These days, office dogs are practically staff members at companies ranging from scrappy startups to post-IPO giants.
At Colorado’s Metric Theory, an adtech firm with offices across the country, office dogs are an integral part of the job.
“The presence of dogs at Metric Theory has a measurable impact on the office culture,” said Senior Talent Manager Stefanie Steiner. “Employee morale increases while stress decreases when you have the opportunity to break away from your work to pet a pup that has come over to say hi.”
The presence of dogs has a measurable impact on the office culture.”
While pet-focused tech companies have allowed office dogs for years, an increasing number of tech firms like Metric Theory are allowing pets and sparking a larger trend in business. Amazon, Salesforce and Ticketmaster are all famously dog-friendly, and Google, which proclaims itself to be “a dog company” in its code of conduct, issues badges for doggos to wear while on the clock.
Sixty percent of Americans own a pet, and that number is even higher in Colorado. It makes sense that the pet-owning majority would be inclined to have their furry friends be with them throughout the day — especially with the average dog walker costing $30 a day.
But as much as I (and my Instagram followers) treasure each fluffy pup I encounter in my day-to-day work, I’ve seen enough barking matches of my own to know that office dogs, while wonderful, come with their own unique challenges.
Dogs in the office: Just the facts
Research has repeatedly indicated the positive effects of human interaction with dogs. America’s 500,000 service dogs assist people both physically and emotionally. Ninety-five percent of pet owners consider their cats or dogs to be full-fledged family members — with some even going as far as to consider their pets “children.”
“Combined with individuals viewing relationships differently, leaving home later and marrying even later, dogs have become a constant companion for many,” explained Richard Pummell, vice president of HR, talent and culture at the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation.
Dogs have been linked to longer lifespans, reduced feelings of depression and isolation, improved cardiovascular health, improved emotional development and more. New research seems to emerge on an almost-daily basis, reminding us again and again, “Dogs are good!”
The question remains, though: Are they good for productivity? After all, not everything that puts us at ease outside of work is translatable to our in-office success (see: wine, YouTube wormholes, bunny slippers).
Fortunately for puppy parents, studies on office dogs have generally turned up positive — or at the very least, neutral. A 2017 study out of Central Michigan University found that the presence of a companion dog increased collaboration in a group setting.
Other studies have highlighted stress relief and inter-office friendliness as benefits of a dog-friendly work environment.
“[Dogs] bring our employees comfort,” explained Metric Theory’s Steiner. “Dogs provide more social support for our employees while also bringing people together — they are great conversation starters and encourage productive collaboration and socialization among our employees.”
It’s true: I may be an introvert, but there are just some faces I cannot resist.
Dogs may help forge bonds in a group setting, but there are also unique individual benefits to caring for a pup. In my interviews with dog-owning techies, they all pointed to the regular walks as a major boon to their productivity. A bit of light and air is an excellent refresher before returning to the day’s tasks (and, you know, serotonin).
Instead of worrying about your dog being home alone all day, it encourages people to get away from their desks and move around.”
“If you need to take a breather after a meeting, you can take your pup out for a walk or sit on the floor and play for a few minutes. Instead of worrying about your dog being home alone all day, it encourages people to get away from their desks and move around,” said Steiner.
While more difficult to quantify, experts have also pointed to the value of having a pet-friendly office as a recruiting and employee-retention tool. Those who feel that a company is more in line with their personal values are more likely to accept a job offer at that company, and remain with that company for a longer time.
“Companies are realizing just how important dogs are to their employees,” said Steiner. “The increase in employee satisfaction and convenience stimulates an improvement in company culture and employee retention. This is a low-cost job perk that many job seekers are interested in, so having the opportunity to bring your pet to the office is often a strong selling point to prospective employees.”
Thinking of going pet-friendly?
So, there’s the good news. But: If your office or business is considering becoming pet-friendly, there are a number of considerations to take into account.
Fifteen percent of those afflicted by allergies report allergic reactions in the presence of dogs and cats. In a pet-friendly office, accommodating those with allergies is essential — you can’t expect an employee in the midst of a sneezing fit to be productive or happy.
Solutions to this particular issue include designating pet-free zones within an office, and installing tools, such as fans and HEPA filters, to control airborne pet dander.
Other risks of a dog-friendly office include transmission of diseases, environmental hazards such as slips and falls, and employee discomfort (fact: not everyone loves your spastic Jack Russel).
Considerations must also be taken for pooches. Is the office comfortable and safe for pets? Will they have access to water and walks? Are there potential triggers that could cause excessive barking or aggressive behavior?
If the office dogs are not well trained, they can hurt productivity.”
“If the office dogs are not well-trained, they can hurt productivity,” said dog trainer Steffi Trott. “A dog that constantly gets up and moves around, perhaps empties the trash can, or even has potty accidents inside the office, is a nuisance for everyone. Proper training and socialization is a must.”
Research published in the International Journal of Environmental and Public Health says that employers considering going dog-friendly should “develop a procedure to assess employees’ attitudes, beliefs, and opinions concerning the presence of dogs in the workplace,” to keep an open dialogue.
This information can be captured via surveys, focus groups or standardized questionnaires like the Pet Attitude Scale. Researchers encourage that this data be collected repeatedly and regularly to “capture any changes in employee perceptions.”
If done right, though, a pet-friendly office can be a treat.