Britain's Offices Become Pet Friendly
Its nice to see Britain is getting even more dog friendly!
Thanks to FT.com for this article.
Pet-friendly offices take the lead by letting the dogs in
Published: August 27 2007
Hills Pet Nutrition is a company that walks the talk and the dog too. At the companys site in Hertfordshire, UK, several dogs can often be found in the office.
We are a company of pet lovers. It is encouraged by the business and enshrined in the mission statement," says Libby Sheridan, veterinary affairs manager, adding that there is nothing like walking her dog Gulliver at lunchtime to blow the mental cobwebs away.
As Hills is a maker of pet products, this might be expected. But the Los Angeles-based advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day takes a similarly pro-canine line. There may be 40 to 50 dogs compared with 850 people in the companys largest office at any time, says Jeremy Miller, director of public relations: It has been going since 1998. It started with the companys chairman and chief officer, whos a dog lover. It creates a good environment." The only downside, he says, is the occasional scuffle."
For many employees, the presence of the family pet at work is seen as a big perk, making them more relaxed and keeping them in good spirits. They may even work longer hours if they know the dog is under the desk.
The Blue Cross, an animal welfare charity, would like to see more canine companions in the office and has been running Take Your Dog to Work Day in the UK for the past 12 years. This year it takes place on September 14. If it is practical it can be a great benefit," says Ziela Haider, a spokesperson. Dogs really do reduce stress. We have a part-time office dog and spending a few minutes stroking him lets you take a mental break."
Yet for a nation of celebrated animal lovers, British workplaces that cater to pet-owning workers are a surprising rarity. The nation that has truly embraced pets at work is the US. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, nearly one in five companies allows pets in the workplace. In fact, employees are so concerned about their furry friends that last year the American job website Simplyhired.com designed a filter to let candidates search for vacancies in companies that are pet-friendly; it is now one of the most popular.
Of course, there have to be rules for those who want to let the dogs in. The animals must be well behaved (with appropriate sanctions if they are not); they should not affect employees who do not like or get on with pets; the policy needs agreement by consensus; and there must be iron-clad rules about cleaning up.
Some are in two minds about the idea. Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University management school, says inviting pets into the workplace could reduce stress, act as a perk and make the company a more fun place to be. But, on the other hand, poorly behaved or large numbers of animals could cause workplace angst. It would be far easier to maintain a pet-friendly policy in a small business where everyone knows each other than a large one.
Still, he allows, pets definitely humanise colleagues: People step out of the corporate roles they play with animals. You no longer think Freds my manager, you think Fred loves his dog."
Others are less equivocal. Steven Welch, associate director at The Hay Group, a human resources consultancy, is concerned about the possibility for distraction, not to mention allergies and legal liability. You could make a work-life balance argument for it, but businesses are places of work they are not a zoo and they are not show-and-tell. If you want to do better on work-life balance, let your employees do more work from home, so they can be with their pets."
The pets-at-work debate almost always revolves around dogs. There are good reasons for this. Dogs are easy to move around and trainable. While it might be possible to have an office cat, having employees bring their cats to work would simply lead to a lot of lost cats.