Should Your Office Be Pet-Friendly?

There are so many things to consider on this one.

By Jennifer Grant

Image: Viktoriia Hnatiuk

In a previous incarnation, when I was an intern at an obscure monthly publication with a door that slammed up against the alley dumpster whenever you came in or out, we celebrated take-your-dog-to-work day. We were actually a little enamored by our own (perceived) cleverness. It was a play on a Ministry initiative called “take-your-kid-to-work” and since we had no human children, we participated with our fur babies.

Image: Wave Break Media

And by participated, I mean, we tore the office apart (literally and emotionally) in a brawl between a Newfoundlander named Joey and a Saint Bernard that went by the name of Brutus. There was no blood shed, thank goodness, just a shedding of important documents and friendships. There is little doubt that Homer (my dog) would have joined the melee, but he had already excused himself to grab an afternoon snack at the dumpster; I was too busy breaking up a shouting match between my colleagues to notice he had skulked out. The result? One puking Homer, a smashed printer, cracked laptop screen, the missing of two important deadlines, and the temporary end to Taco Tuesdays at Annie’s.

Image: Milan Llic

There are many different types of roles that dogs can fulfill within a workspace: therapy dogs, disability dogs, even visitation dogs that are trained to come in for a pet so that the office can de-stress. These are not the dogs of which we speak. The conversation we are having is about bringing YOUR dog to the office. The truth is, developing a pet-friendly work space is not a decision to make on a whim; there are several important pros and cons to consider.

2 women and a dpg in the office

Image: Zivica Kerkez

The Good

Stress Reduction

There are few things more calming than running your hands through the soft fur of a canine friend. This, along with their uncanny empathy and sympathy, make dogs incredible allies in the fight against trauma-induced PTSD. While we hope your job does not involve daily exposure to trauma, workplaces can inherently carry some negative vibes through job stress and office politics/gossip. Dogs are the greatest of equalizers, instilling a calm and sense of decency, if you will. Google, Amazon and Etsy are famous for their pet-friendly digs. There are some very good reasons that bringing your pet to work is a great idea and stress reduction is likely number one.

Image: Mirjana Zidar

Positive Work Community

Dogs are also an important form of “social support” according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Increased social support has been identified as improving work performance and reducing depression. In the mentioned study, the presence of dogs resulted in a lowering of blood pressure and heart rate, more so even than a spouse or best friend. It seems that dogs provide a reason for humans to interact with each other in a non-threatening and relaxed manner.

Image: Irina Kozorog

The Bad

Messes and Allergies

In larger workplaces, there is bound to be someone with an allergy or someone who simply does not like dogs (or is fearful of them). This creates tension between dog-owners and there non-dog owning counterparts. Of course, no one wants another person to be hacking and sneezing their way through the day because there are pets in the office. So, allergies are definitely an important consideration.

And let’s face it, even the most well behaved fluffer can have an accident, and these are not the easy-breezy, get the disinfectant wipe sort of accidents. It is usually significant and unpleasant. And if there is a colleague already lukewarm about the canine recruits, this seals the deal in favor of ousting them.

Image: Milan Llic

Disruptions

Even the most well-tempered dog can become aggressive when provoked and may be naughty when bored. How is proper care maintained throughout the day? Is there an office dog-walker? And what happens when your pet needs to relieve herself in the middle of a meeting with a client? Similar to bringing children to the office, when dog needs are had those dog needs must be met. Now. And that may not be conducive to the present goings on of the office

Image: Light Field Studio

The Ugly

This includes all of the legal surprises that can block your new pet-friendly venture. Read the fine print of your office lease very carefully and make sure there is an allowance for animals and find out what sort of permissions need to be had. Secondly, ensure that health regulations are met. Is there a common kitchen in your office? Are items served from that kitchen to the general public (like coffee and tea, for example)? Are there any food handling hoops to jump through before giving the all-go for dogs in the office. There are usually very strict rules around this sort of thing and they need to be considered ahead of the decision.

Do you work in a pet-friendly office? Tell us about your experience in the comment section.