Should you add a furry friend to the team?

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So, I will start this blog by getting it out there straight away… I am a dog lover so you can expect an biased view in my thoughts here and for that, there is simply no apology!

In recent years we have seen a considerable rise in companies opening their doors to man’s best friend with a growing list of firms, including Google, Nestle, Amazon, Ben and Jerry’s and Airbnb all getting on board. 

So let’s start by looking at the all-round positives of this fury revolution:

Reduce stress levels!  The process of stroking a dog has been shown to reduce blood pressure by changing your physiological state into a more relaxed mode.  There is a reason they coin the phrase ‘man’s best friend’.  They ultimately don’t care if you’re grumpy or having a bad day but a couple of minutes petting a pooch and seeing the appreciative tranquillity in those doleful eyes will be sure to make even the most knotted of stress strings loosen.

Employees with their dogs at work are also going to need to get their dogs out for exercise.  The benefits of regular exercise on both our mental and physical health are well reported.  Add to this the fact that regular breaks boost productivity and we’re already seeing less stress and increased workflow. 

Wider than this, studies have shown that pet ownership generally leads to fewer visits to the doctor, lower cholesterol and improved heart health.  By eliminating the worry of leaving a dog at home all day, which is likely to be one of the first reasons to stop someone taking in a dog, you will work towards a generally healthier workforce. 

Dogs can also have a real impact on team work within the office.  They’re a great focal point for people and will really get people talking and interacting in a unique way beyond the norm, with shared experiences really cementing team bonds.  Depending on your environment, this focal point can also extend beyond internal teams to include clients and associates, giving you a truly memorable standing in the market. 

And it’s a real employee perk (which is free to you!).  People who are allowed to bring their dogs into the office, will reap a considerable financial reward in the money they save on doggy day care.  The prices for a dog walker will vary from around £10-15 per walk with full daily care being considerably more.  Like any perk, this can be a very real reason as to why someone chooses to both join, and stay with your company.  

Similarly, pets in the office can be a real talking point at interview and give your company both personality and edge when looking to expand the team.  

Obviously it is only fair that we do consider the negatives for your business when considering allowing pets in the office and you will need to consider this when implementing the change.

A dog in the office can become a distraction for those around it and you should consider this when agreeing to let them in.  Therefore it is essential that a clear message is sent out to all staff to outline the boundaries of what is acceptable.

Dogs can also cause damage to equipment through chewing or may have the occasional accident on the carpet so there needs to be consideration for this. 

In a far worse scenario, there is also the concern that any pooch could bite or trip an employee.  It is therefore advisable to check the legal status in such an event and ensure that suitable insurance is in place.

And finally, some people simply do not like dogs or may be allergic and you will need to allow for this and ensure that every member of staff feels completely comfortable when coming to work.  The obvious solution is to ensure you have dedicated pet free areas to ensure people don’t have to engage with the office dogs if they can’t or simply don’t want to.

If you’re considering letting dogs into your working day, it is strongly recommended that you implement a sound pet policy to cover any issues, should they arise.  

Points to consider in this policy are:

  • Employees come first, and if anyone objects, the dog goes.
  • Glean further info about their behaviour and psychological profile (consider a trial period).
  • Insist on a standard level of training.
  • Ensure they’re in good health and up to date on relevant shots (the dog, not the employee obviously!)
  • Ensure insurance policies are in place and relevant with clarity on where liability lies.
  • Implement pet free areas.
  • Specify how dogs should be kept while in the office (can they roam free or do they need to be kept on a leash?).
  • Ensure dogs are well socialised with other dogs.

On the whole, I personally think the positives of this more recent revolution do outweigh the negatives.  The importance is that you approach ‘dogs at work’ in a well-considered way with clear boundaries outlined from the very beginning, supported by the necessary pet policy.  I would strongly recommend that a trial period is enforced for the whole office at the very beginning and everyone must be aware of what is and isn’t acceptable.  Similarly a trial period should be enforced for individual dogs as they look to join the pack.  Pet owners and the wider office must be on board with this development and fully appreciate that it is a perk and unfortunately if it doesn’t work, the dogs do go!

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