If you remember pleading with your parents to get a dog when you were a kid, you also remember some form of the answer: “As long as you feed it and walk it and clean up after it.”
And of course the dog worked its way into everyone’s heart, and sooner or later, every member of the household would find himself behind the leash or taking a turn filling the doggie dish with Chuck Wagon.
Love will make you do some stuff.
If anything, society values dogs more now than when you asked for that first puppy. These days dog-friendly patios, dogs as service animals and dog-friendly workplaces speak to the strong bond between canines and people.
It’s not just companionship or an emotional benefit. According to Mental Health America, pet ownership can improve cardiovascular health, decrease stress and lower blood pressure, along with the mental health benefits of reducing loneliness.
Seeking to improve the daily lives of employees and enhance job performance, forward-thinking workplaces have sought those benefits by becoming dog-friendly. Only 7% of employers allow dogs, according to the Society of Human Resource Management, but that’s an increase from 5% over the past few years.
Best Places honoree Perks Worldwide is one of the 7%.
“Every day is bring your dog to work day at Perks WW, because how can you consolidate all of the puppy love to just one day a year?” said Toni Taylor, Perks WW manager of operations.
Studies by Virginia Commonwealth University, The Human Animal Bond Research Institute and the University of Missouri’s Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction all show the benefits of bringing dogs to work. They can relieve stress for owners as well as the co-workers who take a minute to scratch behind the ears or dole out a treat. They can improve group cohesion and influence greater employee engagement and retention, and they can alleviate anxiety and provide weight loss benefits.
“We encourage a healthy work-life balance, and fostering a pet-friendly culture helps to achieve that balance for some of our employees,” said Sarah Weaver, human resources manager at former Best Places honoree Mitchell Communications in Fayetteville. “Pets can also be a great conversation starter and provide an opportunity for employees to learn more about each other and strengthen our community and collaboration.”
In general, dogs galloping underfoot can mean happier, healthier employees.
“The mood around the office just seems to be happier when the dogs are here,” Taylor said. “Some of our team members are not able to have pets at home, so they are always super excited when there are happy, playful puppies running around for them to love on. Breaks are always so much more fun when there are puppies to play fetch with and give treats to.”
However, just as when your dad warned you about the care and feeding of your new best friend, dog-friendly workplaces can come with a set of conditions.
Hard as it is to believe, not everyone loves dogs. Some may be allergic. Dogs can be too loud, too exuberant, uncooperative with other dogs, and they can just plain make a mess.
In order to avoid employee conflict and inconvenience, many workplaces put policies in place to maximize the dog-friendly benefits and minimize potential problems.
Some employers require their dog owners to read and sign a contract stipulating cleanup responsibility and proper management of pets in the office.
Companies might have pet-free zones or set aside certain days of the week as pet friendly or “bring your dog to work” days.
“We ask for all employees to follow our Mitchell-tailored, common-sense approach for ensuring the workday goes smoothly for all involved,” Weaver said. “Pet owners clean up after their pets and they are solely responsible for their pet’s behavior and well-being. Team members supervise and know their pets’ location at all times.”
Just as at home, the dogs become part of the workplace family and can even find themselves part of certain projects, as is the case with Perks WW’s “Chief Canine Officer” Xee.
“Xee is an official Perkie and is featured on many of our marketing banners and posters,” Taylor said. “He is definitely part of our work family. … As soon as he wants a treat (which is always), he knows all he has to do is nudge someone with his nose and let out a small grumble. Then they’ll have four people jump up and give him as many treats as he wants.”
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