Pedigree chums? Dogs in the office prove divisive

Before the pandemic, Becky never expected to bring her dog to the office. But the lockdown changed his perspective. While this has allowed Becky (pseudonym) to see “the huge mental health benefits” of having a pet while working, the rise in pandemic puppy numbers has also increased competition for dog daycare: going back to the office without his dog could now cost him thousands of pounds a year.

However, Becky’s employer, a financial services company, recently moved to premises in London where the owner does not allow four-legged friends. “None of the executives involved in the move have dogs. It does not appear that my company has attempted to negotiate a policy change. They are now considering their options. “In my next job, I will consider [the ability to bring a dog to work] a pretty important feature,” she says. “It means the culture of the company.”

Bringing his dog to work is not an entirely new habit: Sigmund Freud noted that his patients were more comfortable when his chow chow Jofi came to sessions. But it has been stoked by two trends: people’s growing attachment to their pets, including their reluctance to leave dogs home alone all day; and young employees’ belief that work should not only provide a paycheck, but also reflect their broader identity.

Google’s code of conduct states that “affection for our canine friends is an integral part of our corporate culture”. In Britain, dogs are now appearing in hospitals, school common rooms, law firms and start-ups. Will Smith, co-founder of ethical debit card Tred, takes his locked pup — a golden retriever named Mayo — to the office three days a week. “I didn’t buy a dog for someone else to take care of,” he says.

Yet many large employers – including Deloitte, PwC and HSBC – have blanket no-dog policies. JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon welcomed customer dogs at his Chase bank branches, but not employee dogs at headquarters. It is often assumed that canine colleagues will disrupt the orientation or formality of the workplace, or bark during meetings with clients. Managers wonder how to reconcile dogs with open-plan offices, and with employees who are allergic, fearful or have religious objections. As part of the drive to attract workers to the office, these policies are under strain and companies need ways to accommodate both dog lovers and non-dog lovers.

Black and white image of Austrian author and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud with his chow, Jofi, in his study in Vienna circa 1937
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, noted that his patients were more comfortable when his chow Jofi came to sessions © ullstein bild/Getty

Before the pandemic, about 45 dogs were brought to the headquarters of ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont every day — that’s about one for every two workers — says marketing employee Lindsay Bumps, who sits on the company’s dog culture committee. ‘business. . “If you don’t allow dogs, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage your employees more and this unique cultural experience, as well as a bit of stress reduction,” she says.

Ben & Jerry’s dogs are mostly kept in offices and worker cabins (guarded by baby gates); they are not allowed in most common areas. The company operates something akin to a three strike policy and you are out for canine misbehavior, which reduces to one strike for being aggressive. But Bumps says that in his nine years there, only one or two dogs failed to adapt to the office.

At Tred, Smith thinks there are benefits to having a dog in the office. “You become more human in conversation,” he notes, and more memorable to external contacts. Nestlé, owner of pet food brand Purina, says that since allowing dogs into its UK headquarters in 2015, “the positive effects on our culture and office atmosphere have been huge”. Studies elsewhere have linked dogs to increased collaboration.

There is little research, however, on the potential downsides of dog ownership, says Joni Delanoeije, a researcher at KU Leuven, a Belgian university. These include causing distractions and conflicts between colleagues.

In fact, it is estimated that 10 to 20% of people in the world are allergic to dogs or cats. Often co-worker concerns can be overcome with small adjustments. Oli Malmed, who takes a sprocker spaniel to the London office of compliance automaton PassFort, says he had to deal with barking, disturbance and a few colleagues with allergies. “If we spot these people, we have to go to a separate cabin and that’s us for the day.” Still, having his dog at work is “a delight,” he says. “It’s been a pretty miserable couple of years, and leniency about it leads to satisfaction.”

But having dogs in the office doesn’t always end well. A dog regularly stole shoes from under employee desks; its owner had to send an email at the end of the day to reunite his colleagues with their shoes. Another worker quit her job, frustrated by the co-worker’s dog sniffing between her legs during working hours.

Even dog lovers can find this difficult. Henry Sands, managing director of political consultancy Sabi Strategy, regularly took his 32kg Labrador and 15kg spaniel to the office, where they pounced on unsuspecting workers. “It was a nightmare. You have to apologize for everything. He now avoids bringing his dogs and is skeptical that managers should need dogs to improve workplace morale: ‘It’s an escape In fact, after noticing an employee bringing in different dogs, he eventually discovered that she was moonlighting as a dog sitter.

From a dog’s perspective, being in an office is probably more enjoyable than staying at home. Battersea Dogs & Cats Home recommends not leaving dogs alone for more than four hours. Others argue that it depends on each dog, but that the most welcome company. “We’ve bred dogs for generations and generations to want to be around humans,” says Heather Bacon, clinical veterinary lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire. Handlers may worry about disturbances, but “dogs should sleep around 15-18 hours a day. They don’t need to be stimulated all the time,” she says.

Will Smith, co-founder of Tred, takes his pup Mayo to the office three times a week

Yet not all dogs enjoy the office environment, let alone traveling. Some puppies have missed socialization during the pandemic and may have trouble adjusting to the office.

For businesses currently reluctant to allow dogs, change can come from the top down. “Very often it starts with the boss bringing the dog,” says Delanoeije. “He or she makes the rules, and if he or she decides to bring a dog, people have to adapt.”

British Land and Landsec, two of the UK’s largest commercial landlords, both told the FT they were happy to discuss pets in their properties. One of British Land’s new developments in Paddington has a “dedicated dog lane”, while Landsec’s Victoria office offers its employees a puppy therapy service. Some companies, especially on the West Coast of the United States, offer benefits for pet owners, including adoption or bereavement leave.

Skeptics may wonder, after employees bring their political views and dogs to the office, what they will bring next. “People ask about cats,” says Ben & Jerry’s Bumps. “A co-worker actually asked me if she could bring in a miniature pony. I was like, absolutely! My CEO thought differently back then.

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