pres­i­dent with Robert Half’s fi­nance and ac­count­ing di­vi­sion in Lit­tle Rock, said while the sur­vey showed many em­ploy­ers had mixed feel­ings about pets in the work­place, most em­ploy­ees were open to the prospect. She said many work­ers felt that pets in the work­place im­proved em­ployee col­lab­o­ra­tion, re­duced stress and in­creased over­all morale.

“Still, pets in the of­fice aren’t a good fit in all en­vi­ron­ments,” she said.

Pets have been part of Mitchell Com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the word go, ac­cord­ing to Sarah Hood, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing at the com­pany’s Fayet­teville of­fice. She said com­pany founder and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Elise Mitchell, who is also CEO of Dentsu Aegis Public Re­la­tions Net­work, is a dog lover, and pets have al­ways been a part of the com­pany cul­ture. The Fayet­teville of­fice em­ploys about 65 peo­ple.

“Elise leads the pack on this,” Hood said.

She said for a pet-friendly cul­ture to work in an of­fice there must be an at­mos­phere of mu­tual re­spect among the work­ers. She said the prac­tice helps build com­pany loy­alty, adding that pets keep the mood up­beat and en­er­getic in an en­vi­ron­ment that can be high­pres­sure at times.

“It light­ens ev­ery­one’s step when there’s a puppy in the of­fice,” Hood said.

Mitchell Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Col­lec­tive Bias have work­forces that skew to­ward younger, tech­nol­ogy-savvy work­ers, and the com­pa­nies said the dogfriendly of­fices help to at­tract and keep those em­ploy­ees.

Ac­cord­ing to the Work­place PAWrom­e­ter from Ban­field Pet Hos­pi­tal, 70 per­cent of work­ers ages 18-35 — typ­i­cally called mil­len­ni­als — said pets have a pos­i­tive im­pact on a work­place, while 56 per­cent of older work­ers thought pets were ben­e­fi­cial at work. Ban­field Pet Hos­pi­tal has more than 900 pet hos­pi­tals across the United States and Puerto Rico, and is a sis­ter com­pany of Bel­gium-based Mars Pet Care, which has op­er­a­tions in Fort Smith.

Mil­len­ni­als also said pet­friendly poli­cies in­flu­enced their job search. Forty-two per­cent said they con­sid­ered such poli­cies im­por­tant, as com­pared with just 23 per­cent of older adults. Sixty per­cent of mil­len­ni­als said they’d stick with a com­pany that has pet-friendly poli­cies, while 39 per­cent of older work­ers con­sid­ered that an is­sue when con­sid­er­ing re­main­ing in a job.

Ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey, 51 per­cent of work­ers fa­vored pet-re­lated ben­e­fits — like paid time off to care for a pet and pet be­reave­ment, and “paw­ter­nity” leave for a new pet. The sur­vey noted that 73 per­cent of em­ploy­ees said they’d be more likely to ac­cept a job from a com­pany that of­fered pet-re­lated ben­e­fits rather than al­low­ing pets at work.

Louis Hemmelgarn, site en­gi­neer at Mars Pet­care in Fort Smith, said the com­pany has had no ma­jor prob­lems with its dog-friendly work­place. He said the 300 of­fice and plant work­ers are al­lowed to take their pets to work. Those who work at the plant are al­lowed to keep their dogs in the of­fice zone and a grassy fenced area, and can visit them on breaks.

Mars’ Fort Smith lo­ca­tion has been dog-friendly since 2009. An­gel May, se­nior man­ager, cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Mars Pet­care, said that most parent-com­pany Mars Inc. of­fices world­wide are pet­friendly.

Hemmelgarn takes one of his two dogs to work at least a few times a week, he said. His two dogs, Flash and Daisy, are both golden retriev­ers. Flash goes to the of­fice more of­ten.

“Flash is a lit­tle more of a peo­ple per­son,” Hemmelgarn said.

On a typ­i­cal day, Flash can be found at Hemmelgarn’s desk or loung­ing in the front of­fice. Hemmelgarn said Flash and Daisy make it easy to break the ice with peo­ple in the of­fice, and most days, the dogs get to taste-test treats made at the plant.

Hemmelgarn said peo­ple who ap­ply for work at the pet­food maker usu­ally like an­i­mals, and they seem pleas­antly sur­prised to hear about the com­pany’s pet-friendly ethos at work.

Mars Inc. prides it­self on be­ing a great place to work. May noted that it was se­lected by

For­tune mag­a­zine as one of the 100 Best Work­places for Mil­len­ni­als in 2017.

“As­so­ciates on our Pet­care team say that hav­ing pets in the of­fice is a re­minder of who we truly work for and why our work is im­por­tant,” May said.

Two-thirds of hu­man re­sources of­fi­cers sur­veyed for the Work­place PAWrom­e­ter said they al­ways dis­close pet­friendly poli­cies dur­ing hir­ing, and more than one-third said they’d had at least one em­ployee pass on a job be­cause of al­ler­gies. Twenty-nine per­cent of the hu­man re­sources of­fi­cers said the big­gest chal­lenge about pets in the work­place is dis­trac­tions, while 14 per­cent cited al­ler­gies.

While the work­ers at Col­lec­tive Bias never men­tioned los­ing an em­ployee be­cause of pet al­ler­gies, they did say a ma­jor chal­lenge can be man­ag­ing pet hair. The so­lu­tion — sticky lint rollers.

“We have a lot of those rollers,” Cal­la­han said.

“I keep them in my car,” said Liz Dyer, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing con­tent at the com­pany and Mr. Frun­k­les’ owner.

Mr. Frun­k­les seemed a lit­tle guilty but not overly so. He was busy be­ing pet­ted. It was just an­other day at the of­fice, and he had a job to do.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/JA­SON IVESTER

Bax­ter, a maltipoo, sits in the lap of Brandi Mikula while she works at Col­lec­tive Bias in Rogers.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/JA­SON IVESTER

Mr. Frun­k­les, a Welsh corgi, waits for some­one to pay at­ten­tion to him at Col­lec­tive Bias in Rogers.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Blake Woolsey with El­lie (from left), Sheerah Davis with Jack, and Lindsay Wal­lace with Lily sit at a con­fer­ence ta­ble at Mitchell Com­mu­ni­ca­tions in Fayet­teville.

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