Sometimes there are as many as nine dogs underfoot at the O'Fallon, Missouri marketing company, Kolbeco.
While the office dogs can't do graphic design, website development or brew coffee, company founder Lauren Kolbe says the dogs fill a valuable role in the office. The office dogs bring a sense of community to employees, reduce stress and act as an ice breaker for clients.
A Growing Trend
Companies that allow, and even encourage, dogs in the workplace are becoming more and more common. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management estimates eight percent of American workplaces welcome dogs in the office. That figure is up from five percent just two years before, according to CNBC.
"Is it work? Yes. Does it cause some disruption from time to time? Yes. But we know that having these dogs here is making a difference in our lives and for the dogs," said Lauren, whose own Labrador/border collie mix, Tuxedo, accompanies her to the office each day.
It's Good for Your Health!
Studies back up Lauren's idea that dogs contribute great energy to the workplace. A study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) found employees who brought their dogs to work experienced lower stress levels, reported higher levels of job satisfaction and had a more positive perception of their employer.
Other unexpected benefits were observed in an office that allowed pups. Dogs act as a catalyst for communication and brainstorming in ways that weren't happening at offices without furry co-workers, Randolph Barker, the lead author on the VCU study, told Inc. Magazine. Barker also said that employees at the dog-friendly offices seemed more bonded than those at offices without dogs.
At Kolbeco, dogs are so important to the work culture that employees have given them official job titles as part of the "Board of Dogrectors." The "board members" all come from local rescue groups and animal shelters. As part of their employees' dedication to shelter dogs, the office holds an annual supply fundraiser for a local shelter. Lunch breaks often include walks with the dogs, notes Lauren.
Responsibility Is Key
That isn't to say that having dogs in the office doesn't come without a unique set of issues, Lauren adds. She recalled a recent incident where the dogs in the office began barking while she was on a conference call with a client. When she couldn't settle the dogs down, she ended the call early. "Luckily, we have great clients who understand we have many four-legged team members in our office every day," she said.
Here are some tips from Lauren that workplaces should consider when welcoming pups to the office:
- Ask pet parents how to best approach their dog and confirm the rules, such as no feeding lunch scraps and scolding dogs that jump.
- Understand all dogs are different and that some dogs might not be suited for an office environment.
- Be considerate of others. If a co-worker or customer is nervous around dogs, keep them contained or on a leash.
- Know your dog's shortcomings. Does he bark at the mailman? Chew on shoes? Anticipate issues by training your dog to behave appropriately.
- Ask employees about their feelings about bringing dogs into the office before allowing it. If an employee is highly allergic, it may not be a good idea, or you might be able to enact no-dogs-allowed zones to reduce dog allergens.
Also develop common-sense policies, such as being up to date on all vaccinations and flea and tick medications, to pave the way for a successful doggie work program. A dog might do better at fetching a ball than fetching coffee, but that doesn't mean his presence can't be equally valuable to your workplace.
Part of the Culture
Since creating pet food for a living, Hill's is all about bringing pups in the office. It is coded in our DNA and dogs are allowed to come to the office all days of the week. Not only do they help reduce stress levels, but they also provide much needed inspiration for the work that we do on a regular basis. Because many of those that work at Hill's have a dog-child (or cat-child), it is important to us that we provide the best food for our furry companions. Having these loveable "co-woofers" in the office each day is a great reminder of why we're in the business of creating the best pet food for your pets. If you're considering adopting a culture that allows dogs in the office, take it from us, it's worth it — just make sure to have paper towels on hand for those unfortunate accidents!
Kara Murphy is a freelance writer in Erie, Pa. who works from home, often with her goldendoodle at her feet.